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Landlording Q&A - Should I give a written reference?

Monday, January 16, 2017

APIA Ask An Expert


My out-going tenant is requesting a reference in writing.  Should I give it? 

APIA Ask An Expert



Landlords are not under any legal obligation to give their tenants references.  When you act as a referee for an ex-tenant, you do so out of goodwill.  

Should you give your reference in writing?  You are, of course, free to do so but we recommend that you do not.  Giving reference is such a free-form expression/reflection of the relationship you have had with your tenants, it is often hard to fully contextualise into words.  Once the letter leaves your hands, you lose all control of how the information can be received and understood.  Secondly, knowing that a tenant would be privy to the content of your reference could deter some landlords commenting frankly.  Just as you value the quality of a reference from another landlord, you want your own reference to be of meaningful help to the next landlord.  Why waste time on a defective reference?  A verbal reference, at the very least, takes away some of these risks. 

If you receive a written reference then here are a few things to look out for: 

  • Recency of letter and tenancy;
  • Measurable tenancy performance indicators such as the number of instances of rent arrears, the number of tenancy breach notices issued or received, the average number of days a breach has been remedied, the number of instances the property had been damaged etc; 
  • Contact details of the referee for follow-up questions. 
If you need more help with reference checking then be sure to watch our video on How to reference check a tenant properly .

Got any tenancy questions?  Email us at admin@apia.org.nz.  


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