The Importance of Checking Tenant References

Seasoned property managers know the ups and downs of renting to tenants.  They know that sometimes renting can be hassle-free and highly profitable, while other times it can be a day-to-day struggle.  From nonpayment of rent to property destruction to frivolous lawsuits, having the wrong tenants can be an ongoing nightmare.  How can you avoid the apparent crap shoot when it comes to finding reliable, respectful tenants?


One way is to be diligent about checking tenant references.  Surprisingly, some property managers in this day and age don’t even bother to ask for references, much less verify them.  This is a step in the tenant vetting process that cannot be skipped.  In some cases, checking references is the only way to learn that a prospective tenant has given you false or incomplete information.  There will also be instances in which the individual is of poor character, lack reliability, is known to abscond without notice, or has anger management issues.  A thorough references check can help you to avoid these problems beforehand.

Current Landlord Reference

The ideal references will be homeowners and/or property managers who currently rent or previously rented to the applicant.  If you are unsure about the identity of the person providing such a reference, you can confirm the property ownership. Check online through the local property tax office, which usually will have public records available.  It is best to check with the two most recent homeowners and/or property managers, at the very least.  When calling, you’ll want to ask the following questions:

  • Was there was any property damage?
  • Did the prospect have any late or missed payments?
  • Were there any complaints from neighbor? 
  • Did the applicant break any stipulations of the lease/contract?
  • Was there any fees or other consequences that had to be imposed?
  • Perhaps the best question of all is:  “Would you rent to this person again?” 

Employer Reference

Other valuable references can include current and recent employers and other character references.  Employers are especially good sources of information because they can provide an idea of the applicant’s financial stability as well as overall personality.  You’ll find that a dependable employee is, in many cases, a dependable tenant.  Close friends and relatives of the prospective tenant, on the other hand, might not be useful references because they are not objective sources; they might bend the truth as a personal favor to the applicant.

Tenant’s Make or Break The Profitability

Sure, it requires some effort, but you’ll find that taking the time to check tenant references is extremely worthwhile.  A good or bad tenant can make or break the profitability of an investment. Check out our other screening prospects about minimum credit scores, avoiding rental scams, and why the holding deposit is important to getting good tenants. Have any more questions? Feel free to give us a call at (616) 301-9450 or visit us at – it will be our privilege to serve you.

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Justin Bajema

About the author

Justin Bajema, CPM® is the Founder & President of Access Investment Group, LLC and Access Property Management Group, LLC. He holds the coveted CPM® designation from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).His love for everything Real Estate and business began with one book sent to him while he was returning back from the war in Iraq in 2003, "Rich Dad Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki.Justin is a proud U.S. Marine combat veteran who served 2 tours in Iraq as an infantryman. He received the Purple Heart from Commander in Chief President George Bush for his wounds received in action while fighting in Iraq.He has successfully put together numerous real estate investment holdings from single-family homes to multi-million dollar apartment community deals.