What to include on a tenant reference letter

Obtaining a landlord reference letter from a prospective tenant’s previous landlord is an important part of the vetting process. All tenants eventually move on, and at some point, you are likely to receive a request for a landlord reference yourself.

Knowing where to start can be difficult, but a landlord reference letter doesn’t need to be too in-depth. Most landlords just wish to confirm:

  • the start and end dates of the tenancy
  • that the tenant regularly paid the rent in full and on time
  • that they kept the property in good condition and reported repairs in a timely fashion
  • that they didn’t attract complaints from the neighbours
  • that they were polite when you contacted them and didn’t make unreasonable demands
  • that you didn’t need to evict them
  • that you’d let to the tenant again

If you have had a good tenant, it is only fair to sing their praises. But try not to be overzealous. A landlord reference that is too glowing might invite suspicion, for reasons we’ll discuss shortly.

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Can you provide a negative landlord reference letter?

Sometimes, landlords have tenants who fall behind on rent, damage property or attract complaints for antisocial behaviour. If you have had a bad tenant, you may wish to write them a scathing reference. But it is important to remain objective and stick to the facts.

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), a person may make a request under the Data Protection Act 1998 to see copies of personal information held about them. If their prospective landlord withdraws, the tenant may ask them for the reference you gave.

While it is not illegal to give a tenant a bad reference, the more negative information you include, the more the tenant can dispute. By including information that you cannot back up with evidence, you open yourself up to the possibility of litigation.

It is quite reasonable to include very little information on a landlord reference letter. For instance:

“I can confirm that [tenant] was my tenant at the property [address] between [start date] and [end date]. Feel free to call me on [your business number] for further information.”

You can even refuse to provide a reference altogether. A sparse or no reference can speak volumes.

Good referencing practice

As discussed, overly enthusiastic references can arouse suspicion. Evicting tenants can be costly and time-consuming, and it is not unheard of for a landlord to fabricate a positive reference to be rid of an undesirable tenant.

Knowing this, many landlords and agents now contact more than one previous landlord. Previous landlords have nothing to lose by being honest. Fabricated landlord reference letters are thus likely to arouse suspicion.

If you did in fact let to a model tenant, then by writing a glowing reference, you may be harming their chances of acceptance. In either case, it is good practice to be factual and unbiased when providing a landlord reference.

Use our free landlord reference letter template

To download a free landlord reference letter template, as well as several other useful documents, visit our landlord downloads section.

This information should not be interpreted as financial advice. Buy to let mortgage rates are subject to change. Speak to our advisors for a mortgage illustration.