Does anyone actually check references on an application????

50 Replies

I just wanted to hear from anyone and everyone about this topic.....

I have been doing this for about 5 years now and probably run through 100 different tenants (total number of people - not turned over units) in my time and I check every application that gets turned in!!!

BUT....... during that time I have only had ONE, yes count that ONE, other manager call me to check on a previous rental reference for an applicant.

So since I basically get nobody at all, ever, whatsoever, calling to check references I am forced to assume that the VAST MAJORITY of landlords don't ever make the phone calls.

Like I said, I sure as hell process ALL of my applicants. Have the rest of you had any experiences similar or different to share????

I can't wait to read what you have to say :)


@Jeff McCaskey  

We (my property manager) turns down applications on a some-what regular basis because of referrals.  

Just two weeks ago we had a tenant that needed to move quickly, and wanted to get in a unit within 7 days (why the rush???).  Called the landlord reference (provided by the tenant) and the landlord stated that they were currently being evicted, late on rent for the last few months, and have caused disturbances within the complex.  DENIED! 

The tenant probably figured that a certain number of landlords wouldn't check references.  It's rather sad actually...but that's business and real estate.  Filled with a variety of people that may or may not run the operation professionally.  

I recently had a tenant turnover in January.  The new landlord did not call me.  In fact, I've only ever been called ONCE for a reference and it was for a tenant who changed their mind and decided not to move.  So there are definitely LOTS of landlords (and management companies) who just do not call.

Short answer is yes. The long answer is absolutely! 

Good stuff guys! But let me ask, what are you doing when your giving contact info to the last landlord or employer & you can't reach the person. Rather it be wrong number, just no return call, or whatever.?

Do u want to deny a tenant who has provided u the info u requested but there past landlords will not respond.

My criteria and application state something to effect that non-response from prior landlord or employer will result in delay and other applications may be approved before them. 

I do check references unless I know them personally.  I have had several landlords call me for references.  I once called another landlord who I knew and he said he ought to come hit me, as I was stealing his best tenant.  She had rented from me before, and when I had a house open up she applied to get out of the apartment complex she was in.  Usually withing 4 months or so she would be paid up 2 months in advance.

@Ralph Pena   my requirement is that they have a positive reference from a past landlord.  I do use reason in this, but have turned folks down for that reason.

Gotcha , I like that. then there's the first time renters who shacked with parents or friends. What do u do in that case @Jerry W.  

If they have good to excellent credit scores, we don't bother calling. As they won't have  an issue for rent payment. Also if they hold a security clearance work for Military or  NSA DoD etc.... It is not unusual around here. 

Now that you mention it, I do not recall ever being contacted by a new landlord for a reference either - ever.

I usually do some basic checks before I call. Is the paycheck showing the address claimed as a current residence? If so, is the person claimed to be landlord actually the owner of said residence (or a property manager)? If so, does the court database show a pending eviction from said residence? Doing this usually eliminates more than 50% of the applications without the need to make a call. I guess the percentage would be lower if I collected an application fee, but I do not mind it - I want to make it easy for good applicants to choose my rentals, and if that means for every good one I will get 10 bad ones, I can live with that.

@Ralph Pena , have their parents co-sign.  Young kids like that are very high risk to tear stuff up, wild parties, etc.

Copy that , and I agree completely

I don't even ask for them because they are BS. Who is going to give you the name of a landlord who will actually give a bad review. Even if they do, what landlord will actually give you a bad review since they don't want to deal with liable laws or the tent staying there or trashing the place. 

I would call because they could have good credit even though they've not paid their last landlord. Non payment often goes unreported until 90+ days late. If a tenant is trying to move in that quickly then it should raise a red flag.

@Elizabeth Colegrove that is sooo true.

But like Jerry said, he makes it a requirent! I guess it's all about how diligent u are with your screening. And how much and how far your willing to go. 

Well this is awesome so far! Thanks for all the reply's. Keep up the input, I really want to hear what everyone has to say on this :)

I can't even keep up ha ha!!!!

@Elizabeth Colegrove I wish you the best of luck out west, but if I followed your path on this in my particular market, again in my market (you might have a 180 from where I'm located) well I would be out of business....... There are ways to know what is BS and what isn't. 

If they don't measure up for some reason even one beyond their control - they don't rent. Plain and simple for me.

In my experience I have not called references. The tenant can easily provide you with the name & number of anyone. How do you know for sure that it is their actual landlord? You really have no clue. I typically  based my decision on their credit score. 

I always check landlord references.  

If i'm leasing a unit in a rent controlled city I also make extra sure I check references from their previous landlords from years back.  The reason being is that their current landlord might be so eager to get them out, they will say anything positive just to get rid of them.  Either because the tenants are problematic and they want them gone, or they've been there for too long and the landlord wants the unit back up to market rent.

As for personal references however, I find those tend to be pretty useless.  I mean, the tenants are choosing people they know will put in a good word for them.  That being said, I still usually call a few up.  Never hurts to have as much information as you can.

I had been called only once by another landlord. The tenants were paying but they had threaten to sue me multiple times throughout their one year tenancy because the unit didn't have air conditioning (never had AC, didn't advertise as having AC, and not required by law to have AC) and they claimed that it was inhumane. And then their parents emailed and called me from their ranch in Texas, threatening to sue me. So I had them out at the end of their lease term. When the new landlord called, I said nothing but answered his questions.

"Did they pay on time?"

"Yes they did."

"Did they cause damage to your property?"

"No they didn't."

They moved out the next week.

Just like @Elizabeth Colegrove mentioned, if I want these tenants out, why would I give a bad reference? So, now I always call the landlord before the last, ask the applicants for the address, and verify the tenancy with the other landlord to make sure I am not talking with the applicants girlfriend. 

Originally posted by @Kimberly Beckwith :

In my experience I have not called references. The tenant can easily provide you with the name & number of anyone. How do you know for sure that it is their actual landlord? You really have no clue. I typically  based my decision on their credit score. 

 You just find out who the real landlord is.

I don't tend to get many reference calls on my SFR properties but I get a fair amount of calls on my apartment tenants (I even get calls for tenants from the apartments next door!).  Perhaps because apartments tend to have a more structured operating practice as apposed to many independent landlords with SFR. 

@Andrew Fingado    I never call personal references unless I need to find a tenant after they skip town owning me $.  

I always check references. I call the most recent and also previous landlords, for the last five years. I verify who the real landlord is by checking property records. The big apartment complexes rarely provide any meaningful information. However the smaller landlords sure do. I find references, employer-landlord-personal, all to be valuable in different ways. Rarely have I found another landlord to be less than truthful. Often I have found them to be quite helpful. 

It is amazing the tips I get that can actually help me better manage an incoming tenant. For example, one previous landlord shared with me that the tenant parked a lot of cars on the property, so before tenancy began I emphasized our policies regarding vehicles and parking. Another time a mother of a prospective tenant exclaimed incredulously..."You would rent to my daughter? I wouldn't!" -- We didn't rent to her for a number of reasons, that was just the icing on the cake. Another mother clued me in on her son being really responsible with his job, money, quiet and great in many ways, but that he was a bit messy. We rented to him and emphasized the level of cleanliness we expected and he has proven to can keep a clean house and take care of the property. We also find out about animals (we have a no pet policy) and smoking (we have a no smoking policy) and unauthorized occupants and rule breakers. I find the personal references help me ascertain how good of a support system a prospective tenant has and how successful they might be in maintaining a good tenancy.

Not often, but occasionally, a landlord calls us to do a reference check. When they do, I am open and honest with them. I stick to documented facts which is easy to do since I keep good tenant files and archive them close by.

Depending on their source of income we will call a current employer to verify income.

We very rarely call previous landlords or references.  The way we look at it is, if they are really an awesome tenant the previous landlord will tell us that.  On the flip side, if they are an awful tenant we will also hear how awesome they are because the current landlord wants to get rid of them.

The only time we have called previous landlords is if the tenant is moving from a big apartment complex from another state.  We figure those previous landlords or property managers have no incentive to lie and will give us the truth about the applicant.

Michael Noto, Real Estate Agent in CT (#RES.0799665)
Originally posted by @Elizabeth Colegrove:

I don't even ask for them because they are BS. Who is going to give you the name of a landlord who will actually give a bad review. Even if they do, what landlord will actually give you a bad review since they don't want to deal with liable laws or the tent staying there or trashing the place. 

 I don't understand this. They need to give you their rental history, right? They need to provide you with the name of the Landlord at these rentals. If they don't, then don't accept them.. The larger issue is a lot of people will fake the phone numbers.