write rental reference letter

A tenant may ask you to write a rental reference letter in order to help them rent another place down the road. Writing a rental reference letter doesn’t take much time, but some landlords may get confused about what to say.

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, it’s important to deliver the information honestly and succinctly. Although 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, you want to make sure to do a good job.

What Is A Rental Reference Letter?

A rental reference letter, also known as a recommendation letter, is written to a former tenant’s potential new landlord. Yes, it’s true, these types of letters do not always have to come from previous landlords, they can be provided from other sources that help verify a tenant’s reliability, but most of the time, an existing landlord loves to see a previous landlord’s recommendation.

How To Write A Rental Reference Letter

As a tenant, it’s so much easier to provide a template to your previous landlord to help save time, this way they can customize or edit it as they want. However, not all tenants may think to do this, which is perfectly okay in today’s world of modern technology considering how many templates you can find online nowadays. Here are a few starter tips on how to go about writing a reference letter for a tenant.

Honesty Is Key

Don’t overdo the details. It’s essential to always tell the truth. With many recommendation letters, it’s important to be able to back up what you write too just in case you receive a phone call or an email for verification. Honesty is key when it comes to rental reference letters, critical actually. You definitely don’t want to steer a future landlord the wrong way by providing a great recommendation for a tough tenant. With anything, if you can provide proof to back up what you’re saying like a receipt or late rent notices, that’s even better.

Keep It Short

No landlords, at least not most, want to read a nine-page essay on why they should choose a tenant. After all, they have to go through dozens of rental applications to find that tenant in the first place, run their background checks and more. It’s important to keep this letter short and sweet and to the point.

Stick To The Facts

Okay, think about this, a lot of the time when you have something in writing it supersedes anything that was orally said or agreed to. It’s essential to stick to the facts when writing this rental reference letter so that nothing backfires so to speak in the long run.

Be Professional

A reference letter won’t be taken seriously if it’s not professional sounding. Just to reiterate the above, keep to the facts and stay relevant. Write this letter as if you were the one receiving it. Just like anything you’re writing and sending off, check for the basics like spelling issues and grammar. You could always have someone read over it as well. If you’re using a template, be sure you filled in all the blanks correctly instead of leaving the standardized text in there!

Keep It Structured

A rental reference typically has the following structure:

  • Date of Writing
  • Your name and any contact information (usually email or direct phone)
  • Addressee or address with “to whom it may concern”
  • Introduction
  • Body of the letter (we go over what to include below)
  • Conclusion
  • Sign-off
  • Signature (if comfortable providing)

What Should A Rental Reference Letter Include?

So, we went over the structure of the letter, but let’s really break it down to the bare minimum and in simplest terms. Here are the steps in order and what to include when creating the rental reference letter:

#1 Date:

Be sure to put the date at the top of the letter. An out-of-date letter is going to lose credibility.

#2 Contact Information

Most of the time your first and last name is included, but sometimes people will even include their email address and direct phone number. If you’re a landlord receiving a recommendation letter and need assistance on how to contact the previous landlord, check out this video:

#3 Addressee

If you do not know the potential landlord’s name a formal “to whom it may concern” will do just fine here.

#4 Introduction

Just a simple introduction of who you are will work great here, we’ll get down to more details below.

#5 Tenancy Information:

This should be in the body of your letter. Be sure to include the tenant’s first and last name, the address of the rental property and the dates that the tenants were on the property. If the tenant paid on time, be sure to include that. If the tenant took care of the property and maintained everything properly, be sure to include that.

If the tenant owned a pet, previous landlords will include information like how well they handled the dog while living on the property, any noise complaints, yard mishaps etc. Remember, as we mentioned above, it’s important to stick to the facts and not insert your opinion anywhere. Sometimes, landlords will even point to specific clauses in their leases and acknowledge whether the tenant followed the terms correctly.

#6 Care And Condition Of The Property :

It’s crucial to note how the property was maintained. If there were any damages, notate that. If the tenants left things in perfect condition (per lease terms etc.) notate that as well. Keep in mind, your rental reference letter should not violate fair housing laws, many of which have to do with discrimination. It’s important to keep in mind that you can inadvertently violate such laws by mentioning a person’s race, sexual orientation etc. even if you are being complimentary.

Depending on your local laws, you may have additional protected classes to consider when writing this letter. It’s always a good idea to have legal review your letter before you send it out.

#7 Tenant’s Behavior:

If there were any neighbors to the property or anyone else other than the tenant living at the home, note if there were any disputes or difficulties for any reason. You should never reveal any personal information about the tenant either, stick to the facts.

#8 Landlord-Tenant Relationship:

As mentioned above, keep things simple in the conclusion. Be sure to include whether or not you would rent to the tenant again. When the future landlord has the chance to evaluate all the facts, he or she can make the final call on whether to rent to the tenant or not.

#9 Sign Off

A simple signature or signing of your name will do here.

Landlord Reference Letter Sample

Sometimes it’s easiest to see what a rental reference letter should include with an example or a starter template that you can customize.

July 15, 2022

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, 2021 through June 30, 2022.

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 2 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

Create The Best Reference Letter

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. Make sure to share this article and leave a  comment below!


  1. What do you do when the tenant was always late and has damaged your apartment. I don’t want to lie but I want her out and she expects me to give her a letter of recommendation because this will make it easier for her to get a place. I can’t lie. What is the minimal that I can say?

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