smoke-free housing

Frequently Asked Questions- Landlords

Q:Will it cost me money if I adopt a smoke-free policy?

A: Actually you could save money with a smoke-free policy. Smoking causes a lot of expensive property damage, from having to spend extra money to clean the apartment of a smoker, to money you might need to spend as a result of a fire. It can cost up to twice as much to fix an apartment that a smoker has lived in. That includes removing tar and nicotine from walls, cabinets, blinds and fixtures, getting the smoke smell out of drapes, carpets, and walls, and repairing any damaged, burned, or singed carpet, tiles, and drapes. It might also make your property more appealing since more and more renters are looking for non-smoking units.

Q: Is a no-smoking policy unfair to smokers?

A: A no-smoking policy is not unfair to smokers. Smoking is something you choose to do and federal law does not consider smokers a protected class. Property owners may use the fact that smoking adds maintenance costs and damages carpets, drapes and paint as a reason to keep someone from smoking in the unit. A smoke-free policy is acceptable if you rent to a smoker, but tell them they can't smoke in the units. Under Utah law, you have the right to tell people not to smoke in the units, building, common areas, and on the premises.

Q: Why are smoke-free apartments legal?

A: Laws and court rulings give nonsmokers the right to be free from exposure to secondhand smoke. There are federal, state, and local laws protecting nonsmokers. In fact, federal and state laws give apartment owners the right to adopt total smoke-free policies. There are a lot of cases involving residents who have sued because they found the secondhand smoke to be a nuisance and couldn't enjoy their homes. In federally subsidized housing, you can't refuse to rent a unit to a smoker, but you can keep them and even guests from smoking in the unit. Advertising "smoke-free" or "no-smoking facilities" is also legal.

Q: Can I adopt a non-smoking rule in HUD-assisted housing?

A: Yes. In looking at federal and state laws, HUD rules, and legal cases, all 50 states allow for a ban on smoking for new tenants who move into public or section 8 housing. You may have to allow tenants who are already living there to continue smoking until their lease comes up for renewal. You can also adopt a no-smoking policy as part of your house rules or lease .Changes to house rules can take effect after you give enough notice to residents. If you wish to change the model lease provided to you by HUD, you will need HUD approval. In May 2012 HUD reissued a Notice that "strongly encourages Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to implement non-smoking policies in some or all their public housing units." In May 2012, HUD published an optional Notice for owners/managers or agents (O/As) of federally subsidized private housing encouraging the adoption of smoke-free policies in some or all of their properties.

Q: Would a smoke-free policy make an angry smoker sue me?

A: It's more likely that you will be sued by a frustrated nonsmoker than a smoker. Courts today usually favor nonsmokers in arguments over smoking. Many legal cases involving multiple-unit housing all over the United States have been won by nonsmoking residents. Under Utah law, secondhand smoke is considered a nuisance in apartments and condominiums. For more information on the Secondhand Smoke Amendments, contact your legal advisor.

Q: Is a smoking ban hard to enforce?

A: Once you put a policy in place, smoking will be so noticeable by other residents that you are likely to hear about it. Enforcing a policy is easier than getting in the middle of issues between smokers and nonsmokers. "No Smoking" signs let everyone know what's expected and decreases the need for management to iron things out. You could probably just use the same enforcement policy you use for other problems that go against the rules such as throwing loud parties, or parking in prohibited areas. If you have a "no-smoking" policy in place and don't enforce it that could get you in trouble too.

Q: Will I lose renters, if I put a smoke-free policy in place?

A: National surveys show renters prefer smoke-free apartments. For example, in a 2003 survey in Washington State, two-thirds of renters preferred smoke-free housing. Seventy-five percent of Michigan renters don't smoke; yet most can't find smoke-free apartments to rent. Surveys also show that most smokers already go outside to smoke. We can show you how to go smoke-free while keeping your tenants who already smoke, happy too.

Q: Where can I advertise my smoke-free property?

A: You can advertise your property on the Utah Smoke-Free Multiple-Unit Housing Statewide Directory. This is a listing of properties that have adopted a smoke-free policy. The list is provided as a free service to property managers, owners, and renters.

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