A rental reference letter is the ticket to securing a new rental in a competitive market.
These reference letters assure prospective property managers that a would-be renter is a reliable and responsible person who will meet their financial obligations, uphold lease agreements, and take good care of the property.
Rental reference letters are great tools for conscientious property managers and renters. Outside of tenant screening reports, these letters add another layer of security to accepting a new resident and ensuring they will be a good fit for a unit. Rental reference letters also give dependable renters a way to get their applications to the top of the stack!
What is a rental reference letter?
A rental reference letter is a letter sent from a renter’s current or previous property management to the property management company of a new potential unit they’d like to move into.
Rental reference letters give an overview of the property management’s experience with the renter. It details the renter’s rent payment history, adherence to or violations of contractual agreements, care of the property, and general behavior.
It outlines how reliable and responsible the renter was and sums up whether or not this is a desirable or undesirable renter.
When should you get a rental reference letter?
Property managers use rental reference letters to screen potential candidates during the background check and consideration process.
It’s best to have one prepared before sending out applications.
What does the rental reference letter include?
A rental recommendation letter includes basic information about the property manager it’s coming from, the tenancy agreement, and the renter’s financial, social, and personal behavior – as relevant to the rental.
It details how well the renter adhered to the terms of the lease agreement, along with any issues that came up.
Here’s a sample rental reference letter outline:
- Property manager or management company’s name, address, and any other contact information
- Receiving property manager’s name and address
- Greetings and intro with basic tenancy details
- Rent payment history, including ease or difficulty of receiving payments
- Adherence to lease conditions and property upkeep
- Relevant behavior making renter a good, neutral, or troublesome person to rent to
- State of rental deposit
- Closing statements and optional recommendation on whether to lease or not to lease to the renter
Reference letters should be specific, brief, and carefully restricted to pertinent information only. Here’s a little more about what can go into a reference letter.
General Tenancy Details
Rental reference letters begin with basic details about the property management, renter, and tenancy.
Rental reference letters should provide:
- The sending property manager’s name, address, and contact information
- The renter being referenced
- Rental property address
- Lease start and end dates
- Lease payment amount
Rent Payment History
Rental reference letters describe the rent payment history and how reliable or unreliable the renter was. A brief summary is adequate for renters who always pay their rent on time.
If there were issues, the letter should detail what those were and how they were resolved, including problems ranging from bounced checks to late payments.
Property Care and Condition
Rental reference letters describe how well the renter maintained the property or detail precisely how it was damaged.
Slight wear and tear is expected. However, renters need to take reasonable care of the rental, maintain sanitary conditions, and should leave things in good shape.
Property managers may also mention if renters made an effort to leave the unit clean when vacating and can state whether or not the rental deposit will be returned.
Lease Agreement Violations
Recommendation letters from property management detail any breaches of the agreements made within the lease. Lease violations include unapproved subletting, residents, pets, or property alterations, which can encompass safety, hygiene, and maintenance concerns.
Subletting without approval is a serious violation. That includes brief subletting or advertising the rental on Airbnb or other short-term lease marketplaces.
Having unapproved residents is another lease violation. This applies to roommates, partners, and long-term guests. There’s a fine line between guest and renter. Anyone who spends extensive lengths of time living at the rental can be considered a resident. This can be more of a concern when the property manager covers certain utilities or the unapproved resident is a nuisance.
Unapproved pets or unapproved pet sizes, types, or breeds are rental agreement violations. Certain pets or breeds represent more of an issue, as these can bring legal, financial, and insurance risks and liabilities.
Property alterations include drilling holes, painting, changing the locks, and making other unauthorized decorations or renovations. This can also include balcony-related violations, such as installing satellite dishes or adding unapproved furniture.
The lease can be violated if the renter fails to adhere to maintenance agreements, such as removing trash, keeping snow clear, keeping leaking vehicles in a garage, etc. Unhygienic, unsanitary, or unsafe conditions can violate an agreement, mainly in cases of hoarding, waste accumulation, and any sanitary condition that can attract pests, damage property, lower property values, or represent a fire hazard.
Rental reference letters talk about a renter’s social or antisocial behavior, especially relating to in-unit behavior, guests, common area use, and interactions with any neighbors. This includes noisiness, loitering, harassment, nuisance guests, and safety threats.
Noise complaints can be common, especially in buildings without sufficient soundproofing. A few complaints might be understandable, but repeated violations signal a potentially inconsiderate and disruptive renter.
Renter guests can be extremely problematic and difficult to deal with. Guests can be rowdy, boisterous, destructive, and dangerous, and may represent a security threat. Guests who loiter or amass in common areas can be a nuisance. property managers can’t monitor who renters choose to invite into a building. So, screening for someone with poor social choices is critical.
Behavioral considerations also include harassment, disagreements, arguments, or fights with other residents, resident guests, property management staff, or neighbors.
Consider this an essential part of the reference letter. Renters can pay rent on time and take good care of the property, yet still be an undesirable leasing candidate who displays a range of antisocial, disruptive, or generally troublesome behavior.
Property Management-Renter Relationship
Rental reference letters describe the nature of the relationship between the renter and property manager, with a few lines on what it was like to interact with the renter and how easy or difficult things were.
- Property managers having to reschedule service appointments because renters aren’t available
- Renters avoiding contact with the property manager
- Renters who are hostile to maintenance or refusing to let them in
- Renters who are rude, curt, or hostile in general
- Renters insisting on getting everything in writing versus handling things with a simple phone call
- Renters repeatedly calling the property manager after hours or late at night, when it isn’t an emergency
- Renters making demands or requests outside the bounds of the lease agreement
The ideal renter is pleasant, accommodating, easy to talk to, and reasonable.
A lease that permits pets has to address ownership and maintenance issues in the renter reference letter. This section should address cleanliness, odors, barking or noise, property damage, other renter or neighbor experiences, existing complaints, and adherence to financial payments, such as pet fees.
Pets make someone far riskier to rent to. Animals scratch, chew, urinate on surfaces, leave lingering odors, cause fires, contaminate the grounds with waste, create noise pollution, and may represent a safety threat.
Rental reference letters confirming how responsible, conscientious, and clean a pet-owning renter is can greatly assuage a prospective property manager’s concerns. But reference letters detailing negligence on any level will hinder the chances of finding a new place.
Rental Reference Letter Template and Sample
Need a little help to get things started? Here’s a general template for structuring the letter, followed by a sample.
Rental Reference Letter Template
[Sending property manager’s Name]
[Sending property manager’s Phone Number]
[Sending property manager’s Address]
To whom it may concern,
[Introductory information with basic tenancy details, such as property address, lease timeline, and rent amount.]
[A description of the renter’s financial reliability, property care, behavior, and any other remarks.]
[Summary and closing recommendations.]
[property manager’s Name]
[property manager’s Signature]
Sample rental reference Letter
January 1, 2023
666 Park Avenue, New York, 10103
To whom it may concern,
This is a rental reference letter for Jane Doe regarding her tenancy at 92 Park Lane. My name is John Smith, the owner and property manager of said rental.
I can confirm that Jane was a renter at 92 Park Lane from July 2019 to December 2022, during which time her monthly rent was $3,500.
Jane was a reliable renter who adhered to the lease rules and regulations, maintained the property, was polite and well-mannered, considerate of her neighbors, and typically paid on time.
There was one month during mid-2020 when her rent payment was late while experiencing tight finances after being made redundant due to Covid-19. Jane contacted us about the issue ahead of time, remained communicative, and paid her rent in full once financial assistance came in.
I consider Jane to be an excellent renter and great neighbor. I will be fully refunding her rental deposit and would accept her as a renter in the future.
What to leave out of a rental reference letter
property managers don’t have free reign as to what they can put in a reference letter – even if it impacts their property or lease. The Fair Housing Act and other housing rights legislation prohibits housing discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. Other local laws may expand these protections.
As such, these letters must be very careful in terms of what’s said and how the information is framed.
E.g., a rental reference letter shouldn’t say that someone was a bad renter because they have noisy and destructive teenagers. However, it can disclose that there were multiple noise complaints and that the property was damaged.
See the difference?
Reference letters are personal but should never negatively refer to, mention, or insinuate anything protected under housing rights legislation.
What to do if you get a negative rental reference letter
Rental reference letters aren’t always positive. Sometimes that’s due to problems on the renter’s end. Other times, property managers are just plain mean-spirited, unreasonable, or spiteful.
No matter what’s happened or whose fault it is, there are ways to remedy a less-than-positive rental reference.
Your options include:
- Explaining the circumstances.
- Getting a co-signer or lease guarantor
- Obtain an employer reference letter
- Collect more positive letters from prior property managers
If a negative rental reference is getting sent out, it’s a good idea to explain your side of the story.
This applies even if you were at fault. Be upfront, accept responsibility, and try to demonstrate why that won’t happen again.
Were you late on rent a couple of times? Admit to having poor financial management or going through a rough time, then show why you’re a stronger candidate. E.g., got a raise, changed jobs, built up your savings, or took some classes.
Did a roommate or co-signer cause trouble? Let the new property manager know who was to blame and that it won’t be an issue.
And of course, it’s best to counter untruths or misrepresentations from a problematic property manager.
Get a lease co-signer or financial guarantor
A poor financial track record can be overcome by having someone with a stronger financial background provide the property manager with guarantees.
A financial guarantor is someone who attests to your ability to pay rent and makes themselves liable to pay it if you do not. A lease co-signer does the same but also has the right to live in the rental.
Either one can assuage a property manager’s financial concerns.
Get an employer reference letter.
Property managers aren’t the only people who can give rental reference letters. An employer is another option. A boss can’t speak to how someone lives or maintains a property, but they can offer information related to financial ability, how you handle responsibility, and how well you interact with co-workers and maintain social relationships.
This can be a great option for people with a poor or non-existent rental history but strong finances and employment. It can also help bolster applications when there have been prior rent payment issues.
If you went through a rough financial time that affected your ability to pay rent, but are now doing better, consider having an employer send in a renter recommendation letter.
Get letters from prior property managers.
Is this poor property manager letter a one-off? Provide favorable letters from previous property managers to give a more accurate picture of who you are as a renter.
This is a great option for people with a long history of renting who are experiencing issues with their current property manager.