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What is the importance of a landlord reference?

by | Nov 27, 2022

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Landlord references are there for the landlord who wants to make sure their tenant is going to pay rent on time. But what is their importance of them and how should you provide a reference that is able to be relied on?

Sometimes, without a reference, tenants are refused entry to a property, despite how good the other parts of their tenant application look. This goes to show how important it is. As a result, this article will talk about how to write a document like this and what you should look for in a reference if you are doing tenant referencing yourself.

A stack of landlord references

What is a landlord reference?

Landlord references are vital for landlords who have worked out how much rent they should charge and are looking for the best tenant to ensure they pay rent on time and aren’t going to cause a nuisance to a property. This document alongside others can give landlords a good idea of how a tenant is likely to behave.

At the end of the day, landlords just want tenants who are going to be reliable and going to pay rent, look after the property and the confidence that this will happen can be greatly improved with just a few phone calls or letters provided by a previous landlord.

It is common for landlords to help out others in this way because they may one day receive a reference in return from another landlord and often a landlord would have built up a good relationship with a long-term tenant so it isn’t much to ask when a tenant who has lived in a property the landlord owns for a long times ass for a reference to move elsewhere.

What is the importance of a landlord reference?

Landlord references are more and more important in recent years. Especially as more rules are passed that protect tenants from eviction. If you may face trouble when evicting a tenant if you want to for good reason then it is fair to want to have the best tenants in your property in the first place.

For example, the laws around section 21 are becoming more strict. A bill passed in 2022 means that by 2023 there will be the elimination of no-fault evictions in the private rental market. This means landlord references will become all the more important.

On top of this, the process of gaining a landlord reference is an allowable expense which means there is no reason for a landlord to not do one as they can write it off their tax bill.

How should you select a landlord for a landlord reference letter?

As a landlord you can reach out to the previous landlord of a tenant you are interested in having in your property yourself or you could ask the tenant to do this process.

Either way, making the tenant aware that you will be reaching out to their previous landlord is the best thing to do so you can be fully transparent and make sure the tenant doesn’t have any type of issue.

If you tell a tenant this and they don’t want you to reach out to their precious landlord, this is a red flag in the property business as it could signal they didn’t leave the relationship with their landlord on good terms which may indicate they will do it again with you.

Additionally, you should go with the landlord that a tenant has been with for the longest and ideally most recently too. For example, if the most recent landlord a tenant has lived with was for 6 months and the penultimate landlord they lived with was for five years, the landlord reference from the landlord who had the tenant in their property for five years would be far more valuable to reach out to.

A landlord wet signing a landlord reference

You can find the contact details for landlords on companies’ house seen here, through the word of mouth of the tenant or by online sources like landlord associations or by simply contacting a letting agent or property management company who you know operate in the property.

It is also acceptable to contact multiple landlords and see what you may get in return from them as there is no guarantee they will reply in the first place. A landlord is under no obligation to provide a reference and you should think of it as a favour or a good deed.

Can a landlord refuse to do a landlord reference?

There is no legislation in the UK that states a landlord is obligated to provide a reference if another landlord asks for one. Having said this, there is a chance that the landlord is hiding something if they refuse.

On top of this, if a landlord is found to obviously be lying in order to paint a bad or good bad picture of a tenant, there could be legal implications for this. Liking a tenant and bending the truth may be tolerated. However, blatantly lying about the rental income a tenant has paid or saying a tenant has or hasn’t committed certain breaches of a tenancy are all not allowed if they are false.

Landlord reference letter template

General guidance around writing a landlord reference includes being formal in your approach, and making sure all the information given is truthful to the best of the evidence you have and the extent of your memory.

Other than this, a landlord reference can be given in a digital or physical format but it has to be signed off by the landlord or someone operating closely on behalf of the landlord.


The introductory part of a reference should state clearly the name of the landlord with the date on which the reference was provided. Any brief terms of the agreement like if the landlord refused pets or if there were additional tenants in the property can be given here and the landlord may also want to state any other responsibilities they have.


In the main part of the reference after the landlord has introduced themself and the tenant, they should state the length of time in which the tenant was in the property of the landlord. The landlord should state the number of times the rent was paid late in a property alongside the amount of rent it was. If they ever had to force access to the property this can also be mentioned.

This is all useful for a landlord looking to house a tenant because they may be able to forgive late rent payments if the rents were too much for the tenant to handle. It may be the case that there was poor tenant referencing done on behalf of the previous landlord and there isn’t that much blame that can be given to the tenant anyway.

The final part of the main body of the landlord reference can include a short paragraph or two about the general temperament of the tenant throughout their tenancy. For example, if the tenant was polite and how they maintained the property. A landlord may also choose to state if there were any unreasonable demands made and if the landlord would rent out the property to the tenant again.


In the footer of the reference form, the landlord should leave their phone number and email if they wish to be contacted again along with their name and signature. A wet or digital signature is acceptable and the form can be sent to the new landlord in person or it could be sent by email or text.

A landlord receiving a landlord reference request

Can a landlord write a bad reference?

A landlord is completely within their rights, as long as they are being truthful, to write a bad reference. Things like being honest about if the tenant was rude, if they had late rental payments, if they didn’t clean the property or if they would let out their property to a tenant again are all things that could be discussed.

In general, a landlord would rather provide a better reference to a tenant than a bad one as there is no direct benefit for them to not recommend them to a future landlord. Having said this, if a landlord believes a tenant will be a nuisance to a new property then they are also helping out the new landlord by being honest.

Because of this dynamic between not wanting to upset the tenant but also wanting to remain truthful to the landlord, it should be taken into account by a tenant that it is in their best interest to stay on their best behaviour as a tenant and pay rent on time as much as they can. If they don’t do this, having a poor landlord reference wouldn’t be an issue as it would never happen.

How to get over a bad landlord reference

Unfortunately, having a bad landlord reference may be enough for a landlord to completely disqualify some tenants. However, there are some things you can do to push your things in your favour.

Get a guarantor

For tenants who have obviously not adhered to their tenancy agreement which has resulted in rent arrears or a landlord having to evict a tenant and change locks on doors, there is not much you can say to get yourself out of this situation and get a landlord to trust you again.

As a result, you may be able to get a guarantor. Someone who is able to prove they can pay the rent and earns more than you do to sign the tenancy agreement and get them to agree to pay the rent if you cannot.

Meet letting agents and landlord in person

Letting agents and landlords without letting agents want to be able to put a face to the name. When they are looking at a landlord reference, they just see the words that were written by previous landlords and it is hard to judge who a tenant really is.

If you met with the landlord or letting agent in person. Perhaps when there was a property viewing, you could be able to talk to them, share with them more information about yourself and perhaps they will be able to see that you are not like the landlord reference provided and they will consider you a good tenant.

Provide as much information as you can

Whenever a bad landlord reference is provided, it is vital you understand that this is just one piece of information. The full tenancy referencing procedure should take into consideration the credit history of a tenant, the salary of a tenant and other factors too.

If you know you have changed your ways since the last landlord wrote you a reference, providing as much information as you can about a change in financial situation or even showing a different landlord reference could be a way to convince a letting agent you are a tenant fit for the property.

Negotiate on rent

Sometimes if you think that a property is worth the price you are paying for it and you aren’t sure you will get the property because your landlord’s reference isn’t the best, offering a higher value for rent can be a way to sway a landlord’s decision in your favour.

A landlord negotiating on rent

While this isn’t something a landlord can legally ask you to do, if you bring this up yourself as a tenant, it could be a negotiation tactic other tenants aren’t aware they can use. 

However, you will be paying more for the rent in the property so you will of course have to be able to tell that the additional rate for rent you’ll be paying is both affordable while still being able to afford the utility bills in a property like gas and electricity or tv licences.

To conclude

Landlord references are vital documents that are in place to protect landlords who are looking for new tenants. Because of the personal aspect of writing a reference, the topic may cause disputes between tenants and previous landlords who may write undesirable references.

Nonetheless, landlords must remain honest in their feedback to other landlords as lying could result in court action in the worst cases. It may also be the case that a landlord legitimately got something wrong. For example, it could be that a landlord thought they had access to a property and wrote this in a reference when really they entered without permission.

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andreas gerazis

Andreas Gerazis

Experienced landlord

Andreas is a certified landlord with extensive knowledge about the UK property market as he has been actively investing for half a decade. Founder of the first three-in-one property management software, Lofti Proptech, Andreas has a brilliant understanding of the details surrounding what it takes to grow and run a thriving property portfolio.