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Below are common questions about rental referral letters and references.


What is a rental referral letter?

A rental referral letter is a letter written by a current or former landlord about their experience with a current or past tenant. It includes whether the potential tenant paid on time, maintained the property, did not disturb other tenants and gave the requested notice when moving out. Just as a current or former manager can vouch for an employee's work ethic and performance, a current or former landlord can confirm positive tenant behavior and practices.

What other information may a rental referral letter include?

If there was an issue at a previous rental property, but the current or former landlord still wants to recommend the potential tenant, the letter can explain the situation fully. For example, if the potential tenant had a barking dog that bothered other tenants, but the tenant took the animal for training to resolve the issue, the letter can include that information.

May more than one letter be required?

Yes. A landlord may ask for more than one rental referral letter if:

  • The potential tenant only lived at the most recent rental property for a short period.
  • The rental property changed ownership during the time the potential tenant lived there.

What are rental references?

In addition to rental referral letters, many landlords request contact information for three or more people who can speak to the potential tenant's reliability and respectfulness. Talking with rental references during the rental process may help the landlord decide between similarly qualified applicants.

Why are multiple references required?

If you are a landlord, you know that a potential tenant will only provide contact information for those who will say positive things. Talking to multiple references may help you get a more complete picture. Also, different references can speak to different issues. A former neighbor can confirm that a potential tenant's dog did stop barking after receiving training, while a current manager may talk about a tenant's bright future with his or her employer.

Who makes the best rental references?

Former neighbors, current managers and even college professors make excellent references, as all speak to a potential tenant's reliability and interactions with others. If you are a potential tenant, have your list of references at the ready to move the lease application process along without delay.

Why landlords run credit and background checks

A landlord also may run credit and background checks to qualify a potential tenant. A credit check shows the total debt and available credit of the applicant, as well as any late payments, which can speak to the ability to pay the monthly rent amount in full and on time. A background check reveals any court proceedings that may prove relevant to the application. For example, if a potential tenant was evicted from a rental property, a landlord wants to know that to avoid facing a similar situation in the future.

Requiring rental referral letters and references can help better match tenants to rental properties, resulting in long-running residential lease agreements without any serious issues.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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