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Cheeky comedian turns the tables on landlord by asking them for 'tenant references'

Tom Cashman didn't hear from the agent for about four days because they didn't know what a 'landlord reference' was.

Cheeky comedian turns the tables on landlord by asking them for 'tenant references'
Cover Image Source: Instagram / @tomcashman1

Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 10, 2023. It has since been updated.

No one has demands like a landlord. From references to income proof and more, landlords are constantly asking tenants for documents to verify their background and capability to pay the rent. Tom Cashman, a Sydney comedian, turned the tables on landlords to show them what it feels like to be scrutinized constantly. He got his rental application for an apartment in Sydney approved when he decided to experiment. If you're familiar with the agonizing ordeal of renting, you might also be aware that you must obtain references while applying for properties. So, Cashman asked his real estate agent if the landlord had references from prior tenants. In retrospect, this is a baller move since it helps you determine whether your landlord is a schmuck or a saint. Cashman didn't hear from the agent for about four days because they didn't know what a 'landlord reference' was.



"At this stage, I did get a bit cheeky," Cashman said. "I've had pretty bad experiences with landlords generally, mainly around bonds," he told ABC RN Breakfast. He was keen on getting an answer from the real estate agent, so he rephrased it. He responded: "So just to confirm, the owner doesn't have any previous tenants they could get in touch with to write a positive reference for them?" This time, however, the agent replied by saying that the owner had no wish to contact previous tenants and that this was not necessary. Now, to add another surprise to Cashman's life, his then-approved rental application had been withdrawn. "I found myself in this unique position where I didn't really need them. So I pushed back a tiny bit, asked for one thing that they usually ask of us, and they had what I would describe as a bit of a hissy fit," he said.

Like any other comedian, Cashman had a decent amount of social media followers, so he decided to take this story to the internet. With many watching his video and sharing their opinions, Patterson Ross, CEO of the Tenants' Union of NSW was one of them too. Ross said that renters in Australia face cut-throat competition when they are on the lookout for a home and they don't exercise a lot of power to make demands of landlords. Moreover, he said that landlords would retain power unless the vacancy rate at least doubled. "Real estate agents and the landlord have so many other options of people who are willing to move in, who won't ask too many questions, and so they don't need to engage with you."



Mr.Ross also hopes for a formal registration system that would force the landlords to get a license from governmental organizations, citing similar regimes in other countries such as Scotland. This system will create searchable databases where renters could look up the landlords in question and determine if they had previous complaints upheld against them or if any tenants have breached previous agreements. "It makes perfect sense that if you're entering into a contract, potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars a year, that you would want to know at least something about the people that you're entering into a contract with," Mr. Patterson Ross said.



Australia's head of the real estate industry body says Cashman's request for a landlord reference is a valid one. "Landlords don't have anything to hide," said Hayden Groves, the president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia. "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?'" As for Cashman, it looks like he has found a place to stay, but he is still asking for a landlord reference, which is a good idea, considering his past experiences. "I think asking for a landlord reference is a good idea and if we all do it, it could become quite normalized," he said. "However if they can't find someone to give them a good reference, I'd advise against rubbing their noses in it."

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