What is a Tenant Reference or Rental Reference?

What is a Tenant Reference or Rental Reference?

Tenant Reference, also called Rental Reference, is a document or letter supporting the tenant’s credibility, financial soundness and consistency so that there is less potential controversy with the Landlord or the Property Managers.

It can be written by someone the tenant is associated with, and the ideal person would be the current or previous landlord. The potential renter can ask his neighbour, colleague, work superior, or co-tenant if there are no references.

The main reason for a reference is to give an idea of the potential tenant to the landlord or property manager and what to expect from him or her after renting. Let us know the ins and outs of rental references or tenant references in this article.

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    Things to Consider as a Landlord Before Renting

    • How much was the rent per month for the previous tenancy?
    • How punctually was the rent paid for the previous tenancy?
    • Did the renter remain for the agreed rental tenure?
    • Does the renter have any pet(s)?
    • Was there any other occupant(s) as tenant(s)?
    • Have the tenant(s) ever received any legal notices (delayed payment of rent, disturbance, unapproved guests, notices to leave, etc.)?
    • How much of the monthly rent payment did the renter usually contribute?
    • Was the property properly managed (cleaning, lawn, backyard, etc.)?
    • Were the utility bills paid timely and adequately during the rental tenure?
    • Does the renter give the proper notice before moving out?
    • Did the renter get the security deposit refunded when they moved out?
    • Would you lease to the renter again?

    The Importance of Credit Reports for Landlords as Tenant Reference

    Credit reports play a crucial role in helping landlords assess prospective tenants. These reports often require only a person’s full name and date of birth for access. However, in some cases, landlords may request a Social Insurance Number (SIN), which is sensitive personal information and should be kept confidential.

    For tenant screening without any hassle, click here and learn the features of the best Canadian Property Management Software – MI Property Portal and how they check the tenant’s background for you.

    Types of Rental References Landlords Can Request

    Friend or Family Member

    When contacting a tenant’s friend or family member for a reference, it’s important to recognize that these individuals often have a close relationship with the prospective tenant and may provide glowing reviews. While their insights can be valuable, they might also be biased. To make an informed decision, it’s advisable to consider this feedback alongside information from other references.

    Questions to Ask a Friend or Family Member

    • How long have you known the prospective tenant?
    • Where does the individual currently work?
    • Would you describe the individual as responsible and reliable?
    • Would you personally rent your home to this individual?


    A tenant’s current employer can offer essential insights into their income stability, responsibility, and work ethic. Employers, who oversee performance and work behaviour, are well-placed to gauge reliability. Positive feedback from an employer can indicate a tenant’s suitability.


    Taking a few minutes to speak with the potential tenant’s employer can provide valuable insights. This quick conversation can confirm the tenant’s length of employment, and income, and ensure that the information matches what they’ve provided on their application. It’s a straightforward way to verify their stability and credibility as a tenant.

    Questions to Ask an Employer

    • How long has the prospective tenant been employed in their current position?
    • Have there been any concerns regarding the tenant’s reliability?
    • Can you confirm the tenant’s total income?
    • Would you recommend renting to this individual?

    Previous Landlord

    A reference from a previous landlord is highly valuable as they have firsthand experience renting to the tenant. They can provide insights into payment habits, property maintenance, and the tenant’s overall behavior. While a previous landlord’s feedback is crucial, it’s essential to consider factors such as the reason for not renewing the lease.

    Questions to Ask a Previous Landlord

    • Did the prospective tenant consistently pay rent on time and in full?
    • Was the property well-maintained, or were there any damages?
    • Did the tenant exhibit any disruptive behaviour during the tenancy?
    • Would you be willing to rent to this individual again?


    Co-workers offer a different perspective on the tenant’s character and work habits compared to employers. They have a close view of the tenant’s work ethic, interactions, and personality. This reference can provide valuable insights into how well the tenant collaborates with others, a crucial aspect of a tenant-landlord relationship.

    Questions to Ask a Co-Worker

    • How long have you worked alongside the prospective tenant?
    • Would you describe the individual as having a strong work ethic?
    • Does the individual collaborate well with others, both customers and co-workers?
    • In your opinion, is the individual responsible?

    These reference types provide landlords with a comprehensive view of a prospective tenant’s suitability for renting a property.

    Tenant’s Disclaimer to the Referee

    The prospective landlord will call or email the person associated with the Rental Reference to verify the information or the reference letter, or to know about the prospective tenant. The tenant must inform the person associated with the Rental Reference, whether a colleague, or the previous landlord, or an employer beforehand that they might get called or emailed by the prospective landlord.

    This is to ensure that the person associated with the Tenant Reference cooperates and shares real time information with prospective landlord only and information does not go to the wrong person or scammers.

    Landlord Reference Letters

    A landlord reference letter is typically provided by previous landlords when their former tenants are seeking a new rental property and is similar to professional recommendation letters or character references. When a former tenant requests a reference letter for you, it generally implies that you had a positive relationship.

    How to Write a Landlord Reference Letter?

    Beginning of the Letter

    Start your reference letter by stating your relationship with the tenant, the duration of their tenancy, and the specific dates when they rented from you.

    Discuss Rental History

    In the body of the letter, discuss the tenant’s rental history with you. Be honest and maintain a professional tone. Highlight aspects like their cleanliness and reliability. If they left the property exceptionally clean, mention it. Conversely, if they caused damage beyond normal wear and tear, consider mentioning this as well.

    Negative Rental History

    If you cannot recommend the tenant due to a negative rental history, it’s better to politely decline writing the letter. However, if the overall landlord-tenant relationship was positive, you can mention any potential concerns while maintaining a positive tone.


    In the concluding part of your letter, provide your overall recommendation for the tenant.

    This structure should help you create a practical reference letter for your tenant while adhering to the guidelines.

    Landlord Reference Letters Sample

    Guidelines For Renting Property As A New Renter Without Rental Reference or Tenant Reference

    Many first-time renters, such as college students, will not have a landlord reference. They might be just moving out from their parent’s home or maybe moving out to a different city.  Then how do you show your trustworthiness to get approved for a property?

    You have to exhibit that you can manage the property responsibly, pay rent timely, and keep the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement.

    You can provide other documents to show you are on good terms to rent your first home. For example, if you have been living in a student accommodation, you can ask the person in charge of the place to say good things about you.

    While recommendations from teachers, neighbours, or even your doctor might support your application, references from your company or management can show that you have a sense of responsibility. A record of your monthly mobile phone bill payments is also helpful, and your landlord or property manager will be reassured that you will pay rent on time if they can verify your employment or regular income.

    Tips to Overcome Poor Credit History as a Renter

    If you’re worried about having a bad credit record, you should prove to the landlord that it won’t affect your capacity to make rent payments in the future. Here are some ways to overcome a bad credit history and persuade a landlord to consider you as a tenant:

    Explain Your Situation

    It can be beneficial to share the circumstances that led to your current situation with the landlord. For instance, if you faced challenges such as a work-related injury or the need to care for an ill family member, explaining these circumstances can provide context to your credit history. It can help the landlord understand that past financial difficulties were tied to specific unfortunate events rather than indicating an inability to manage finances in the future.

    Honesty is the Best Policy

    Consider telling a landlord about your problems before they request a credit report if they ask for one. This will show that you are sincere and provide you the chance to explain the matter.

    Demonstrate Financial Stability

    To assure the landlord of your financial security, present evidence that shows you’re capable of consistently paying rent in full and on time. This evidence may include recent pay stubs, a formal letter of employment, or confirmation of government benefits.

    Highlight Your Reliability

    To establish your credibility as a tenant, provide examples of your past responsible behaviour. This could involve references from previous landlords who can attest to your history of timely rent payments, a letter from your current employer highlighting your punctuality and ability to meet deadlines, or statements from individuals who have experienced your reliability in various contexts.

    These steps will help you convey your situation, financial stability, and reliability to potential landlords effectively.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    To request a tenant reference, seek written consent from the tenant and contact their previous landlords to gather information about their rental history and behaviour.

    If a landlord discovers that a tenant has provided false references, they should take appropriate legal action, which may include eviction.

    If you receive a negative rental reference, consider discussing it with the landlord to address any concerns or discrepancies. You can also provide additional references to showcase your reliability.

    Landlords are not obligated to provide rental references, but many do so to assist their tenants in finding new accommodations. It's advisable to maintain a good relationship with your landlord for future reference requests.

    While tenants have the right to refuse to provide references, it may affect their chances of being approved for a rental property. It's advisable to cooperate and provide truthful information.

    There is no specific limit on the number of references a landlord can request, but it's essential to ensure that the request is reasonable and relevant to the rental application.

    A rental reference letter should include details about the tenant's rent payment history, behaviour, and the condition of the property upon move-out.

    While there's no strict format, rental reference letters should be well-organized, professional, and truthful.

    Yes, landlords can request a tenant's credit score as part of their screening process, with the tenant's consent.

    While there are no specific laws governing tenant references, landlords must ensure that their reference information is truthful and accurate.

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