No Smoking Policies: Tips for Rental Property Owners

no smoking symbolThere are many advantages to adopting a no-smoking policy for your apartment buildings, including:

  • Reduced danger of fires from lit cigarettes
  • Reduced painting, carpet cleaning, and other maintenance expenses
  • Reduced complaints on building and smoke odors
  • Increased appeal to potential tenants

In a recent Minnesota survey, 47 percent of current renters were “very” or “extremely interested” in living in smoke-free buildings.

Is such a policy legal?

Property owners have the right to ban certain behaviors on their property to preserve its value and to protect tenants. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office have upheld the right of landlords to include “no use of tobacco” clauses in their leases.

Adopting a no-smoking policy

Making the transition to no-smoking policies works best with some planning.

  • Create a timetable for conversion to the new no-smoking policy.
  • Inform current tenants of the plan and timetable for the new policy.
  • Inform prospective tenants of the no-smoking policy.
  • Acknowledge the no-smoking policy in leases or month-to-month agreements.
  • Post appropriate “No Smoking” signage.
  • Develop a protocol to follow if there are violations or complaints of violations.

Do partial measures work?

Apartment interconnections are diffuse and difficult to seal. Air-sealing and ventilation modifications cannot completely eliminate the transfer of smoke between apartments. In some situations, closing off large openings and upgrading to continuous ventilation that is balanced between units can produce improvement in reducing smoke transfer.

A model policy

Basic policy language:
Due to the increased risk of fire, and the known health effects of secondhand tobacco smoke, smoking is prohibited in any area of the property, both private and common, whether enclosed or outdoors. The policy applies to all owners, tenants, guests, and servicepersons.

Smoking:
The term “smoking” means inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, or other tobacco product in any manner or in any form.

Tenant acknowledgment:
I hereby acknowledge the above smoking policy as part of the lease or month-to-month agreement. I agree that I will not smoke in the areas of the property listed below. In addition, I will be responsible for enforcing this policy with all of my visitors, guests, and relatives who visit the premises. If I fail to abide by this policy, I agree to move within 30 days.

Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is harmful to everyone but especially to infants and young children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to get ear infections, bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia. Environmental tobacco smoke has also been linked to emphysema, strokes, and lung cancer in adults.

Resource

The following organization can provide assistance in planning and implementing a no-smoking policy in rental housing:

Reprinted with permission from the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department.