Asking for References from Your Old Landlords

in Moving on by

Whether leaving a job or a community where you have built a positive reputation it is never a bad idea to get a reference. Even if you think that you may not need it, you never know when you are in a situation when you wish you had it, and management may have turned over by then. Hindsight is 20/20, so have the foresight to prepare for the future.

If you have a great history with the landlord of paying on time, no complaints from other renters and your final walkthrough goes down as planned, there should be no problems getting a positive reference. But what if things weren’t so golden for you?

First, don’t wait until the day you are leaving to fix any pending issues with management. “Bye, I’m outta here. Sorry about all the problems, really I am. Now can I have a reference letter?” Fat chance, my friend. As soon as you can start fixing the problem, do it.

If you find yourself at the end of the lease agreement and you are putting in your notice you can also make attempts there.


Dear John,

It is with regret that I am submitting my 30 days notice to vacate. You have been a pleasure to work with and a true professional. If there is anything that I can do to help show the unit minimizing occupancy for you, please let me know. I am more than willing to help you as you have always worked with me.

Kindest Regards,
The one who wants to get back in your good graces

cc: John’s boss (so that John really loves you for working on his next raise)


Now you may have a fighting chance asking John for that referral letter. Make sure you are absolutely willing to work with John showing your unit though. Make sure it is clean and something John can be proud to show. He may be sitting on the fence with your letter of referral. Don’t make him regret it.

The best thing of course is to avoid being in this situation to begin with. I talked to some leasing agents and property managers at local communities to see what would prevent referral letters. Most were obvious ones: not paying rent, checks bouncing repeatedly and loud parties, fighting, conflicts with other residents, repeated parking violations, unauthorized pets, excessive damage, breaking a lease, etc.

To my surprise, the property managers and leasing agent said that departing residents rarely ask for a reference letter. Their collective applications only ask for name and phone number of a contact reference, which is sufficient for them–they may want to ask their own questions, so a letter would be a nice addition, but would not circumvent the need for a phone call to your former landlord. So the other tip is to make sure to keep contact information for your former manager or landlord so that you have that information handy to provide on your future leasing applications.

The letter of reference does not only have to be a reflection of your rental integrity, it can also be a reflection of your overall credit worthiness. When applying for a loan or mortgage, it’s a nice reflection on you that is often not shown on a credit report.

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