How to Write a Tenant Reference Letter

As a landlord, you may at some point be asked to write a tenant reference letter for one of your former tenants. You also might require your own tenants to provide a letter from one of their previous landlords. These letters help you decide whether a tenant is reliable when it comes to following the terms of a lease and paying rent in full on time. 

You may be asked for a reference by a phone call from another rental property owner, and they’ll take just a couple of minutes of your time to ask things like:

  • Did they pay rent on time?
  • Did they break any terms of the lease?
  • Did you receive any complaints from other tenants about them?
  • Did they cause any damage above and beyond normal wear and tear?
  • Did they leave the property in good condition?

Alternatively, you might receive a request to provide these answers in the form of a tenant reference letter. Keep the following tips in mind to help you write an excellent, useful tenant reference letter.

What to Include in a Tenant Reference Letter

Be honest when writing; only present truthful statements and only include relevant information. You can describe your rental history with the tenant, but make sure to do so with facts, not feelings. Always remain professional.

You can begin by stating how you met the tenant, how long they rented from you, and what your overall experience with them was like. 

Include beginning and end dates of the tenancy while bringing up points about reliability and cleanliness. If they left the premises immaculately clean, mention that. If they left an enormous mess, state that in the letter. 

What to Leave Out

Since you should include only facts in the letter, keep in mind that it’s not appropriate to discuss past arguments with them that left you with hard feelings. Try your best to keep opinions out of it. Take a look back at the lease for specific information to decide which policies were followed and which were not.

Your tenant reference letter cannot violate any fair housing laws. In most localities, there are additional protected classes to consider when discussing a tenant with anyone. You cannot treat anyone differently because of their race, religion, sex, color, familial status, national origin, or disability. 

Never mention a person’s membership in a protected class, even if you are being complimentary. Leave out any opinion or bias, even if it’s something positive. Before you send out your letter, you may want to review local laws or have your attorney review the letter.

What If You Can’t Recommend the Tenant?

If you feel like you cannot recommend the tenant as a good renter based on a negative tenant-landlord relationship you had with them, you may decline to write the letter. However, even if there were some downsides, if the relationship was positive overall, you should honor the request and provide what is asked.

It’s acceptable to make a note of any potential issues that came up between you and the renter (without feelings and opinions) while still keeping an overall positive tone. At the conclusion of your letter, provide your general recommendation for the tenant.

Don’t ever mislead a future landlord about a tenant who was a challenge for you. In addition, you should not give inaccurate information about the tenant that could present an unjustified negative view of them. Backing up all of your statements with proof, such as late rent notices and rent receipts, is also a good idea.

Use a Template for Tenant Recommendation Letters

It’s important to remain factual and business-like with your letters, but it’s also a good idea to keep them all in the same format. This way, every letter you send is precise and professional.

The easiest way to do this, and one that will also save you a good amount of time, is to use a template. A landlord reference letter template will be especially useful if you have more than one letter to write at once. 

You can copy and paste template content and then fill it in with your own information, do a final read-through to make sure nothing has been left blank, check for spelling errors to keep it professional, and you’re done!

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