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You are reading: How to Call Renter References

May 20, 2024

How to Call Renter References

Noah Goldman
Chief Operating Officer

In the always-changing sphere of property management, choosing and screening the right tenant is vital for ensuring a smooth, profitable rental experience and relationship.

While applications, credit checks, and interviews can reveal valuable information, contacting references can provide invaluable perspectives into a potential renter’s reliability, character, and ultimate suitability for your rental unit.

Yet, the process of calling renter references requires strategy and a certain “finesse” to extract meaningful information in the best possible way. In this post, we explore the art of calling renter references and offer tips for property managers and landlords on how to navigate this essential step effectively.

Why You Should Ask for References from Potential Tenants

When prospective tenants submit rental applications, they typically provide details like employment history, income, and rental history. While this data is necessary, it’s essential to verify its accuracy. Asking for references helps you validate the details the applicant provided, ensuring that they are honest and reliable.

References from previous property managers also offer valuable insights into a prospect’s rental history. By chatting with former landlords, you can better understand the applicant’s past behavior as a renter, including essential aspects like their ability to pay rent on time, their overall treatment of the rental property, and their reliability.

Ultimately, requesting references from potential renters can give you peace of mind, knowing that you have meticulously vetted possible renters before entering into an agreement. By collecting comprehensive information like rental history, character, and behavior, you can make more informed decisions that reduce the chances of renter issues down the road.

How to Ask for References

Before diving head-first into the particulars of calling renter references,you need to establish a solid foundation for your process. Start by creating a list of specific questions customized to the information you want to find out. These questions should cover various elements, such as the prospect’s rental history, payment habits, property upkeep, and even interpersonal skills.

Remember, timing is everything. In fact, timing plays a big role in the effectiveness of reference checks.

Make it a point to reach out to references promptly after receiving a potential tenant’s consent and contact information. Without this step, you may experience missed opportunities or the loss of applicants who may find other rental opportunities while waiting for you to respond.

Always maintain a professional and courteous demeanor when reaching out to renter references. Start by introducing yourself, clearly stating your role as the landlord or property manager, and explaining the reason for your call. This approach encourages open communication and prepares you to receive valuable insights.

How to Spot Fake References

Spotting fake references is crucial for landlords and property managers who want to protect their rental properties.

By understanding the motivations behind deceptive practices and utilizing smart identification strategies, you can minimize the risk of leasing to unreliable or, in some cases, dishonest renters. The process can also help landlords identify potential red flags that may not be apparent from the application alone, often leading to a fake reference.

For instance, a legitimate reference may mention past issues with late rent payments, property damage, or, in some cases, disruptive behavior.

By uncovering these red flags (which can often identify fake references) early in the screening process, you can avoid leasing to difficult tenants and reduce potential risks to your property.

What to Ask References

Effective questioning is the basis of a successful renter reference check. Rather than relying solely on “yes-or-no” answers, try more open-ended questions that encourage more detailed responses. This strategy prompts references to give you comprehensive feedback, offering deeper insights into a prospect’s rental history and behavior.

During the reference check, confirm the accuracy of the information provided by the potential renter. Cross-reference details like rental durations, payment amounts and property conditions to ensure consistency with their account. Inconsistencies are red flags and may warrant further investigation.

When property managers screen prospective renters, asking the right questions can make a big difference in finding reliable, responsible renters.

Here are some specific questions to ask several reference categories, along with potential green and red flags to watch out for. By asking these questions and carefully considering the green and red flags, landlords can gain valuable insights into the reliability, responsibility and suitability of rental applicants.

Current and former landlord sample questions

Can you confirm the dates of the tenancy?

Green flag – On-time payments and adherence to lease terms throughout the lease

Red flag  – Frequent late payments, breaches of lease agreements, disputes with neighbors

Would you rent to this person again?

Green flag – Positive endorsement and desire to rent to the individual again

Red flag – Reluctance (or refusal) to offer a lease to the tenant again due to past issues or concerns

Did the tenant consistently pay rent on time?

Green flag – Made rent payments on time throughout the lease

Red flag – Recurring late payments, bounced checks and/or non-payment

Did the tenant cause any damages beyond normal wear and tear?

Green flag – Minimal or no damage; cared for the unit throughout the lease

Red flag – Major damage requiring expensive repairs or neglected property maintenance obligations

Did the renter give proper notice before moving out?

Green flag – Respected lease termination steps

Red flag – Abrupt or unauthorized departure, which can be a sign of irresponsibility

Did any neighbors have noise complaints or issues with the tenant?

Green flag – No history of complaints

Red flag – Reports of excessive noise, troublesome behavior with neighbors

Did the renter have any unauthorized occupants or pets?

Green flag – Adherence to lease terms related to occupancy and pets

Red flag – Had unauthorized people or pets, leading to additional wear and tear or disruption

Employer sample questions

Can you confirm the potential tenant’s job status and title?

Green Flag – Confirmation aligns with the information provided by the applicant

Red Flag – Inconsistencies in employment status or role could suggest fraudulence or instability

How long has the applicant been employed with your company?

Green Flag – Length of time at a particular job can validate reliability

Red Flag – Frequent job changes or short stints may be reason for concern about reliability and financial stability

What is the potential renter’s income?

Green Flag – A sufficient income to cover rent expenses suggests an ability to meet financial obligations

Red Flag – Insufficient income compared to rental costs could be a sign of possible rent payment issues

Has the applicant faced any disciplinary actions or issues during their employment?

Green Flag – No issues indicate a responsible candidate

Red Flag – Reports of disciplinary actions or performance matters may cause concern about their conduct

Can you verify their job stability?

Green Flag – Job stability and potential for continued work prove a reliable income source

Red Flag – Uncertainty about job stability – or the possibility of layoffs – could pose a risk for timely rental payments

Family or friends sample questions

Can you describe the renter’s lifestyle and habits?

Green Flag – Confirmation that the applicant maintains positive relationships with family and friends, and also demonstrates responsible habits and lifestyle choices

Red Flag – They have a history of frequently changing rental units, often without giving proper notice and/or where they left properties in poor condition, leading to disputes with landlords

How does the applicant typically deal with conflict or disagreements?

Green Flag – Evidence that they effectively can resolve conflicts or disagreements in a mature, respectful style

Red Flag – Real-world examples that the applicant cannot work out conflicts or disagreements in a civil manner

Have you ever had concerns about the renter’s behavior?

Green Flag – Reference points to the renter being respectful, responsible, and dependable

Red Flag – Concerns noted about noise disturbances or frequent conflicts and reports of difficulties communicating with the applicant or receiving vague or inconsistent responses

Would you recommend the applicant as a tenant?

Green Flag – References offer glowing recommendations without hesitation

Red Flag – References express reservations or reluctance to recommend the applicant

Here are some additional tips to keep top of mind when calling renter references:

 Listen Attentively. Pay close attention to the responses provided by the reference, taking note of any hesitations that may be a sign of areas of concern. Avoid interrupting and allow the reference the chance to express their thoughts and experiences freely.

Evaluate Tone and Delivery. Why is this one crucial? Positive endorsements delivered with enthusiasm and confidence often equate to a green flag – indicative of a strong candidate. On the other hand, vague or hesitant responses may raise red flags and prompt additional review.

 Address Concerns Diplomatically. If the reference raises concerns regarding the prospective tenant, be diplomat and respectful. Ask for clarification on specific points, allowing them to elaborate on their experiences.

Document Your Findings. Maintain detailed records of your reference checks, notating key findings, observations, and impressions. Organize this information to facilitate comparison and analysis across your applicant pool.

The Bottom Line

Calling renter references is a critical step in the tenant selection process. It offers valuable insights into an applicant’s suitability and reliability. By approaching reference checks with professionalism, thoroughness, and tact, landlords can glean meaningful information to inform their decision-making effectively.

At the end of the day, mastering the art of calling renter references can cultivate positive rental experiences and foster mutually beneficial relationships with your tenants.

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