This Year, Consider Going Smoke-free at Your Properties
If you’ve ever rented an apartment before, you’re probably familiar with the smell of cigarette smoke in the air either outside the building or wafting through the halls, the overflowing cigarette butt receptacle, and cigarette butts littering the exterior grounds. Depending on the person, these problems can be tolerable or they can be too intense to ignore, and it’s safe to say that most non-smokers would prefer to live unbothered by the nuisance of cigarettes.
Of course, we’ve known for decades now that secondhand cigarette smoke is more than bothersome – it’s downright bad for you, and that means it’s bad for your tenants, too. Aside from nicotine, the particles of tar in cigarette smoke contain such harmful chemicals as formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, lead, and ammonia. Secondhand smoke is now recognized as a significant contributor to heart disease, one of the leading preventable causes of premature death in the United States.
Let’s make this clear: secondhand smoke isn’t always overt. In fact, if your non-smoking tenants are living next to smoking tenants, they may have already become used to the smell, and they probably don’t even notice it anymore. Still, the lingering particulates left over from cigarette smoke are hazardous to human health, and breathing that air every day as they enter and exit the building – or, even worse, breathing cigarette-polluted air that seeps right into their apartments – is no good for your tenants. Millions of renters are exposed to secondhand smoke via shared ventilation in multifamily housing.
As more rental property owners become aware of the danger of secondhand smoke, it’s become more common to ban smoking on-premises entirely. That means no smoking allowed on the exterior grounds, in the interior shared spaces, and especially in the units themselves, where the smoke can build up and eventually be released en masse when the front door is opened, or get sucked into the building’s duct system and expelled into someone else’s apartment. Don’t bother with expensive air filters or other systems that claim to cleanse your building’s air of cigarette particulates; when it comes to the health of your tenants, a zero-tolerance policy is the best and most ethical solution.
As the property owner, it’s how you go about eliminating smoking is your choice. You will undoubtedly have longtime tenants who resist a smoking ban. Older tenants especially may take offense. They may have been smoking indoors their whole lives, and this will come as a major disruption to their way of life. Remember, nicotine addiction is serious. It’s important to approach this delicate situation with compassion, or else you may quickly find yourself dealing with several vacancies.
Just like with renovations, some landlords opt to gradually phase out smoking. Revise your building’s leasing contract to include a no-smoking mandate. When tenants who smoke eventually decline to renew their lease and move out, incoming tenants will be legally bound not to smoke in their units. You may have to make considerable renovations, since indoor cigarette smoking will discolor walls and appliances, and even leave a film of tar behind.
Other landlords may decide on a hard-and-fast approach, banning immediately and dealing with the blowback as best they can, for the benefit of their non-smoking tenants. In any case, it’s important to inform your tenants of upcoming changes to building operations and policy. When banning smoking, make sure you reach all of your tenants via email and/or phone, and clarify the new rules so there can be no misunderstanding.
Tenant interaction is one of the specialties of experienced, resourceful property managers, and this is no exception. Utopia Management supports all efforts by our property owners to eliminate the risk posed by secondhand smoke in multifamily housing properties, and you can rely on us to not only institute new building rules, but enforce them according to your standards. If your current management doesn’t seem up to the task, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
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