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Landlords to get lessons on tenants

In general, landlords don't know when their properties are being overrun by problem tenants

John Campbell is half joking when he talks about expecting to see future generations of kids running around playing landlords and tenants rather than cops and robbers.

Stressed relations between renters and property managers has long been a sour subject for people across the nation. And for several reasons, landlords usually get the reputation of playing the bad guy.

But in reality, Campbell said he's found that for the most part landlords want to do well with their properties. It's just that when they do encounter problem tenants, landlords don't know legally how to handle it.

Campbell, president of Campbell DeLong Resources Inc. in Portland, first designed his landlord training series in 1989. Since then he has trained more than 12,000 landlords and property managers in the Portland area and more than 20,000 people across the country.

He's set to give an eight-hour landlord training program Wednesday, March 19, in cooperation with the Westside Crime Prevention Coalition. More than 80 landlords and property managers in Washington County have signed up for the program, which will begin at 8 a.m. at the Beaverton City Library. The program requires a registration fee of $25. Organizers have put a limit of about 100 participants on the program. For more information, contact Christine Rouches at 503-846-2579.

For the most part, when people see trouble properties - either because of frequent police calls or nuisance issues - they assume the landlord knows what's going on and assume the landlord simply doesn't care.

But the first blinding realization that Campbell found through rental property studies was that for the most part, owners and managers simply aren't aware of the problems on their properties.

'The realization is that a great majority of life safety and livability issues come from a lack of clarity on the part of landlords about what they can and can't do,' Campbell said.

Campbell's training sessions ultimately focus on diplomacy and human relations as well as learning how to recognize problem tenants. He likens his training to starting a neighborhood watch program.

'Not a lot of apartments have a neighborhood watch, because they think they can't,' said Christine Rouches, with the Washington County Sheriff's Office crime prevention administration. 'Training like this opens the door to community thinking.'

This is the second eight-hour landlord training that the Westside Crime Prevention Coalition has provided in Washington County. The coalition had been holding regular bi-monthly landlord sessions to answer questions about changes to tenant laws or to give a basic refresher course. The last session was held in September. Rouches said the upcoming landlord training with Campbell would be used to drum up interest again for the bi-monthly landlord meetings.

Rouches said local police departments saw an increase in communication with local landlords and property managers following the sessions.

Jim Wolf, public information officer with the Tigard Police Department, said the trainings have fostered better working relationships with multi-family rental properties in Tigard.

'People learned how to work with their police departments,' Wolf said.

And Wolf admitted that police found that landlords often were in the dark when it came to police activity in their rental units. Tigard police have started a policy of leaving a 4-by-5 card in front office drop boxes whenever there is a police incident at an apartment complex. And if police begin to see a pattern of problem tenants, officers communicate that with landlords and ask, 'What steps are you taking to reduce this?'

Opening communication between police, landlords and tenants is important, said Rouches and Wolf.

'So many things go on inside apartments,' Rouches said. 'In order to have a nice place to live, landlords need to understand tenant laws.'