This article was posted on Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

If you’ve been managing rentals for a while, it’s likely you’ve received requests for tenant references.  When your current or former tenants are looking for a new apartment, your contact information may be submitted to their future landlord as a reference.  Similar to how you request landlord references and complete a background check on your applicants, it’s a chance for you to help out a fellow landlord and give them an honest account of your experience renting to your former resident. 

Be Specific

A phone call reference check allows landlords to ask specific questions, but a letter is much more open-ended.  Details, facts and descriptions are the most helpful information you can give to a future landlord.  Saying, “They were good tenants” isn’t very helpful.  Stick to the facts, such as: 

  • Whether or not they paid rent on time
  • Were respectful or
  • Kept the unit in good condition 

Keep your own opinions and feelings out of the reference – let the facts speak for the tenant. 

Create a Template

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Whether the reference is requested in the form of a letter or phone call, create a template or guide for yourself so future references can be processed quickly.  Draft up a letter you can tailor to each renter and remember to update the dates of tenancy or any specific comments each time you use it.  You’ll be able to fulfill reference requests much faster when the majority of the formalities have already been written. 

Emphasize Tenant Responsibility

The biggest risk you take on when accepting a tenant is the chance that he or she won’t pay the rent on time, follow the stipulations of the lease or care for your unit.  Tell the future landlord: 

  • How long the tenant lived in your building
  • Whether or not payments were made on time
  • The resident’s level of cleanliness 

If there were any incidents of repeated late payments or trashed apartments – make sure you communicate them. 

Be Honest

Always be honest in your reference.  You might be tempted to say good things about a bad tenant so they’ll move out, but lying and providing false information can get you into legal trouble for misrepresentation.  Once again, stick to the facts, provide examples to back your claims and be accountable for everything you write or say. 

Be Available

Provide your contact information and let the landlord know you’re available in case of any further questions.  Even if you already answered their questions and they don’t reach out, it’s professional and shows good will. 

Jennifer Chan is the Content Marketing Coordinator at Zillow.  Reprinted with permission of the Rental Housing Association UPDATE.



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