About the Landlord Training Program

Keeping Illegal Activity Out Of Rental Property: A Community-Oriented Property Management Approach

Program Overview


Chronic drug house activity is a major cause of neighborhood decay. Most drug house activity (dealing, manufacturing, or growing) is on rental property. Owner-occupant drug houses are the exception. Law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem -- the number of search warrants issued is a fraction of the number of drug houses suspected. Prevention efforts must include the involvement of those with the greatest leverage to stop the activity at a given location -- the property management community.

The Landlord Training Program was designed to help law enforcement agencies, owners, property managers, and residents keep illegal activity out of rental property. (While designed originally to focus on the issue of drug activity specifically, the program has consistently proved effective in helping to reduce a broader range of rental-based illegal activity.) This community-oriented property management approach was developed originally by John H. Campbell of Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc. for the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau. The program has been developed through a process of intensive research with hundreds of organizations and individuals -- including landlords, management associations, private attorneys, tenant advocates, housing authority personnel, tenant screening companies, narcotics detectives, patrol officers, and many others. Funding for the original program development was provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice.

Work on the project began in July of 1989, with the first training presented in November of that year. Since then, the program has trained more than 17,000 landlords and property managers, impacting over 180,000 rental units in the Portland metropolitan area and thousands more have been trained across the nation -- at last count, for example, the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin had also trained over 10,000 landlords and property managers.

In addition to the Portland program over 550 agencies, from 47 different states as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, have received permission to adapt the program materials -- some of those agencies have been providing programs for years, others are just getting started. In the course of being tailored to other jurisdictions, the program has both evolved and adopted various names, examples: Rental Housing Program, Police/Community Housing Program, Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, Landlord/Tenant Training Program, Partnerships in Property Management, and Enhanced Safety Properties Program. Portions of the program have been adapted into a program in Texas and Georgia known as "Resident Shield" and portions of the program have been adapted by the Institute of Real Estate Management's "Smart Partners Program: Better Properties Through Stronger Communities."

The program has received national recognition as an Innovation in State and Local Government by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. National training tools have been developed by Campbell DeLong Resources through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA Cooperative Agreement No. 94-DD-CX-K014).

Program Content

The training for landlords delivers two important messages: 1) That effective property management can have a major impact on the health of a community, 2) That there are accessible, legitimate techniques which can be used to stop the spread of drug activity on rental property. The training includes:

  • Orientation. The role of the landlord in keeping neighborhoods healthy -- what it takes to build and maintain healthy communities.
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). How the concepts of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) can best be used to prevent illegal activity on rental property.
  • Applicant Screening. How to screen out dishonest applicants, while assuring that honest applicants are encouraged to apply. Approaches that are both legal and fair.
  • Rental Agreements. Approaches that will strengthen the ability to evict tenants involved in drug and other illegal activity.
  • Ongoing Management. How to manage property in a way that discourages illegal behavior and ensures early warning should it occur.
  • Resident Involvement/Community Building. How to strengthen the sense of community in multi-family housing. The benefits for managers and residents in doing so. Discussion of apartment watch and how to work with neighbors.
  • Warning Signs of Drug Activity. The drugs involved. The behavior associated with dealing, distribution, and growing. The indicators of clandestine drug labs.
  • Crisis Resolution. The options, the process, the practical application in various situations where illegal activity is apparent.
  • Working with the Police. What to expect, what not to expect, how to get maximum cooperation. Ways that police can work with cooperative (and uncooperative) landlords, as well as methods landlords and other citizens can use to get the help they need to keep a community livable.
  • Section 8 (Subsidized Housing). The rights and responsibilities are different from the typical private rental situation. The training gives an overview of additional information needed as it applies to preventing drug activity.

Included with the training is a comprehensive manual of the material, complete with applicable laws and references to support organizations.


The impact of the training is a function of the quality of the information and of the number of landlords and property managers who actually absorb it. The critical measure of success is not the degree to which individual landlords enjoy the course, but the degree to which the whole community benefits. To bring about a fundamental shift in approach to property management, we need to have a large number of landlords take the course. We do that by providing a quality training and marketing it well.

A three-tiered marketing approach is used:

  • A letter from the Chief of Police or other public authority: Mailed to owners of residential rental property in targeted areas. The letter discusses the problems involved with having drug problems on rental property, describes the content of the course, and invites landlords to register for a training date. Data indicate the letter has the ability to produce a sign-up rate as high as 20%.
  • Media Exposure: Media exposure for the trainings can result in a large number of initial sign-ups, though not as many as the letter campaign described above.
  • Other sources: Property management associations, property management companies, community development organizations, neighborhood organizations, landlords who are known to have had problems with drug activity or difficulty maintaining property to building maintenance code, and general word of mouth. Data indicate significant numbers of trainees are generated through these channels as well.

Evaluation Summary Example

The following summarizes findings on the value of the training. Unless otherwise noted, data are drawn from two sources:

    1. Questionnaires collected from trainees six months following the training. Questionnaires were mailed to each of the 2,641 "groups" of landlords who attended the trainings (a "group" is one or more people responsible for the same property -- in many cases, a husband and wife). In all, 1,512 questionnaires (56%) were returned. The theoretic reliability of a sample of 1,512 out of a population of 2,641 is ±1.7%, assuming a two-part variable with results evenly split, 95% confidence.
    2. Post training questionnaires collected over four years of training. Questionnaires were distributed to all participants at the end of each training session. Participants were asked to fill in the surveys and hand them in before leaving. In all, 3,335 surveys were filled in, or 85% of the number of groups attending (the 15% variance is due to some trainees not staying till the training ended and others choosing not to fill in a questionnaire). Using the same assumptions as those above, the statistical reliability of 3,335 out of a population of 3,928 is ±0.7%.

Trainee Characteristics

  • The training attracts the full range, from "mom and pops" to large-scale professional managers. Roughly two-thirds manage fewer than 10 units, with most of the remainder managing between 10 and 50 units. Fewer than one in ten are managing more than 50 units.
  • One in four report problems with drug activity in a rental unit in the past two years. In addition, eight percent report suspicions of current problems at the time of training.
  • Most live in the area. Despite the common image of the "out of town" investor, most owners of rental property in live in the area. In one sampling, fewer than 10% of the landlords identified from the tax rolls listed mailing addresses outside the metropolitan area.

Perception of Value

  • 95% or more rate the training as good or excellent on every criterion tested. Given the initial cynicism displayed by attendees, these figures are surprisingly high. Criteria include: helps prevent applicants involved in drug activity from renting property, provides practical information that participants didn't already know, helps landlords deal with drug house situations should they occur, and offers valuable information about methamphetamine lab detection and clean-up.
  • Trainees appreciate prevention techniques most. Over 40% mention screening and prevention tips as the most valued part of the seminar. Significant portions also mention eviction, drug activity warning signs, "everything," and the overall message of empowerment delivered by the training. When asked to list non-valued aspects of the training, nine in ten leave the question blank or insist that "everything was valuable." In contrast, fewer than 15% leave the valued aspects question blank. The remaining comments on non valued aspects are dispersed, with no mentions above 5%.
  • Six months later, perception of value remains strong. 99% of the respondents agree that the training increased their understanding of the role they can play in reducing the impact of drug activity in residential neighborhoods. Over 90% agree that they feel more secure in their ability to screen applicants, more likely to recognize drug activity should it occur, and more confident of their ability to evict tenants involved in such activity should the need arise.


  • Six months later, 91% of trainees report having made changes in the way they manage their properties. Most took multiple steps. Some of those actions include: development of written applicant screening criteria, more thorough maintenance inspections; cutting back shrubs, adding lighting or otherwise improving the visibility of rental units; updating rental forms to match current laws; and trading phone numbers with neighbors.
  • Those who had problems with drug activity used the training to help. The training does more than motivate preventative measures -- it also offers a direct application for solving drug house problems when they arise. As an example, 15% of respondents (221) had to deal with drug activity on their properties in the six months since taking the training; of those, nine in ten (208) used information from the training to address the situation.