How to Prevent the Landlord Lid From Stunting Growth


A rental community is dramatically affected by the Landlord Lid, often times without owners knowing it. What is the Landlord Lid?

1. A phenomenon that seems to limit a tenant’s civic involvement, which is essential to preventing neighborhood decline.

2. A weight that caps a property’s appraisal value.

3. The most influential mechanism for creating positive change in a rental community.

4. All of the above.

As you’ve probably guessed, the answer is 4. The Landlord Lid is a term inspired from Dr. John Maxwell’s Law of the Lid. It describes how, in communities where renters outnumber home owners, a neighborhood gets better when its landlords get better. In other words, the landlords act as a thermostat that can heat up or cool down the area’s desirability.

Answer 1 suggests neighborhood decline is closely associated with resident apathy. Residents, who happen to be tenants, typically follow their landlord’s cues. It may be obvious, but civically uninvolved landlords set the stage for neighborhood decline. The goal is to grow wealth, not stunt it. So take action.

Answer 2 points out that you could do a remodel to top all remodels, but an appraiser won’t give you all the credit you deserve if there’s blight and crime outside your door. I’d argue that working with neighbors to fix up you block may be the most cost effective and equity-boosting move you can make. Blight stunts wealth growth, but it’s easily repaired.

Answer 3 gets at the heart the matter. If a community is mostly comprised of rentals, which is typical in lower income neighborhoods, then the effect of the Landlord Lid is dominant. Tenants may engage when crime become intolerable, but their fear-driven efforts aren’t sustainable.

Driving improvements from a self-interest (profit) standpoint is sustainable and that’s why owners should lead neighborhood revivals. It just takes one fanatic landlord to appeal to the self interest of other landlords and insist on higher standards. This sets a trajectory where more residents, including tenants, get involved and demand a clean and safe neighborhood for themselves.

Simple Steps Lift the Lid

Celebrate National Night Out on your block. On the first Tuesday in August, your group will join hundreds of thousands of neighbors meeting neighbors nationwide.

Keep your property relentlessly litter free, then pick up in front of the neighbor’s place as well. Make neighbors-caring-for-neighbors fashionable.

Collect the emails and phone numbers of neighboring landlords and property owners. Find something positive to collaborate on like a block party or landscape project.

Donate cash to events that lift the lid. If you’re short on time, find someone who’s doing the work, but short on money.

Don’t limit your equity growth. Lift the lid!

Al Williamson, a professional civil engineer, is passionate about creating surprisingly beautiful affordable housing. His blog, Leading Landlord, discusses innovative ways landlords can create new income streams, reduce operating expenses, and deliberately build equity. Read more about how to be a landlord that does well in the inner city. Also, discover innovative income streams for landlords at

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