Tenant references are something many landlords want to turn up those nose at.
In the digital age they are convinced they can learn everything they need to know about a perspective tenant on the internet. But there is power in checking references and taking the time to make those calls.
The best information you can get on a tenant is by asking the people who know them best in all facets of their life. Talk to past landlords, talk to their current employer and talk to their friends.
References are valuable—it’s why your lease application has a spot to list them. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way.
1. Divide and conquer:
If you’re worried about losing a day to making endless phone calls schedule 15 -30 minutes a day for each prospective tenant. Most conversations last less than ten minutes. Do the math and plan accordingly. Call in the beginning of the day when people are most likely tackling their voicemail. They’ll already be in phone mode.
2. Be prepared when checking tenant references:
Some landlords might ask for a copy of the lease application to see that the applicant has signed off on the reference and background. This is normal. Don’t be alarmed if an employer or past landlord asks you to email it over to you. Turn the application into a PDF before you make calls so you can easily send it over.
3. Ask the right questions:
No one likes to be kept waiting. Formulate your list of questions early and have them ready when you make the call. Print them out so you can easily take notes. Keep it simple. Focus on evictions, late rent, length of lease, complaints, and lease violations, length of employment, pay rate, and attendance. Need help? Download our free reference forms here and here.
4. Stick to it:
Checking references can be tedious but it is a practice you must employ for every tenant. To protect yourself from any FHA violations or litigation you need to check references for every potential tenant. Regardless. You cannot pick and choose.