How to pass a tenant reference check

So you found a property you’d like to move in and paid the holding deposit – congratulations! The next step is passing the reference check. We find that most tenants grossly underestimate how long this process can take. Before you book that removal van, have these documents ready so that you can pass the reference check quickly and successfully.

1. Employment Reference

This is requesting to verify your current employment. The letter of employment needs to state:

  • Your position;
  • Commencement date;
  • Salary per year and any other income;
  • Employment type – full time or part time;
  • Contact details of the current employer. Usually your HR department or current boss

Usual pitfall

Tenants don’t know where to download this from their company intranet; If a freelancer, they don’t tell their manager that they would be contacted by us; if the prospective tenants are NHS or civil servants, they fail to chase, chase, chase internally.


  • Most companies provide a generic downloadable letter from the intranet. This is fine.
  • If you are a freelancer, the letter should come in the employer’s headed paper (soft or hard copy). If it’s an email forward directly from your manager, it should come from their work email address and in a PDF form, not as an attachment from you in a Word document.
  • Remember that the name of the company and address should match what you declared on the initial Tenant Application.

2. Current Living Landlord Reference

Some landlords are reluctant to write a reference not because the tenant was horrible but because they don’t know what to write. Spare them the pain and tell them to answer these in an email form:

  • The exact address of the property you stayed;
  • Duration – when did the tenancy start and end;
  • Answer if the tenant was respectful, tidy, and paid rent on time every time;
  • The landlord’s contact details, usually a mobile number and email address.

Usual pitfall

Tenants email or text the landlord for a reference, assuming he/she will send quickly.


  • Never assume. Tenants often don’t realise that landlords may be abroad or plain busy doing something else. They are not obliged to write you one, let alone a good reference, whilst you will definitely need one.
  • Speak to the landlord in person and ask for it. Also, give them the heads up that someone from the referencing agency will be emailing/calling.
  • If he/she write you a reference in an email form, it must come from the landlord’s personal email address, not as an attachment from the tenant in a Word document.
  • Remember that the detail of your landlord (name, email address, etc) should match what you declared on the initial Tenant Application.

3. Scanned Bank Statements

Depending on the agency, this can be anything from 3 to 6 months’ worth of bank statements. Have them prepared, especially the page where your salary is coming in and your current rent going out as a standing order.

Usual pitfall

Tenants get suspicious so they don’t send.


  • The purpose is not to snoop on your expenditures but rather that you can pay the rent.
  • Make sure that the address of your bank statements all correspond to the living address you declared on the initial Tenant Application.

4. Miscellaneous

The below will certainly be asked so have them ready, too. Most properties in London are competitive so don’t let this be the reason why you were gazumped by another tenant:

  • Passport & Visa (if applicable) – The relevant pages scanned and saved with your full name as a file name;
  • Have the holding deposit and rent deposit + Advance rent at the ready to send by bank transfer;
  • 6 months rent – This is especially if you are a contractor or someone with no credit history in the UK (e.g. company relocation, overseas students).


Over 95% of reference checks come back fine, despite how long it might take. But it can be a very stressful process, trying to chase your employer and landlord whilst working full-time and packing up to leave at the end of the tenancy.

Remember that you will not be allowed to move in to the new property unless the full referencing has come back and cleared funds received. This includes your luggage and boxes!

The most common out-right fail come from very poor credit history so you should try to find this out even before you apply for a new tenancy. For example, you may have an unknown County Court Judgement (CCJ), unpaid council tax, and sometimes, obviously insufficient income to pay the rent.

You could check your credit score with our favourite credit check company called Check My File. We like it because it’s a multi-agency report, so you can check how you fare with four credit reference agencies, not just one.

Good luck!