Renter’s Tips to Get Past a Bad Landlord Reference

Your relationship with your landlord determines the reference you get. As such, this publication explains how to get past a bad landlord reference in the case of one.

how to get past a bad landlord reference


Many landlords obtain information about the kind of tenant you will be by checking your previous rental references.

While filling out the rental application, you are required to provide references from previous landlords. If your relationship with your previous landlord was negative, they may give you a bad reference.


A bad landlord reference will cost you the prospective apartment. As such, you want to reduce the impact of that bad reference on your application.

What landlords look for in a reference

You have to provide a reference if your prospective landlord requires one. What a landlord is looking for is not necessarily your former landlord’s perspective about you but your integrity.

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A prospective landlord is interested in if you actually rent when on time, met tenant obligations, and abide by the words you agreed to.


They typically ask your previous landlord questions like:

  • “Is this person your previous tenant?”
  • “Did they live in your apartment from so-so date to so-so date?”
  • “Did this tenant pay regularly on time?”
  • “How was their attitude with neighbors?” Etc.

It is expected that not all prospective tenants have positive relationships with previous landlords.

Your previous landlord will not also want to embarrass themselves with “they refused to pay the rent when I did not fix a falling ceiling”. This would only mean they tried to frustrate you to leave their apartment, which can get the landlord in trouble.

Ideally, your prospective landlord should not learn anything about you from your previous landlord that you did not already tell them. Thus, do not stop at groaning and saying, “I had issues with that landlord.” Tell them everything that transpired.

Do not stress about the prospective home as it is better to be rejected by folks who will not work well with you. You need acceptance from prospective landlords who are good fits for you.

If you had to sue your previous landlord, give a detailed and justifiable explanation. Your prospective landlord does not want to end up sued, so you want to assure them that your actions were provoked at the time and justifiable.

How to get past a bad landlord reference

Normally, you get a good landlord reference when you pay your rent on time and follow the lease terms. But bad blood with your previous landlord can provoke a bad reference, which is not acceptable.

Do the following to get past a bad landlord reference for a new apartment:

  1. Talk to your landlord

Contact your landlord and talk about the bad reference. This may present an opportunity for you to clear the air and resolve the dispute.

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If the landlord will not change their mind about it, request a simple reference letter. Tell the landlord to also include your timely rent payment and neighbor-friendly behavior in the reference letter.

  1. Clap back at the former landlord

If your previous landlord will not give a good letter of reference and insists on an unfair report, you can present supplementary materials to your prospective landlord.

Gather and present documents that show your landlord’s assessment is unfair. For instance, suppose your previous landlord falsely claims they received complaints about you from neighbors. Get your neighbors and roommates to write letters testifying that you are a good neighbor.

Suppose the landlord incorrectly says that you are always late on rent. You need copies of your rent receipts showing the payment dates. Present the copies to your prospective landlord in your application.

  1. Do not ask your previous landlord for a reference

If your landlord will give a bad reference, there is no point asking them for a landlord reference letter.

If you still live with them, try to patch things up. Extend your stay in the apartment if possible and be a good tenant to secure a positive reference letter.

  1. Prove that you are a changed person

If your landlord’s bad reference is truthful, demonstrate a change in behavior to your prospective landlord.

You need evidence highlighting the circumstances of the problem as well as the changes in the situation since then.

For instance, suppose you were late on your rent for some time due to unemployment. Submit documents and other proofs of your termination.

If domestic disturbance was the reason for your late payment, and that person is no longer in your household, present evidence to support your claim.

Other issues causing the bad reference could be a no-pet violation. If you were caught hiding a pet cat or a pet rat in the no-pet apartment, demonstrate that you no longer have that pet. You can explain to the prospective landlord that the pet was an emotional support animal. You could also provide a certificate obtained online or from a professional to back your claim.

  1. Add other references

You need references from other sources for your tenant application if your former landlord is giving you a bad reference.

Seek letters of recommendation from:

  • Various previous landlords
  • Current and past employers
  • Business associates
  • Neighbors

With enough positive references, a single negative reference from your previous landlord should not really influence your prospective landlord’s decision.

Zumper advises against using family members, close friends, or anyone who might appear to be writing a skewed reference due to their close relationship with you.

  1. Use a fake reference

Get a friend or pay an agency to pretend to be your previous landlord. This is risky but necessary if it is the only option you have to get past a bad landlord reference.

Here is an extensive guide about faking your rental history. Note that this is an illegal thing to do, and you will lose the apartment if the prospective landlord finds out. It is always better to use an agency with the resources to back their false claims of being your former landlord.

  1. Go off the radar

While it is not recommended, some smaller mom and pop landlords do not follow the reference checks and other procedures larger rental companies and complexes use.

Some may not even have thorough applications. You should find a quaint, safe place that takes you on the spot if you have the money and a good rapport.

A good employment background or even an inside connection will also help you get the apartment.

Keep renting to have more recent references to be able to leave the old one off as it gets more remote in time. When you move out, you will not have to worry about your other landlord’s bad references anymore.

You could even become a homeowner to do away with the hassles of being a tenant.

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