Rental Reference Letter: How-to-Guide for Tenants (with downloadable template)

Joshua Chadwick By Joshua Chadwick March 12th

Got your heart set on a particular rental property? Competition can be fierce in the rental market so don’t be surprised if you are up against several other candidates. So how do you make your application stand out? With a glowing rental reference!

We’ve compiled a complete how-to guide that tells you everything you need to know about rental reference letters, including why you need them and how to write one so you can nab up your dream rental property.

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What is a rental reference letter?  

Firstly, you might not be fully informed about what exactly a rental reference letter is. A rental reference letter is a document/written declaration (usually one page) to a potential landlord from a previous landlord or property manager that includes important information about you as a potential tenant e.g. whether you paid rent on time, if you communicated respectfully with neighbours, kept the property in good condition, etc.  

Background checks are mandatory when it comes to renters, and a key part of a background check is a rental reference letter. The purpose of a rental reference is to provide a vote of confidence from a trusted professional who has dealt with you previously as a tenant and can recommend you with a letter of recommendation.  

Why it’s important to have a great rental reference  

This letter of reference will essentially paint a picture of you as a character reference, to be dissected and analysed to see if you’re trustworthy enough to live on the property. Having a great rental reference prepared increases your chances of securing a rental property, particularly in a competitive rental market where there are a lot of applicants vying for tenancy.

Most rental application processes for a rental unit ask you to list the name and contact details of at least 2 references. Submitting a rental letter in addition that is providing a glowing recommendation is likely to put you ahead of the competition to land a lease agreement.  

Property managers, future landlords, and real estate agents want to be assured of the trustworthiness of any potential new tenants, and will often go through tenant screening.

What information do I include in a rental reference letter?  

While it is dependent on certain situations, commonly a rental reference letter should aim to include the following; 

  • Your tenancy information, i.e. your name with a salutation, current address, phone number, dates of occupancy when applicable, rental history, etc. 
  • Condition of prior rental properties, both before you moved in and after.
  • Former rental payments when applicable, highlighting payment on time and explanation of any debts outstanding when you moved out. 
  • Previous landlord/property manager/real estate agent’s contact information and signatures.
  • Issues discussed with prior landlords/property managers, resolution of any grievances with those in the accompanying neighbourhood. 

You can also add in any other information you think would be helpful to their selection process, like stating if your previous landlord/property manager and yourself were on good terms or not with a landlord reference letter. 

To get started, you can utilise this rental reference letter template, provided by the QLD government website.

Rental Reference Templates

Download here

Who should I choose for my references?  

As tempting as it may be to reach out to your family members or your best friend, they may not be considered an unbiased reference by the landlord. Consider instead using references you have met in a professional environment.  

Ideally, you want to choose a previous landlord or property manager as they will be most relevant when applying for a property. However, if you have never rented before you can ask other trusted professionals for a reference- employers, supervisors, teachers, etc.  

Select your references wisely in a timely manner. Consider whether your relationship with the potential reference was positive and if they are likely to portray you in a positive light. Choose people who know you well and can give detailed information about your character.  

Will the landlord call my references?  

While it all depends on the new landlord, there is a high chance that they will call your references as it is in their best interest to know more about a prospective tenant if they are trusting you with their property.   

A landlord that has had experience with bad tenants in the past is going to be more likely to call previous landlords compared to landlords with only good experiences.  

If a real estate agency manages the property, it is usually the policy to call references. 

For any further questions about moving home as a whole, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to moving house, which you can check out here. If you’re looking to get an early start on maintaining your new home, check out our home maintenance checklist here.

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Joshua Chadwick
Joshua Chadwick