What References Should I Require from a Prospective Tenant of My Rental Property?

As a landlord, you must screen your rental applicants thoroughly before allowing someone to move in to your property. The screening process can enable you to weed out possible problem tenants before they can ever become a problem.

There are several different types of references that a landlord may request an applicant to provide. The types of references will be completely up to you, but here are some helpful guidelines on the references that will assist a landlord in finding the right tenant for their property.

  1. Past employers. Request at least the last three of your applicant’s past employers, especially if there are more than this amount over a specific period of time, such as one year. If your applicant has been through several jobs in a short period of time, this can be a warning sign that they may not be a suitable tenant for your property.

    This section should include the address of the former employer, their contact information, and the name of the contact. Also request the dates of employment and ask your applicants to provide a brief explanation as to why they are no longer employed by this company.

  2. Past rental history. Ask your applicant to provide the current addresses and phone numbers of these past landlords to assist you in completing your follow-up efficiently. This section may help you uncover disputes with past landlords or other troubling events in the applicant’s rental history.

    However, keep in mind that some applicants prefer not to put their current landlord in this list. If they are breaking their current lease, or if they do not want to let their landlord know that they are moving, they may be hesitant to provide this information.

  3. Character references. The majority of rental applications include a section for at least three character references. This can include friends, former employers, or people that your applicant feels comfortable listing. This section can give you a better idea of the type of person you are dealing with.

    However, keep in mind that applicants will rarely provide you with references that are less than glowing. You can help mitigate this by asking for different types of references: for example, coworkers and supervisors in addition to friends and family members.

  4. Emergency contact information. This can come in handy should you accept a tenant and have them leave without paying their rent. This will give you a way to contact someone that will be able to help you track down your tenant should this occur.

    Getting this information is only the first step; if you do not follow up on it, the information will not be worth the paper it is written on. If you find that you are too busy to do all the necessary legwork, consider hiring a professional service that performs reference and background checks.

    References are just one aspect of your applicant’s history, and you should not rely solely on them. Run a credit or background check to get a comprehensive view of your applicant.

    The aggregate of this information will assist you in your final decision. Selecting the right person for your property will increase your peace of mind that your property is in good hands, and can help you select tenants that will be with you for many years to come.