This week the question for Ask Landlord Hank comes from a landlord asking about landlord references for his tenant applicant.
Dear Landlord Hank,
What should I be asking a prospective tenant’s landlord, or previous landlord references, before renting to them?
Dear Landlord Richard,
When checking an applicant’s rental history, you must make sure that you are speaking to a real landlord and not the applicant’s brother or friend.
This can be tricky if your applicant is not renting from an apartment complex or rental agency, so be very careful here.
Your rental application should have an information release at the bottom, signed by the applicant so you can legitimately seek landlord references and the information you need to decide if you would like this applicant as a tenant. So send this release to applicant’s prior landlords.
Also, try to get more than one rental history. I ask for the last five years of rental history and will check with all old landlords. I want to make sure the facts line up, such as dates that tenant occupied a certain address, the amount of rent paid, whether rent was paid in timely manner, or were there late payments or NSFs (not-sufficient-funds checks)?
Did this applicant take care of the property? Any damage on move-out? Did the tenant have unauthorized pets or guests, or any criminal activity? Did the tenant get along with neighbors, or was there friction – maybe noise late at night, etc.?
Did the tenant give prior landlord 30-day notice of vacating?
The most important landlord references question
And, the most important question, would the old landlord re-rent to this person?
The information you receive in this section of your application is to me the most vital in determining if I want this person to be my next tenant. Usually, if an applicant has a great and long rental history, that is a good sign that you will have a trouble free tenant.