Do you need to write a landlord reference letter?
Landlords are often asked to provide reference letters for tenants, but too often, they’re unsure of what to include. These letters are often vital for tenants, as they help them secure a new rental property. Here, we bring you best-practice tips for creating an accurate and compliant reference letter that properly represents your former tenant.
Horton and Garton are sharing the following information for landlords hoping to establish the right tone and key details to include to ensure the landlord reference letter they’re providing is fit for purpose.
What is a landlord reference letter?
A landlord reference letter is a document written by a tenant’s previous landlord or letting agent to recommend them to a future landlord. The purpose of a landlord reference is to provide an objective, truthful overview that validates the tenant is responsible and suitable to become a new landlord’s renter.
Within the reference, the landlord should aim to verify:
- Details like the identity of the tenant
- The duration they leased a property
- Whether they paid rent reliably
- How they maintained the condition of the property
- If the landlord ever had reason to serve notices or begin eviction proceedings.
It essentially enables the prospective landlord to get a third-party perspective on how the tenant conducts themselves in a lease situation based on the prior landlord’s direct experience renting to them.
What it means for tenant referencing
Landlord reference letters are a fundamental part of the tenant referencing process. For prospective tenants, getting a positive reference that shows good financial and conduct history can be the difference between a rental application being approved or rejected.
Most landlords require landlord references on applications, along with credit checks and employment status. If the overall tenant references indicate the applicant will reliably pay rent and properly maintain the property, landlords gain greater confidence to sign a lease.
If, however, past landlords raise flags or concerns in their references, it may lead applicants to fail the tenant assessment. This demonstrates why having a trail of positive landlord references is so important for rental candidates to demonstrate they are responsible tenants and successfully secure future leases.
How to write a landlord reference letter
Writing a strong landlord reference letter for your former tenant requires care and thoughtfulness. An accurate and objective letter can support the tenant’s rental application, while an overly critical or negligently praiseworthy one can be significantly misleading.
Follow these key steps to find the right balance:
All details like rental dates, addresses and rents paid should align with the tenant’s actual tenancy. Support statements about maintenance, damages or behaviour issues with factual documentation. The new landlord may follow up, so stick to the truth.
Keep praise objective
Highlight aspects like timely rent and lease compliance, but steer clear of emotive language. Focus on certifying their responsibilities were met without exaggerations.
Disclose legally allowed information only
Do not share medical, financial situations or subjective concerns unrelated to their renting, as this likely violates laws. Only include relevant conduct details.
In summary, the major points to cover in a landlord reference are:
- Accurately confirm tenant details and history
- Objectively praise compliance and responsibility
- Legally disclose issues directly related to the tenancy
What should be included?
A landlord reference letter should include objective, factual information pertaining to the tenant’s previous lease. To start, include verifiable details like the tenant’s name and current address, the rental property’s address and the tenancy dates.
State whether the tenant paid rent reliably and how they maintained the property in terms of cleanliness, condition and repair requests. Specify if any notices or eviction proceedings were ever issued due to misconduct and if rental obligations ended amicably.
And finally, outline any positive aspects of their conduct objectively from a landlord’s perspective, such as being cooperative or no serious issues arising. Avoid legally confidential information or subjective opinions. Stick to facts directly related to the tenancy details the landlord is seeking.
How should I format my letter?
The landlord reference letter should follow a standard business letter format. Use a proper header with your name, address, phone number and the date at the top. Open with a salutation to the specific letting agent or landlord requesting the reference by name and company.
In clear paragraphs, provide the objective overview of the tenant’s details and history outlined above. Close by restating your endorsement of the tenant if earned, or convey your ability to provide further details if contacted with specific questions.
Add “Sincerely” or “Best regards” before signing your full name at the bottom. Proofread carefully and use formal business letter formatting like single spacing and appropriate folds if printing and send on company letterhead when possible.
The importance of a landlord reference letter
Providing a clear and truthful landlord reference letter acts as a necessary verification tool in the tenant application process. With landlord references holding plenty of weight during tenant assessments, taking proper care to confirm the details while also shedding objective light on previous rental conduct can empower prospective landlords to make informed decisions.
In turn, responsible tenants with histories of lease compliance benefit by having their positive renting reputations confirmed by past landlords. Formalising honest overviews of tenancies serves both parties by enabling landlords to securely offer leases while enabling good tenants to more readily secure future housing.
Can I refuse to write a reference letter?
As a landlord, you generally have the right to refuse to provide a reference letter for a previous tenant. However, declining to provide one may impact good tenants simply hoping to secure new housing.
Unless the tenant was non-compliant or you lack adequate rental history records to feel comfortable giving a reference, consider taking a brief time to verify basic details and responsibilities met by the tenant when renting your property.
This enables you to avoid frustrations associated with reference requests while still supporting good tenants’ abilities to progress their future renting plans.
Advice for tenants
If you’re a tenant reading this, you may want to know about the best ways to get a landlord reference letter. As a tenant, having a trail of positive landlord references can make securing a property infinitely easier during the rental application process.
Prioritise building a good rental reputation with previous landlords. Keep in touch, pay rent on time, look after the property and minimise complaints.
When you need a reference, approach previous landlords, highlighting the positive aspects of your tenancy and providing them ample time to draft the letter. Impressing landlords enough to earn glowing references takes a concerted effort but pays dividends through higher approval rates for rental properties you apply for later on.
Also, consider offering to put landlords in touch with future landlords to allow verbal confirmations of your positive profile as a tenant.
Writing a landlord reference letter
Providing an accurate, legally compliant landlord reference letter supports good tenants in securing housing while enabling landlords to make informed choices.
A property management company can provide professional services to assist landlords. To talk to us about your rental property, get in touch.