Should Landlords Call Personal Renting References?

Landlords will collect rental references from interested renters via a rental application.

One thing that is commonly found on rental applications is the request for personal, or character, references.

As a landlord, you want to do a comprehensive background check on the tenant which includes calling tenant references.

We’ve already created a Guide on how to call the tenant’s landlord, previous landlord, and current employer.

But, this post is about personal references and if they’re worth gathering, calling and evaluating? You might be surprised at the answer.

What Are Rental References?

What Are Rental References?

Rental references typically fall into three buckets. There are past/current landlords, Current employer, and personal references. We tend to dig for data from landlords and employers and seek to verify contact details on the personal reference.

The personal or character references are generally not family members, but may be friends, co-workers, business associates or others that the applicant feels would provide a positive reference.

Many landlords and property managers feel that personal references are a waste of time when screening tenants because they realize that the personal references are generally going to be people whom the applicant feels would say the best things about them to a potential landlord.

However, that’s not always the case.

3 Reasons to Check Personal Renting References

So why should landlords bother calling persona renting references who are simply going to reinforce what the applicant wants you to think? While skipping the personal references is a good way to save landlords some time during the application process, there are a few things to consider before deciding to scrap the references completely.

There are 3 very important reasons to go ahead and make those phone calls:

You may get the ugly truth

There is always a chance that a reference isn’t exactly on board with supporting the applicant and if they are more honest in their recommendations, you’ve gained some valuable information about the applicant.

By taking some time and asking open-ended questions of the contact person, you’ll make them feel more comfortable and provide them a chance to reveal what they really think.

You get a glimpse of who they associate with

A quick Google search of any rent references can be eye-opening. Is there a public record or a public Facebook profile to look at?

It’s not a reason to deny a renter but it might cause concern if the person says they’re best friends and the reference is doing a keg stand in their Facebook profile picture.

You have verified emergency contacts

You have verified emergency contacts

It’s important to verify that these personal references are real and reachable. Why? In the event that your applicant becomes your tenant and in a worst case scenario, they skip out on you without paying rent.

In that unfortunate situation, many landlords regret not getting emergency contacts or personal references up front, before they find themselves scrambling to find anyone who might know where the tenant is.

When you are trying to track down a tenant who has abandoned the unit and skipped out on you, having numerous contact people on hand gives you the best chance of reaching them to deliver notices and starting any legal processes.

In summary, listening to what personal references have to say may not make much of a difference in your decision if they are all positive. However, talking to them may surprise you with some less than stellar details, might give you a good idea of what the applicant is like and protect you in the event of a bad situation in the future.

Small Effort May Lead To Big Payoff

Most of the time, contacting an applicant’s personal references may not have much of an impact on your decision-making process. However, the information you gather just might shed some more light on your impression of the applicant and help you go with your gut feeling.

Personal or character references sometimes can provide interesting additional information along with prior rental history, employment verification, credit score, income verification, criminal background and so forth.

A good reference from someone doesn’t really mean the person will be a good tenant, and landlords should never base their decision primarily on the quality of personal or character references. Those decisions should be made with measurable, provable information. However, gathering the contact information for personal references, as well as taking the time to communicate with them, may lead to some valuable information and help create a more solid safety net for landlords in the future.

Check out our entire guide on renter references so you know what to ask from a landlord or employer.