Most experienced landlords will be familiar with handing out references for previous tenants.
Giving a tenant a reference is a landlord’s opportunity to inform the potential future landlord of any issues during their tenancy in your property. When giving out a landlord reference it’s important to be honest about good and bad experiences.
We’ve previously discussed the kind of questions you can and should ask in our tenant screening guide, but what about the other way round?
More often than not this reference comes in the form of few short questions over the phone. But, sometimes a tenant might ask you to write a favorable landlord reference letter and send it to the future landlord.
Often, they need it straight away and expect you to drop everything to immediately. Whilst, we are aware that you are not obliged to fulfil their request, it helps both them and their new landlord. Which is why we’ve put this article together on how to to create a reusable template to make this process quick and easy when it occurs.
Providing Tenant References
1. Tell the Truth
Being dishonorable in a reference letter could very easily come back to haunt you. For example, if you have a bad tenant you might be tempted to gloss over or hide their flaws to help move them on and out of your property as fast as possible. However, if you provide false information, the future landlord can, in fact, sue you for misinformation.
2. Give Examples, Avoid Emotion
Having a one-liner about the tenant being “great” or “nice” just isn’t helpful. Instead, dig into some of the specifics about why they were great, or maybe less than great. If the tenant lied to you, give an example, but avoid giving any emotional response. This isn’t about how the tenant made you feel it’s about the facts.
3. Were they Reliable?
You should mention their length of stay, as well as whether they paid rent on time and in full every month or if there were any other issues around money. These are crucial for the new landlord to make an informed decision.
You can mention aspects of their life if it affected their occupancy or prevented them from paying rent. For example, if a tenant swapped jobs twice during the period of a year meaning they were late paying the rent on those months, then mention it.
4. Property Maintenance
The second most major thing landlords need to know about is whether or not tenants are going to look after their property. Describe the tenant’s level of cleanliness. Did they cause pest problems, leave stains on the floor?
5. Don’t Say Anything you aren’t Willing to Back up in Court
Assume that the tenant will read the letter that you send. If you write egregious lies or hyperbolise on their tenancy they might take issue with that. If you’re not willing to back up everything you say in the landlord reference letter with cold hard facts, don’t write it, don’t say it.
6. Do unto others…
Past behaviour is one of the key indicators on whether or not a tenant is going to be a good tenant in the future. At some point, you’re undoubtedly going to be the landlord on the other end of that phone. As such, it’s worth making it clear you’re happy to have a quick chat over the phone if they need additional information.
Leave your name and phone number on the letter for if they wish to reach out. It really is a case of doing unto others and you would have done unto you.
Our Landlord Reference Letter Template
You can download the following template and edit it to suit your needs. Then whenever a tenant requests a reference letter simply open it up and fill in the blanks.
What to include in your landlord reference letter.
- Clarify who the tenant is and the property address.
- Verify the rent amount and whether or not they were reliable with their payments.
- Note their general cleanliness, and the amount of the deposit returned (if they’ve already moved out).
- Did they have any pets or smoke during their tenancy?
- Did they cause any disturbances during their tenancy? Eg. the neighbours complained about the noise.
- Did you ever begin eviction proceedings?
- Any notes in regard to them breaching the lease.
- If you know, then state the reason they gave for wanting to move.
- Give a short summary of whether, overall, they were good tenants.
Finally, sign it off with your details and offer to answer any additional questions they might have.