After having his application for an apartment in Sydney approved, Australian comedian Tom Cashman tried out a simple request: asking his landlord for a reference letter.
Requiring tenants to give references is commonplace in the rental market, and Cashman figured it was about time landlords were held to the same standards.
Documenting the interaction on TikTok, Cashman explained that he had “never heard of anyone asking for this, but they asked me for three references to see if I’m a good guy.”
“What about them?” he asked. “Are you a good guy? Are you going to fix stuff? Are you going to reply to emails? Or are you just going to ignore me once I’m in there?”
What followed was an email back and forth with the estate agent, Stephanie, as she struggled to grasp what Cashman was asking for.
“I was asking whether the owner would provide a reference, written by a previous tenant of theirs, recommending them as a landlord,” Cashman wrote in an email, before being told that the owner would not provide a reference as they were no longer in contact with the previous tenant.
Eventually, after Cashman’s efforts to explain why he thought a reference letter from his landlord was appropriate had spanned days, his once-approved application was withdrawn.
On Friday, the president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, Hayden Groves, called the request “reasonable”.
"I think it's quite a reasonable request for a tenant to say, 'Look, I just want to get a bit of a feel for how the landlord is. Are they popping in all the time unannounced? Are they purporting to be looking at the garden or something like that?'" Groves told the ABC.
“I feel incredibly vindicated,” Cashman told VICE.
“I think it’s proof that if you’re on the fence about a rental, you should ask the real estate agent for a landlord reference. If they ask ‘why’, link them to a quote from the head of their institute.”
So yes - you absolutely should ask your potential landlord for a reference before you move in. If enough of us do it, we might just make it the norm.
We’re already paying ridiculous rental prices for properties we’ll never afford, and everyone has their own “landlord” story about some dickhead who refuses to fix a hole in your wall or the lack of electricity in the kitchen.