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A Landlord's Guide to Enforcing a No-Smoking Policy

Smoking tenants cost landlords money. Repair and restoration costs add up when the occupant was a smoker. They pose fire hazards and health risks to other residents too.

Landlords can even incur legal liabilities for secondhand smoking exposure in the building. Not only is it legal to go smoke-free, but it is also high in demand. So, what's the process?

Before Enforcing the Policy

  • Assess your situation first. Do you have many occupants who smoke or entertain guests who do? Will you be renovating or constructing a new building? Do you hope to incur the least expenses while implementing the policy?
  • Next, determine the coverage of the policy. (Common areas only or including inside individual units and balconies)
  • Consider asking for the residents' opinion through a survey or informal meeting. This is optional but good to do if you have long-term tenants or have accepted smokers before the ban.
  • Give it time. For tenants at will and those on monthly lease terms, you can give a 30-day notice. For those on longer terms, you can get their consent to add the clause before or after the lease expires. A 60 to 90-day notice should suffice. For new leases, provide a smoke-free lease.

After Enforcing the Policy

  • Once all residents sign the smoke-free addendum in their contracts, you need to set up reminders. Put up no smoking signs in the agreed upon areas. It is best to install cigarette smoke detectors. Some even send email or text notifications for lease breakers.
  • Be patient during the first few months of implementation. Be firm but fair when reminding tenants of the policy.
  • Warnings, penalties, and incentives are all necessary during implementation. State how many warnings they have before they get an eviction notice.
  • Document complaints from neighbors, eyewitnesses, and notifications from cigarette smoke detectors. These are necessary for an eviction lawsuit as it is unlawful to kick out a smoker once caught.
  • In case a smoking resident continues to be troublesome, you can refuse to renew the lease once it expires. Do not accept payments if you won't renew the lease and give enough notice.
  • It is best to start with non-smoking tenants once you decide to have a smoke-free apartment. It is common for smoking tenants to relapse and sneak in a few hits without telling you.

Allowing Smokers After No-Smoking Policy

Some landlords concern themselves over well-paying smoking tenants. They don't have to leave and you can't kick them out if they continue to smoke. Considering the damage they have already done to the unit, they should stay. Unless the neighbors complain, that is. You should be clear when advertising your property as smoke-free. It's either your entire building is a no-smoking zone or only certain areas are smoke-free.

Final Thoughts

Landlords need good-paying tenants that don't damage their property and are good neighbors. The truth is, smoke from cigarettes and cannabis do costly damage to the unit over time. And it's not their unit alone. Smoke gets into other units through balconies, windows, doors, vents, pipes, and insulators.

So go full force with the no-smoking policy. That is unless you want to deal with unit-to-unit damage, legal troubles, and possible fires from smoking.

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