The Market

The perfect landlord letter of recommendation

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
January 26, 2011 - 7:05AM

If you are a renter attempting to buy a NYC co-op or condo--or sometimes even if you are just trying to rent another apartment--you will be asked for a letter of recommendation from your previous landlord. 

So what makes a good letter—and what do you do if you have a bad relationship with your landlord?

From a co-op and condo board’s perspective, the three key phrases to remember are “tenant in good standing,” “always pays the rent on time,” and “excellent tenant,” says Deanna Kory, a real estate broker at Corcoran.

“A good letter has one or more of those phrases--usually at least two,” she says. "Otherwise, it can lead to questions.”

If you have a dog, suggests Sheila Vogel, a broker at Barak Realty, it might also be a good idea to have the landlord attest to its good behavior—specifically, that your dog is well-behaved, quiet, and that the landlord never had a problem with it.

Similar advice applies to letters requested by landlords.

“The most sought-after attribute is that the tenant paid rent on time all the time,” says Gus Waite, a managing director and rental broker at BondNY, who estimates that about 10 percent of landlords ask for a letter. “Testaments to quiet and cleanliness are the next most important. 

So what do you do if you are leaving your landlord on not-so-good terms?

Renters can simply avoid landlords who require the letters, notes Waite.  But co-op and condo buyers will need to finesse the situation as best they can.

“Sometimes, we show 12 to 24 months of cancelled rent checks with a letter of explanation as to why we don’t have a letter,” says Kory.  Among the explanations: The tenant is buying and doesn’t want to alert the landlord just yet.

How much could a missing letter hurt you with a co-op board?

“The landlord letter is one of many reference letters, so as long as the rest of the package is strong, and a good, reasonable explanation--one that is well written and convincing—accompanies the cancelled rent checks, then there usually isn’t a problem,” says Kory. “However, if a person has an average credit score  and average other elements in their presentation, it can raise a huge red flag….The letter has to be the right slant or it will raise issues. In this area, all brokers are not equal.”

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Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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