Co-op Reference Letters Guide

By PropertyClub Team
Sep 3rd 2023
Every co-op board will require prospective buyers to submit reference letters as part of their application. You'll typically need to submit at least 2 personal reference letters, and might also be asked for professional, employer, and landlord reference letters as well. Below we'll discuss how they should be formatted, and provide samples so that you can ace your board package.

If you’re planning on buying a co-op in New York City, you’ve probably heard of the dreaded coop board application and subsequent interview. One of the most overlooked parts of the application process requires you to obtain personal reference letters (aka recommendation letters) from friends or colleagues who can vouch for your good character. 

hash-markWhat is a Co-op Reference Letter?

A co-op reference letter is a letter provided to a co-op board that attests to a person's good moral character. Co-op boards typically require reference letters as part of the application process, as they use them to determine if an individual would be a good neighborhood and welcome addition to their community. Co-op reference letters can be provided by friends, acquaintances, colleagues, employers, former landlords, or financial institutions that the applicant does business with. 

hash-markWhat Are the Different Types of Reference Letters?

  1. Personal Reference Letter
  2. Professional / Employer Reference Letter
  3. Landlord Reference Letter 

1. Personal Reference Letter

The person writing your personal co-op reference letter should be someone who knows you very well. At the very least, they should have known you for a minimum of five years. In general, the letter should begin by explaining how the person met you and explicitly state how long they’ve known you. The person should continue by telling personal stories or giving specific information and facts that speak to your good character (i.e., honesty, trustworthiness, etc.). If the person has knowledge of your charity work or donations, they should mention it without providing dollar amounts of any donations, as this might be viewed as tasteless. 

Lastly, it is beneficial if the personal reference is written by someone who is a co-op owner. By being a co-op owner themselves, they will be able to offer a credible opinion as to why you would make a good neighbor. 

This should go without saying, but you shouldn’t have your family members write a personal reference letter for you because of their inherent bias. Additionally, stay away from having your religious/spiritual leaders write referral letters for you. The reason being two-fold; 1) you don’t want to open yourself up to being discriminated against, and 2) religious leaders typically only know you on a limited basis. In other words, you want your personal reference letter to be written by someone who can offer a complete overview of your good character. 

Many co-op candidates often think that it’s a good idea to have their celebrity friends or politicians write them a reference letter, but it’s not. The Board doesn’t care about who you know; they genuinely want to see if you will be a good neighbor, who will pay your monthly maintenance fees. Further, by using a public figure as a reference, you may unintentionally rub the Board the wrong way. This is especially true if the public figure is a controversial person. Overall, it would be best if you avoided “name-dropping” in your co-op application as it is often viewed as tasteless.

Lastly, don’t use your current or former boss for a personal reference. Instead, you have them write you a professional letter or employer reference letter. 

Personal Reference Letter Sample

February 19, 2023

[insert Co-op Address]

Re: purchase of apartment 123 at the building address.

Dear [insert name] Corp Board Members,

I am writing to support my friend, John Doe, in his application to purchase Unit 2A in your cooperative.

John and I met approximately ten years ago, as we are both volunteers with the Juvenile Diabetic Association. We quickly became friends!

We roomed together approximately eight years ago, for a year, so I can personally attest John kept his living space immaculate and was incredibly respectful of those living around him.

I purchased a co-op apartment five years ago, and I’m currently on my building’s board. As such, I can unequivocally attest that John would be a great addition to your community.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Adam Smith

2. Professional / Employer Reference Letter

A co-op may ask you for an employer reference letter or a general professional reference letter, and in some cases, both.  

An employer reference letter is a simple letter, typically provided by your Human Resources department. The letter should include your current job title, time with the company, your annual base salary, and estimated yearly bonuses. Additionally, these letters should indicate that your employment is stable and that it is expected to continue in the future.  

Professional reference letters are very similar to personal reference letters. The critical difference is that the writer of the letter is a colleague. You should reserve these letters for a colleague that you have worked closely with and can personally attest to your work ethic.  

Professional / Employer Reference Letter Sample 

[Company Letterhead]

February 19, 2023

Re: purchase of apartment 123 at the building address.

To the Board at [insert address}

This letter is to confirm that New York Law Firm currently employs John Doe. He has been employed since January 1, 2000. Mr. Doe is currently in good standing. His current job title is Senior Associate Attorney. His annual compensation is as follows: Base Salary $250,000 annually Bonus: approximately $50,000 annually.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards & Best, 

Adam Smith, Esq.

Managing Partner

3. Landlord Reference Letter

If you previously rented or lived in another co-op, you will typically be required to obtain a landlord reference letter. Landlord reference letters are pretty straight forward letters. This letter usually states that you were a good tenant and that you paid your rent (or maintenance fees) on time throughout your tenancy. This letter should also include the address and the length of time that you were a tenant in that apartment. 

Landlord Reference Letter Sample 

[Landlord Letterhead]

February 11, 2023

Re: purchase of apartment XYZ at the building address.

To the Board at [insert address}

I am writing to you in support of John Doe’s co-op application to your cooperative board.

Mr. Doe has been a tenant of ours in Apt. 2A at the above address for approximately ten years. He has been a tenant of good standing and has always paid his rent (currently $3,500) on time.

Mr. Doe would be an excellent addition to your community.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any further questions.


hash-markDo Condos Require Reference Letters?  

No. The typical condo building in NYC generally has a less rigorous application and will not require you to submit reference letters, however, there are a handful of condos that may ask you to submit references or reference letters. 

hash-markDo All NYC Coops Require Reference Letters?

Generally speaking, yes, almost all co-ops will require you to submit an application along with reference letters. The only exception is If you're purchasing a sponsor unit, in which case you'll likely submit a more condensed application without reference letters. 

hash-mark7 Co-op Reference Letters Tips

1. Start Early and Get up to 10 reference letters

You will be surprised how bad some reference letters can be. As such, you should ensure that you ask your friends and colleagues for your reference letters far in advance. Additionally, it may not be such a bad idea to give your references samples of the type of letter you want them to write. To be on the safe side, you should get more reference letters than you need so that you can pick the best ones to submit with your application. 

2. Use Clear Fonts 

It's essential to use clear fonts that are easily legible when writing a co-op reference letter. Some of the best fonts to consider are Times New Roman and Arial.  

3. When applicable, have your reference use letterhead 

Another way to ensure your co-op reference letters impress the board is to have your references use letterhead. This will make the reference letters look more professional, which can give the board a good impression. 

4. Format Your Letter Correctly

If you don’t recall how to format a letter, then just search for examples on Google to refresh yourself. 

For the subject line, you should write “Re: purchase of apartment 123 at the building address. 

5. “Avoid to Whom it May Concern” 

Under no circumstance should your letter state, “To whom it may concern:” The appropriate way to address a co-op letter should say “Dear Board of Directors” or “The board of directors, “X” corporation.”.

6. Proofread the letter

Again, if you treat this process as a job application, then obviously all your reference letters should be free of typos. 

7. Submit the letters with the board package  

All your letters should be a part of the package and never sent directly to the building so that the letter doesn’t get lost. Additionally, the letter should be flat, not folded, and annexed to all your application materials.