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!


   Sign Up for Pendo  

Comments 13

feanjack [4 years ago]

Sometimes tenants can become big headache for landlords when they damage to property and do illegal acts on property. This must be handled carefully, yes above mentioned questions must be answered this is very much required

Jenny [3 years ago]

Great article, thank you!

Daphne [3 years ago]

I strongly believe that landlords should be truthful when answering the questions about the current nightmare tenant. Sometimes the landlord want to get rid of their nightmare tenant that they lie so their tenants can be someone else’s problem.

Pendo [3 years ago]

Hi Daphne – We absolutely agree with you. Trust should be established between landlords and tenants as well as within the landlord community.

Patrick Freeze [3 years ago]

This is a great roundup of very specific questions to ask the various references your prospective tenants may put on their rental application. Knowing what to ask each reference type will make the screening process more effective and land you the highest quality tenant in your rental property. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. Anyone that screens tenants, whether that be property owners or property management companies, is sure to benefit from asking these questions.

Erik [2 years ago]

I like the idea of the questions….but the one about marital status…Isn’t that one of the protected areas (familial status)?

admin [2 years ago]

Glad you like the questions and thank you for your feedback regarding marital status. We have updated our article accordingly.

Joe Dirt [2 years ago]

If I found out that they were dating and not married, I would move on. Although there are many divorces these days, I have to believe that the likelihood of a bf/gf relationship would be much easier to break up.

Scooterpdx [2 years ago]

Unfortunately, I just had a rental company say that it was against their policy to answer whether they would rent to the tenants again.

Olivia Upson [1 year ago]

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

Ophelia norrington [1 year 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 [7 months 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 [7 months 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.