Are Landlord References from Tenants the New Thing?

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Nicole Seidner

The internet delivered another of its famous surprises this month when one Australian comedian and renter decided to ‘clap back.’ Tom Cashman applied for an apartment and was approved, however, when he asked the real estate agent for the landlord to give him a reference from the previous tenant, that’s where things got dicey. There may be a new trend of applicants asking landlords for references coming around the corner, and heads up: there’s absolutely a right way and a wrong way to handle it.

References as a Standard

People ask for references all the time. Employers ask for them, landlords ask for them, and in a viral video with 2.4 million views, Tom Cashman asked for this as well. After being approved for the apartment, he asked the agent for something he hadn’t ever done before.  “Would the owner provide a landlord reference from a previous tenant?”  He stated in an email.  Tom Cashman continued in the video that it “it occurred to him he’d never done it before,” and encouraged viewers to start doing the same. With 330.4K likes and 2,185 comments at the time of writing, most of his viewers agree.  “They asked me for three references to see if I’m a good guy,” Cashman pointed out. “What about them? Are you a good guy? Are you going to fix stuff? Are you going to reply to my e-mails?”

Unexpected Response

It’s not entirely unsurprising that renters flocked to someone venting on their side. As the world starts turning more towards the renter side of thing, more want a place to get their feelings out, and when one person shows a way to do it, they all come flocking to the table. It makes sense. It’s also natural that when he made a Part 2, it got the same, though slightly larger, response. The Update received 2.6 million views, 460.5K likes and 8039 comments and as a landlord, some clues on what not to do when someone asks for a reference from a previous tenant.

  • Don’t Forget Past Tenants

At first, his request for a reference was ignored. After following up, the real estate agent asked to clarify. Cashman did. The landlord was not in contact with previous tenants. Cashman asked, does he not have their emails?  Small requests via email should not be ignored, and it should not be implied that you do not have your tenants’ and previous tenants’ contact information. If you have a moment, then Search your inbox for an email address and say, “sorry, this is new to me, but if you give me some time, I’m sure I can get that for you.” This will get you much farther with an applicant, and they will appreciate the open honesty.

  • Don’t Retaliate

The agent said the landlord didn’t want to contact them and Cashman’s application was immediately terminated under the implication that it was Cashman’s decision, which it was not. Cashman asked the agent why, when he didn’t ask for his application to be withdrawn.  Terminating an application at the renter’s request should only be done with explicit and written consent. It’s the landlord’s right to terminate any application, but this should be done with caution and tact, considering how it may impact your reputation or worse – lead to legal challenges.

  • Don’t Delete the Application

The real estate agent explained that it had to do with a leasing period, which wasn’t an issue when Cashman first applied. Cashman encouraged his audience to ask for references, but to not “be cheeky” about it, like he was. That being said, what happened to Cashman is the wrong way to go about things. Even if it was the first time someone asked for references, being honest is a better route.

Unexpected Response

Cashman isn’t the only one who recommends that tenants ask landlords for recommendations. New start-ups like Whose Your Landlord and OpenIgloo show that renters are getting bolder now and are more willing to speak their minds. These may be warning signs of the turning tide: landlord references could be the new normal.

On the bright side, this does mean you have more room on the internet for positive reviews if places like these websites start to grow. Plus, if you keep handy a small collection of written references from previous tenants, you can begin new relationships with applicants on a positive ground right out the gate. When you start out with a good relationship, the chances that you’ll have smooth sailing with the tenant are so much higher. Now is as good a time as any to consider asking for a review, and maybe just keep it around, rather than deleting an application, should someone by chance request a reference.

Nicole Seidner is a copywriter at ApplyConnect, an affiliate of Contemporary Information Corporation (CIC).  She holds a degree in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus in creative nonfiction. Her free time is spent taking pictures of her dogs or reading deep-dive analysis on movies that she hasn’t seen.  This article has been contributed by CIC.  CIC and ApplyConnect are the preferred tenant screening service providers of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.  For more information, go to