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Rental Home References and How to Get the Most From Them

Types of Rental References and How to Get the Most From Them


Application screening is the first best step for ensuring a quality tenant in your rental property. Therefore, along with a background check, income verification, and credit file, rental references offer a picture of who you will be renting too. So, how should you conduct rental reference checks? Continue reading as we detail types of rental references, what questions to ask, and how to get honest responses.

Types of Rental Application References

Similar to a job application, renting an apartment should require a few references. Ideally, you want to find out whatever you can about their past rental experiences. There are four main types of references.

  1. Current Landlords
  2. Past Landlords
  3. Employers
  4. Personal References

Best Questions to Ask a Rental Reference

Just as important as the types of rental references themselves are the questions you ask them. While it should not be a sole deciding factor, it serves as a great tool to paint an overall picture of the applicant along with their other qualifications. Therefore, check out these common questions below based on the type of reference you receive.

Reference Questions for a Current or Past Landlord

  • How long was their tenancy?
  • How would you describe the tenant’s ability to pay rent?
  • How well did the tenant maintain the property?
  • Were there any maintenance issues?
  • What kind of maintenance responsibilities did the tenant have?
  • Did you receive any complaints from other tenants or neighbors?
  • Why did the tenant leave?
  • Would you rent to this tenant again? Why/why not?
  • What could this person do to be a better tenant?

Reference Questions for an Employer

  • Can you confirm this person’s employment at your company?
  • Does he/she come to work on time?
  • How do you enjoy working with the applicant?
  • What are the average hours the applicant works?
  • Are they employed full time?
  • Have you ever needed to reprimand this person?
  • Would you employ this person again? Why/why not?

Reference Questions for a Personal Reference

  • How do you know the applicant?
  • How long have you known them?
  • How do they spend their spare time?
  • How would the renter’s previous home?
  • Do they smoke or have pets?
  • How would you describe their overall character?

How to Get an Honest Rental Reference Check

Yes, rental reference checks are essential; however, they are only helpful if they are honest. After all, your goal is an accurate picture. Besides, there are some things you can do to better your chances. So, follow these tips below to get the most out of an applicant’s reference.

  1. Prepare: A good idea is to write down the questions you plan on asking as you go through the screening process. Also, being prepared helps you maintain control of the call and ensures you get all of the information you need in the time you have to speak with the reference. Additionally, leading the conversation with pointed questions also adds to your professional appearance.
  2. Create Trust: No one would list a person they think would give a bad reference, so take the time to build rapport. So, establish a dialogue based on trust and confidentiality. Furthermore, relaying that the person’s responses will be kept private will help them feel able to speak freely.
  3. Stick to Open-ended Questions: Questions that only require a yes or no answer are helpful but don’t provide a ton of useful information. Therefore, the more open-ended questions you ask, the more you will learn. So, asking open-ended questions allows more opportunity to elaborate on their answers.
  4. Choose Words Wisely: How you ask a question is just as important as what you ask. Thus, to help the applicant, some references may be reluctant to say anything but positive attributes. Therefore, instead of asking, “What didn’t you like about this person?”, try asking, “What could this person improve on?”.

Final Thoughts

Application screening is essential for ensuring a quality tenant in your rental property. By following these simple tips above, you too can know what questions to ask. Additionally, getting those honest answers you need to paint an accurate picture takes patience and preparation but is well worth the effort.  Are you in searching for a property manager? Contact Bay Property Management Group Baltimore County today, where we take care of the leasing process from start to finish and even offer a 6-Month Tenant Warranty!