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No Reference from Previous Landlord? Here's What You Need to Do...

There are lots of boxes to tick when you’re looking to rent a property and one of those is being able to provide information and documents that prove you’re a good tenant. One of the best ways to prove your suitability as a tenant is with a reference from your previous landlord but sometimes that isn’t always possible.

This handy tenant guide will give you all you need to secure your next rental property even if you are without a reference!

What is a Landlord Reference?

A landlord reference is an important document that details your reliability as a tenant as well as demonstrating whether you’re a responsible person who pays rent on time and takes care of rented properties. Prospective landlords use this information to analyse any risk you may pose if they lease their property to you.

What About When There’s No Landlord Reference?

There are several reasons why a tenant might not have a reference from their previous landlord, and the best thing you can do as a potential renter is to be upfront about it. Being honest about lacking a previous landlord reference shows that you have integrity and are respectful with nothing to hide.

If you’re a first-time renter, references can be provided in the form of character testimonies from employers. A character reference for a landlord can also be used when there isn’t previous rental referencing available but, in some cases – and particularly if you are struggling to pass affordability checks – then a guarantor is necessary. Guarantors (usually a friend or relative) agree to pay your rent if you’re unable to.

Ideally, you do need a reference from a previous landlord when it comes to renting a new property, and applying without one doesn’t give the best of impressions, but it is still possible to rent without one.

Why Has My Landlord Not Given Me a Reference?

It isn’t illegal for landlords to refuse to write a reference, however most will write one (be it good or bad) as they understand its usefulness to other landlords.

If a landlord decides to give a bad reference, it must be verifiable. Some reasons that a landlord might choose not to give a reference, or to write a bad one, include:
  • If the tenant paid reduced rent
  • If the tenant missed payments
  • If there was documented damage
  • If the tenant was arrested for criminal activity whilst residing in the property

References cannot be based on opinions or emotion. It isn’t possible for a landlord to provide a bad reference based on their personal dislike for a tenant; everything must be able to be backed up.

What Happens if Your Landlord Doesn’t Give You a Reference?

Many landlords will take time and care to check new tenant references are accurate. When it comes to how a tenant reference is checked, sometimes an external company is used to check references which can cost as much as £90 per reference of a tenant. If you don’t have a reference, or your previous landlord has given you a bad one, here are our top 5 things you can do:

1. Provide details and a reference from another previous landlord

If you’ve had any other landlords, then provide references and contact details from them. The more detail and referencing you can provide, the better a picture of your character prospective landlords or letting agencies can build up.

2. Demonstrate proof of on-time payments

Show your prospective landlord that you paid rent and utility bills on time by providing previous bank statements. When submitting a rental application, a credit check will be carried out, which if good, will further demonstrate your financial stability.

3. Provide character statements from employers and neighbours

If you haven’t got a reference from a landlord, then try to collate some character statements from neighbours, employers and, if applicable, other tenants you’ve lived with. These testimonials can demonstrate your reliability and show the type of person and tenant you are.

4. Offer a bigger deposit

Deposits are designed to protect the landlord against the risk of non-payments and damage to the property. By offering a higher deposit than necessary, this demonstrates that you recognise you provide a higher risk to the landlord/letting agent and, importantly, are willing to cover that risk.  

5. Use a guarantor

If you’ve had previous debt issues which have been documented in reference, or has meant that you haven’t received one, then you could consider nominating a parent, relative or close friend to act as a guarantor. Landlords will run checks on a guarantor to ensure they exist and are able to pay anything if needed but this will further boost your willingness and reliability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

“How long do rental reference checks take?”

This varies depending on who is carrying out the checks. It can take as little as 48 hours in some cases but be prepared for it to be as long as 10 working days, especially if further checks are required – for instance, when there’s no previous landlord reference.

“What should I ask for on a tenant's personal reference?”

A prospective landlord will be looking for details on your reference such as whether your rent was paid on time, if the property was well cared for, when you left the property, and if they would rent to you again. If you are unable to get a tenant reference, then you will want to get a detailed personal reference that helps to give an overview of your character. Things you’ll want to be included are:
  • How long they have known you
  • How do they know you
  • How you spend your spare time
  • Have they spent any time in your current or previous home? If so, how would they describe it?
  • Whether you smoke or have pets
  • An overall description of your character


So, do you need a reference from a previous landlord? Ideally, yes, but if you find yourself on the receiving end of a bad landlord reference or are unable to get one, then don’t despair, as there are solutions to the problem! Be sure to be honest with your prospective landlord and show willingness to demonstrate your suitability as a tenant and hopefully this will compensate for a lack of a reference.
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