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How To Handle Tenant Referral Requests

Kevin Perk
2 min read
How To Handle Tenant Referral Requests

If you manage to stay in the landlording business long enough, eventually you will get calls from other landlords seeking references on your current and former tenants.

These landlords are doing the same thing that you hopefully did, checking on a prospective tenant’s rental history before letting them have the keys.

These calls usually elicit one of three reactions. The first is “Damn, another tenant is moving.” The second is “We will have to look that one up.” The final reaction is “Payback time!”

Response #1

The first reaction comes from the fact that the tenant has not yet notified us that they are moving. The call from the other landlord is the first hint that we will soon have another vacancy.

Related: Fail-Proof Your Tenant Screening With Prior Landlord Checks

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry at the tenant, as they are just trying to get everything lined up properly before notifying us. Instead, I’m just venting a bit because of the extra work that will be involved with re-renting the property.

Response #2

The second reaction is the one you want, especially if you are a former tenant of ours. If we do not remember a particular tenant, that usually means they paid their rent on time and returned the property in good condition.

Their stay in our property was hassle free. It is the bad tenants that stick in your mind, the ones that skipped out on their rent, left their apartment filthy or in need of many, many repairs.

That’s why the third reaction is payback time.

Response #3

The request for a referral on a formerly bad tenant is my chance to gum up their lives a bit and to demonstrate that what goes around, comes around. It feels so good to simply say “No, we would not rent to them again.”

Usually, after hearing the above, the other landlord wants to know why we would not rent to them again. We try to keep it simple here and you should too.

After all, your reference will potentially be used to deny someone housing, so the less said the better. Simply stating that your former tenant failed to pay their rent or that they caused X amount of damage will usually do the trick. But I know some landlords that will not even go that far.

Related: The New Landlord Checklist

When you get a referral request, there is no need to exaggerate or go into detail. Just be truthful and make a note of the call in your files. We are a rather litigious society after all and you never know. Being short and sweet no matter what type of reference you are providing will likely keep you on solid ground. Just explain that you either would rent to them again or that you would not.

How do you handle reference requests?

Have any good payback stories to share?

Be sure to leave your comments below!

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.