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As more people become aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke, keeping your property smoke-free is more than just controlling a nuisance—it’s protecting the health and well-being of other tenants and neighbors.
But how far can landlords go to control smoking on their rental property?
Most states support a landlord’s right to designate his or her rental property as smoke-free. Smokers are not a protected legal class and smoking is not a right, so most of the laws don’t stop a landlord from implementing regulations and restrictions about smoking.
Screening Smokers During the Application Process
Because smokers are not a protected class under federal or state law, as a landlord you can refuse to rent to smokers. In other words, you can reject an application if you are told that the applicant intends to smoke in your rental property.
So, if you are interested in keeping your rental property 100% smoke-free, it is not illegal for you to refuse smoking tenants. It is your right and responsibility to set up and maintain your property the way you want, as long as it is legal.
We Discuss Smoking In Rentals On Our Podcast
This is an old (but good) podcast when was called “Landlord University” we’ve since changed the name to “RentPrep For Landlords.”
Listen in as Steve White and former co-host Jeff Pearson discuss smokers rights when it comes to rental properties.
You can subscribe to our podcast to stay up to date on all the latest news pertinent to a landlord or property manager.
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Address Smoking During Tenant Screening Process
Smokers are not a protected class. This means that during the tenant screening process you’re allowed to screen out applicants based on your smoking policy.
Consider including your smoking policy in your rental listings and rental criteria.
This won’t weed out every smoker but it will encourage many to not apply. Some landlords institute heavy fines for smoking damage and that known in their screening to discourage renters who smoke.
No Smoking Clause in Lease Agreement
As long as the smoking restrictions are included in the lease agreement, most states will back up the landlord’s rights to create a smoke-free environment at the rental property. Generally, you can establish the conditions on where and if a tenant can smoke. The strictness of the restrictions is up to you.
Some landlords establish a smoking area somewhere on the property, such as outside at least 10 feet from the rental house, or in a certain area by the outdoor pool. Or, you can prohibit smoking on the entire property. However, you do this, the lease agreement must clearly state the conditions so that they can be enforced.
If the current lease agreement does not include language that prohibits smoking, you cannot force a tenant to stop smoking at the property. You will need to add an addendum to the lease to address smoking in the rental property.
Smoke-Free Trends in Rental Properties
Nowadays, it may mean better business, in the long run, to keep smokers out of your rental property. Smoking tenants increase the likelihood of damage to the unit—burn and scorch marks, odor removal services and even fires.
Landlords are also the target of an increasing number of lawsuits by non-smoking tenants who are affected by secondhand smoke and claiming that landlords either don’t enforce a no smoking policy or don’t have a good enough ventilation system to take care of smoke. You can avoid this altogether when your property is smoke-free.
Is it OK to Evict a Smoker?
If the lease agreement clearly outlines the smoking restrictions and your tenant is in violation, you can start the process of eviction. It proceeds the same way any lease violation does—with an official notice to comply or quit, then filing the notice with the local court system.
Do YOU ban smoking in your rental property? Let me know in the comments below!