Reference Questions to Avoid Bad Tenants

Avoid Bad Tenants with these Top 10 Landord Reference Questions

We’ve all heard the tenant horror stories: late or even outstanding rent, unruly pets, damages to the property (and worse).

Don’t underestimate the screening process. Thoroughly checking your potential tenant’s references will give you surprising insight that will help with your decision-making process, and save you headaches later on.

At the very minimum, ask for references from previous landlords and employers on every rental application.

Here is our top 10 list of reference questions for each:

Screening Questions for Current/Past Landlords

  1. What is the address of their property?
  2. Who were the occupants listed on the lease?
  3. How long was the tenancy?
  4. What was the tenant’s monthly rental amount?
  5. Did the tenant consistently pay rent on time?
  6. Did the tenant maintain the rental property well? Were there any major damages or maintenance issues?
  7. Did the tenant have any pets?
  8. Were there any complaints from neighbours or other tenants?
  9. Why did the tenant leave?
  10. Would you rent to this tenant again? Why/why not?

Screening Questions for Employers

  1. Can you confirm that the tenant was/is employed at this company?
  2. What is the tenant’s monthly salary?
  3. What was the date of hire?
  4. What is the tenant’s position in the company?
  5. What are the terms of employment? Is there a trial or contract period?
  6. What are the average hours worked?
  7. Does the tenant come to work on time?
  8. What are the tenant’s long-term job prospects?
  9. How do you like working with the tenant?
  10. Has the tenant ever been reprimanded at work?

Screening Questions for Friends/Family

Sometimes an applicant may offer personal references to supplement their application. While friends and family can be biased, they can paint a more well-rounded picture of the lifestyle and character of the tenant. It might be a good idea to ask:

  • How do you know the tenant?
  • How long have you known the tenant?
  • How does the tenant spend their spare time?
  • Have you spent any time in the tenant’s current or previous home? How would you describe it?
  • Does the tenant smoke?
  • Does the tenant have pets?
  • Describe their overall character.

Landlords who take their time conducting detailed reference checks are usually able to quickly spot red flags. Compared to the cost of damages or lost rent, this small time investment is definitely a worthwhile investment. Do you know how to distinguish the good from the bad? Check out these 5 Potential Tenant Red Flags.


Want to make it even easier? Use Pendo’s built-in Online Rental Application. It’s simple, fast, and convenient for both you and prospective tenants. Increase the volume and quality of applicants without adding any paperwork. Join Pendo to try online rental applications for free!


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Comments 14

Olivia Upson [5 years ago]

This is a very helpful article. The information is invaluable.

Ophelia norrington [5 years ago]

I am a renter and I am at the point where I want to know about my landlord. Can i get references from past tenants, know what thier credit is, etc? I’ve had some pretty shifty landlords, it goes both ways if you ask me..

John W. Tiner [4 years ago]

Thanks for this information. When it comes to references it’s important to check out the different kinds: employer, past landlord, and personal. This is the only way to get a good idea about the the type of tenant you’re considering for your rental property. Luckily, a high-quality property management company will do this, and plenty more, when it comes to screening tenants to ensure you have good tenants leasing from you. Thanks again for sharing!

Private [4 years ago]

I think the screening questions for employers should be considered illegal. Why would the employer be asked to reveal to a third party confidential information about salary and job performance? This is highly intrusive and shows no respcet for tenants privacy.

Lin [3 years ago]

As to screening questions Re;employer:When a prospective tenant provides information related to job position & salary, it is to ascertain if the applicants is truthful about source and amount of income. No point in renting to a tenant whose income-rent ratio is unrealistic or job security is in question so that the rent cannot be maintained.or they don’t actually work there or in a different accountability position that they claimed to be in.
As to questioning a landlord – why don’t you ask them your questions? as a landlord I would be happy to answer the questions. If you feel you can’t ask them about their leasing practices then why would you want to rent from them? You should also consider finding out what the laws of tenants rights are in your area so that when you enter into a WRITTEN lease you know what the terms of the lease are and if fair. Educate yourself.

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Hasyl [3 years ago]

What country/state/province is this referring to? There are at least two questions here that are illegal to ask in Ontario and subject to a substantial fine if reported.

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