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Rental References for Your Apartment Application

March 19, 2019

Finding the apartment of your dreams is only half the battle when apartment hunting. Often times you have to win your potential future landlord over as well.  Landlords often receive multiple applications from potential tenants and will be comparing you to other applicants. That’s why knowing how make your apartment application stand out and having stellar rental references is so important. To help you maximize chances of getting that awesome apartment spent months hunting for, we put together a list of people that could be great rental references for your apartment application.

Good rental references:

1. Previous Landlords.

It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? If a potential landlord wants to know how good of a tenant you are, and whether you pay rent on time, they should ask the person you’ve rented from before. That’s why most of the articles on early lease termination will tell you to avoid breaking your rental agreement early to keep a good relationship with your landlord. You never want to burn bridges with them.

2. Property Managers.

If you live in a large apartment community, you likely deal with property managers instead of a landlord. Similar to landlords, they can speak to your prior rental experience, shed light on your level of responsibility, and paint you as a good tenant if you are one. Management companies usually have rules and procedures around providing references, so check with your leasing office.

3. Supervisors.

Your boss might not be able to talk about your rental history or financial responsibility. However, they can highlight your personal qualities that would make you a good tenant. For instance, they can say that you are always on time, good with deadlines, responsible, cooperative, and polite. Their validation can also assure your potential landlord that you are going to keep your job and a steady income. If you volunteer, a letter of reference from your volunteer supervisor can also be helpful.

4. Colleagues.

Seeking personal references from your colleagues can also suffice, especially if you aren’t comfortable asking your boss. They can talk about your professionalism and accountability with a personal touch. Just make sure they are colleagues that are happy with your work ethic and know you well, not just a person from your office you have a cooler talk with every morning.

Bad rental references:

1. Your best buddy.

When it comes to tenant screening, best friends are not the preferred references for your landlord. A good rule of thumb is not to ask your closest people for references. If your best friend has never met you in a professional or volunteer setting, using them as a referral is not a great idea. They have to be able to talk about your financial responsibility, and “venmoing on time” won’t cut it.

2. Family members.

No matter how much your mom loves you, being the best son or daughter is not a rental qualification your potential landlord is looking for. Family members might be biased, and getting a referral letter from them could indicate to your landlord that you are scrambling for references.

3. People you can’t read.

This category includes people that are nice and polite, but you can’t always tell what they think. They might be pressured to say “yes,” but feel uncomfortable talking you up. If you have to use them as a reference, don’t just give their contact information to your potential landlord, but rather ask them to write a letter that you can include with your application.

Additional Tips:

Most landlords and property managers try to fill their vacancies as soon as possible to avoid losing money, and will rent their rental properties to the first appropriate candidate. Therefore, you should be proactive and have all your paperwork ready in advance, especially if you are trying to find a place during the peak season.

2. If you are pressed for time, opt for contact information instead of letters of reference.

Not all people will be willing to spend their free time tailoring a letter for you. However, they might be happier to have a quick phone chat with a potential landlord.

3. Work especially hard on securing good references if you have a bad credit score.

Most landlords will check your credit score or ask you to provide credit reports. If you have a bad credit score, it’s crucial that you have good references explaining your situation and talking up your financial responsibility and accountability. If just having “good-enough” references should be all that’s needed in most cases, in this situation they must be stellar.

Have other tips on selecting good rental references? Let us know on Twitter or Instagram.

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Sania is a content manager and contributing author at Apartment List. Sania previously worked in marketing at Habitat for Humanity and Samsung Electronics. Read More
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