What are credit references on a rental application?

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  • A credit reference can be anybody or a business that has had a financial relationship with you.
  • Your credit reference information will allow the landlord to determine if you will make payments on time.
  • A typical rental application will include information about your employment, income, rental history, and list of references.

If you’re looking for a home or business loan, one document you may need to provide is proof of your credit history. This is to show that you are a reliable borrower and are likely to repay debts. A credit reference shows potential landlords or lenders’ details of your financial history. Credit reference documents can include previous loans details or other forms of credit, how much you owe, how long your payments have been up to date, and any disputes against you.

What is a credit reference?

A credit reference is a document that shows your credit history and can be used to verify your identity and creditworthiness when you are applying for things like a loan or tenancy. The most commonly used credit references are credit reports and credit files. These documents list your previous loans, and if you paid them off on time, or if you had any disputes or judgments made against you.

Financial institutions, including banks and building societies, can ask for credit references when they lend money to individuals. Credit references contain details of a person’s borrowing history, it provides background check on an individual, examining their ability to pay back debts or loans.

Your credit history constitutes all the payment information that has been reported on you through credit agencies. It reflects a variety of issues, including the status and amount of debt you’ve incurred. The information on your credit report can impact the type of loan you can apply for and your overall interest rate.

What are credit references on a rental application?

Credit references on a rental application are documents that show your creditworthiness and prove to your landlord that you’re not a risk and won’t be a financial liability. For example, if your credit reference shows that you’ve previously paid your debts and other obligations in a timely and appropriate manner, your landlord will be more willing to approve your rental application.

However, if your credit reference indicates that you previously had an outstanding obligation not paid on time or for the appropriate amount, a landlord may deny your rental application as you would be considered a risk.

Reference of credit

Credit references are individuals or businesses that have loaned you money or extended credit to you before and can provide details about past or current accounts.

Landlords often ask for credit references with rental applications. A typical rental application will include information about your employment, income, rental history, and a list of references who can guarantee that you’ll be responsible and not be a risk. You may also be asked to fill out the names and contact details of your credit references.

These references serve as proof that you have a history of paying your bills promptly and are more likely to make your rent on time. Your landlord may contact them as part of your credit check to get an overview of your creditworthiness during the rental screening process. This information will help the landlord decide whether to charge you a substantial deposit, request multiple months of rent ahead, or reject your application.

Types of credit reference

A credit reference can be anybody or a business that’s had a financial relationship with you. Some examples include local banks, credit bureaus, investment firms, former landlords, or any local businesses that previously gave you a payment plan. Also, documentation of assets like investment or cash in the bank could serve as a credit reference.

If you have a friend or family member you borrowed money from in the past, the person could be a potential credit reference, especially if you both had a formal agreement. Keep in mind that since this loan between you and your friend or family member will likely not appear on your credit report, the landlord may not accept it, compared to a documented credit information or bank loan. But it’s an option you might want to consider if you don’t have a credit history instead of listing no credit reference at all.

Credit reports from agencies like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are also some of the most commonly used credit references for rental applications since they provide a detailed overview of a renter’s credit history such as your open and closed accounts, number of payments made, late payments if any, creditors contact details, accounts sent to a collections bureau, and bankruptcy filings.

Possible negative impact on a rental application

Having fewer quality references, bad credit history, or no credit history can have a negative effect on your rental application. The landlord might see you as a liability with no proof worth backing to pay rent on time. Ultimately, this may lead to rejection of your rental application or a request to deposit a larger than usual amount compared to having a good credit history.

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The landlord may also suggest you find a co-signer before he can accept your rental application. Often a co-signer, family member, or friend agrees to stand as a guarantor if you default on your rent. This is one option you should consider carefully since your payment issues can negatively affect the cosigner’s credit score and possibly create personal tension between both of you.

Managing credit issues for rentals

If you can’t get an apartment due to credit issues, here are some steps you can take.

Staying on top of your credit report is the top suggestion from Tenants Union – You can get a free credit report from sites like CreditKarma. If you notice any discrepancy with your accounts, let the credit reporting agency know so as to prevent it from negatively affecting credit decisions in the future.

If you have late payments or are behind on bills, try to pay them off as soon as possible.

If you have no credit and want to avoid a co-signer, consider talking to your current or former employer, who can guarantee a strong personal character letter and prove that you’re financially capable. Another option is to get a credit card if you can and use it responsibly.

Credit reference tips for a rental application

If you need a credit reference for a rental application, here are some tips that can help improve your chances of getting a positive response:


Before filling out a rental application, make sure you understand what type of information the landlord requires as per your credit reference, including the necessary details that can enhance your chances of a positive outcome.


If there is a deadline to submit the application, make sure you have all the requested information in advance. Even if there is no deadline for submission, it’s in your best interest to submit the requested information on time.


If your credit references do not portray a positive perception of your creditworthiness, such as a previous late payment, try to provide supporting documents to clarify and mitigate any perceived liability that could affect the acceptance of your rental application.


Be transparent as much as possible, do not hide or tweak anything. Information on Credit references can easily be verified. Providing false information can adversely affect the decision of your landlord. The more transparent you are, the more likely you will receive a positive response.

What does credit references mean on a rental application?

Credit references on a rental application are documents used to determine prospective tenants’ creditworthiness and help examine their rental history. When you want to rent an apartment, the landlord may ask to see your credit references.

What is considered a good credit reference for a rental application?

A good credit reference comes from a reputable source and provides information about whether they have had previous rental agreements. It will show if they have been late or missed payments in the past or if there are any court judgments on them. A good credit reference should also include the applicant’s financial history, including details of any bankruptcy.

Who can be a credit reference for a rental application?

A credit reference is usually provided by another creditor, an acquaintance or family member of the applicant, or a financial organization like a bank or credit union. The approval of a credit reference will solely depend on the landlord.

Why do landlords check credit references?

Landlords, property managers, and homeowners request credit references to help them decide whether you will be a good prospective tenant. Your credit references will let them know how responsible you are when it comes to paying bills on time, as well as your capacity to pay rent.

What happens if you don’t have a credit reference?

Suppose you don’t have a credit reference for a rental application. In that case, you might be asked to provide a character reference – this is usually from a family member or friend instead of an institution or someone who knows your credit history. Character references are good but not as strong as a credit reference.

Can being a reference hurt credit score?

Being listed as a reference for someone applying for a home doesn’t hurt your credit score. You may never even be contacted in most cases, so don’t worry much if someone you know asks to list you as a personal reference – as long as you trust them not to default on payment.

Can landlords check your bank balance?

In some cities like California, your bank balance is one of the pieces of information the landlord can ask from you. However, you can decline to hand over your confidential information.

Should I give my Social Security number on a rental application?

No, but to run the credit request, your full name, current address, and Social Security number may need to be provided to verify the credit report.

Do you really have to make 3 times the rent?

There may be few exceptions, but landlords typically accept a rental application if an applicant’s salary is at least three times the monthly rent. This is known as the ‘3x the monthly rent’ rule in the real estate world. It rarely happens, but some landlords might not require proof of income.

Do landlords call personal references?

One of the most commonly requested things on rental applications is personal or character references. Landlords generally do a comprehensive background check on their prospective tenants, which includes calling tenant references.

What do landlords ask your references?

  • Are they likely to pay rent on time when due?
  • Can I trust them to keep my rental property in good condition?
  • Are they neighbor-friendly and will not cause any trouble?
  • What can I expect when communicating with this rental applicant?

Can a landlord check your bank account balance?

A landlord may ask for your bank account number to confirm that you actually have a bank account and are financially capable of paying your rent. Be rest assured that no third party can touch or do anything with your bank account unless a court rule otherwise.

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