write rental reference letter

Updated December 2021

As a landlord, you’ve likely asked prospective tenants for a landlord reference. Now, learn how to write a rental reference letter for your own tenants, with all the necessary details.

Many landlords have answered phone calls to give tenant recommendations, but tenants may also ask for a physical written letter from time to time. Ensuring that you provide the correct details is vital not only for your previous tenant, but also for their future landlord to be able to make the right choice.

Play a part in improving the rental community at large by writing great rental reference letters. Here’s where to get started.

Table Of Contents On Landlord Reference Letters

Housing references given by tenants on rental applications are often no more than a name and a phone number for their previous landlords. However, tenants who are more determined or thorough may request a rental reference letter from you for their next potential landlord. Today, learn how to handle that request.

What Is A Rental Reference Letter?

What Is A Rental Reference Letter?

A rental reference letter is a letter from one landlord to another that explains the basic details of their experience renting to a specific tenant. While the letter should not give away any personal information about the tenant, it should give their future landlord an idea of what it is like working with them in a landlord-tenant relationship.

Written reference letters are not the standard in the rental industry as most landlords stick to confirming references with phone calls. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be asked about a letter at some point.

Why Do Tenants Ask For Rental References?

A tenant may ask you to write a rental reference letter to help them rent another place down the road.  The reference letter helps a tenant show that they had a good working relationship with their previous landlord, and it also gives their new landlord a chance to learn about their renting style.

Informed tenants know that having a reference from a previous landlord can go a long way in helping them secure their next apartment. Tenants who can provide these written references often stand out, so it is not surprising that they are seen throughout the rental industry.

Why Should You Complete A Reference Letter For Housing?

As a landlord, you appreciate an honest and thorough rental reference on prospective tenants, but are you extending the same professional courtesy to your former tenant’s new landlord?

When a tenant requests a rental reference letter, you are being given a chance to do the same for another landlord. They want to know if the tenant is likely to be a reliable choice, and you can share this information by agreeing to write the reference letter.

Remember, writing this type of letter doesn’t need to be a heavy burden. Simply deliver the information honestly and succinctly.

Writing a rental reference letter doesn’t have to take a long time, especially if you have your tenant’s file in front of you for reference. Additionally, getting familiar with how to write this type of reference letter ahead of time will make the overall process more manageable. Below, we’ve covered the seven main steps of writing a housing reference letter for a former tenant.

How To Write A Reference For A Tenant In 7 Steps

Writing a rental reference letter doesn’t take much time, but some landlords may be unsure about what to say. That is why we have summed up the process in seven main steps that you need to follow.

Of course, you can take some creative liberties with the structure. After all, there is no official format that must be followed when writing a reference letter, so you can write the letter in whatever manner takes the least  effort for you. As long as the information is accurate, clear, and legal to share, you’ll be good to go.

#1 Date And Address

First, put the date at the top of the letter. Address the letter using the introductory phrase, “To whom it may concern.” If you have the other landlord’s name or are familiar with them, you can choose to address the letter more personally. Otherwise, stick to a general greeting that will be friendly to anyone reading.

#2 Tenancy Information

Next, you’ll want to give a clear rundown of the tenancy information of when and what the tenant rented from you. This tenancy information should include:

  • Tenant’s full name
  • Rental property address including city, state, and zip code
  • Occupancy dates

This information is essential because it will let the reader know when the tenant worked with you. If you were a recent landlord, your word is likely to be more heavily considered by the other landlord than if you were the tenant’s landlord a decade ago.

#3 Payment Regularity

The next point that you should be sure to touch on is whether or not the tenant ever paid rent late. If there were any instances of late rent, also note how the issues were resolved. Tenants who quickly and appropriately amended late rent should be given due credit, while those who dragged their feet should not.

It might feel strange to single out negative information about the tenant, but it is important to be as thorough and honest as possible. The tenant may have already told their future landlord about any missteps, so the landlord may be expecting to hear this news. Be truthful; that’s your only responsibility.

#4 Property Condition

The next point to touch on is what condition the property was left in after the tenant moved out. Were there any damages that occurred during the tenants’ tenure, or did they leave the property in great shape?

This is a great place to praise any tenants who went above and beyond to ensure the rental property was kept in great condition. Actions such as always notifying you about changes outlined in the lease agreement can be highlighted to give a good recommendation.

#5 Tenant Behavior

Next, talk about any tenant behavior situations that might be interesting to a future landlord. Did they give the landlord or any other tenants/neighbors a difficult time? Were the cops called to the rental for any reason?

It’s possible there were never these types of situations, and that’s okay. You can skip any of these sections that don’t apply to the tenant in question or that you feel are not helpful to anyone to talk about.

#6 Summary

To wrap up the letter, you want to do your best to give a clear picture of what the landlord-tenant relationship was like by the end of the rental period.

The best way to do this is to simply state if you would rent to the tenant again or not. You can provide further context, but keeping this brief is best.

#7 Contact Information

Invite the reader to reach out to you if they need any clarification.

Final Letter Writing Tips

A landlord reference letter should only relate the facts about the tenancy—never about personal feelings. Even if you didn’t feel that you and the tenant would be friends, that’s not relevant to the letter. The only things that should be covered are things that relate directly to how they behaved as a tenant.

You should never go overboard in revealing any personal information about the tenant either, such as gossip or stereotypes. The reference letter should be factual and end with a simple endorsement. When the future landlord has the chance to evaluate all the facts, they can make the call on whether to rent to the tenant or not.

Free Landlord Reference Letter Sample

Free Landlord Reference Letter Sample

Sometimes it’s easiest to see what a rental reference letter should include by an example. We’ve put together a simple reference letter that you can use as a template for what you might want to consider including in your reference letters going forward.

July 15, 2011

To whom it may concern,

I’ve been asked to write a rental reference letter on behalf of James Kitts, who rented an apartment from me at 2202 Elm Street from June 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

During the 1-year lease, James always paid the rent on time except for once, when he contacted me in advance about a family emergency and made arrangements to pay in full by the 15th of the month plus late fees. He fulfilled that agreement.

James kept the apartment in good condition and always alerted me to any maintenance issues in a timely manner. At the move-out inspection, there were only two very minor charges for damages. I have no complaints about him on file from other residents and found him to be a quiet and respectful tenant.

If given the opportunity, I would definitely rent to James again. Please contact me with any questions about his tenancy at 555-5555.


Ms. Landlord

Remember that it is not your responsibility to share every detail of your tenant’s file with the world. Instead, let the facts speak for themselves and do your duty as a landlord in creating a simple, informational letter for your tenant to use.

If you found this template useful, you will also appreciate this complete Landlord Starter Form Bundle. These forms, put together by the team here at RentPrep, give you a variety of templates that can be used in many important rental situations. From lease agreements to eviction notices, all the forms you need are in the bundle. Check it out today!

FAQs On Tenant Reference Letters

Here are a few frequently asked questions on how to write a good reference letter for a tenant.

How do you write a reference letter for a tenant?

Writing a reference letter for a tenant to give to a new landlord is not complicated. The letter’s key point is to convey whether the tenant was a good tenant or not, why you think that, and any other key information the prospective landlord should know.

Essentially, the only information that needs to be included is as follows:

  • Tenant name and when they rented from you
  • What type of tenant they were
  • If you had any issues with them (i.e., damages, late rent, etc.)
  • If you would rent to them again

By providing these four pieces of information, you’ll be giving the reader enough information for them to consider their own rental decision about the tenant.

To get a more complete rundown of how to write a reference letter for a tenant, make sure to scroll up to the earlier sections of this article. Above, we’ve covered the seven steps to writing a great rental letter in detail, including a free reference letter template that you can use to write your own reference letters for tenants.

What should a landlord reference letter say?

Any landlord reference letter that you write should give your honest opinion about a tenant to the reader. The letter should convey whether or not you think the tenant is someone you would rent to again, and you can elaborate on some basic details to make your point.

However, you should not include any private or personal information about the tenant that is not relevant to the rental history. Your personal opinion on the tenant’s personality or gossip about the individual that doesn’t apply to how they were as a tenant should never be included.

Keep things honest but straightforward. You are writing a simple reference letter, not an in-depth character study.

What is a work reference for a landlord?

A work reference is another type of housing reference letter that a tenant might include with their rental application. A work reference letter is a letter written by a supervisor or employer about an individual’s basic employment information.

Rather than giving details about the individual’s rental history as a landlord reference letter does, a work reference simply confirms employment, pay, and other details the tenant has already provided. The goal is to ensure that the tenant was honest in giving their work details to their future landlord.

What happens if you lie on a rental application?

If a tenant lies on a rental application and the landlord discovers the lie later, the tenant can and may be immediately evicted from the property. There are unlikely to be any legal charges for the lies, but a landlord would be well within their rights to evict a tenant that knowingly lied on their rental application.

In some cases, eviction can happen even more quickly in this situation when compared to other lease violations. Whether or not a landlord chooses to pursue eviction upon discovering the lie is up to that landlord. For lies that don’t make much difference, most landlords will choose to wait out the rental period instead of pursuing a costly eviction.

When making your decision, remember that tenants who intentionally lie on their rental applications are trying to hide something. If you’re still early in the rental period, it might be best to move on from that tenant as quickly as possible rather than waiting around for an issue to arise at a later time. Ultimately, however, that decision is yours to make.

What does it mean when a landlord asks for references?

When a landlord asks for references, they are requesting contact details or a reference letter from those who know your character or actions as a tenant best. Landlords might want one or two work references from past employers as well as contact information for your previous landlord.

Landlords are asking for this information so they can assess whether or not  you will be a good tenant for their rental property. By talking with your employer, they can confirm that your employment information provided is truthful and accurate.

Receiving a landlord reference letter from a previous landlord gives new potential landlords insight into what you might be like as a tenant. These letters also cover things like late rent, damages, and other major concerns for landlords.

Suppose tenants are not comfortable giving this information to a landlord for any reason. In that case, they should talk to them about other verification options and explain why it’s not a good option for them. Some landlords may be willing to be flexible; others will not. As a landlord, it’s up to you to decide if you are ready to consider tenants without these references.

The Rental Reference: Not Required But Useful

As a landlord, there’s no doubt that you can see the value in a prospective tenant including a housing reference letter with their application. The information provided and confirmed by a previous landlord gives a great picture of what the applicant looks like as a tenant. This information makes it easier to make a final decision about whether or not they will be a good fit for renting a property from you.

Tenants may also ask you to write a reference letter. It’s up to you to decide if you want to write the letter or not. It’s not a requirement, nor is it part of your responsibilities as a landlord. However, you will be able to assist your former tenant and their potential new landlord by writing the letter.

Improving communication within the rental community can be a great way to make the overall rental market in your region better. Take that into consideration when deciding if it is a good idea to write a reference letter.

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