Is it discrimination to enforce a smoke free rental? Absolutely not!
A smoke free rental policy is one of the quickest and easiest ways to shore up your investment potential. But, before we get into that, let’s dispel a myth: the common belief that landlords can’t create smoke free rentals due to discrimination.
Given the broad scope of discrimination laws, it’s no wonder that many landlords are a bit leary of changing their tenant selection policies by implementing a smoke free rental community. But, cigarette smokers are NOT protected by discrimination laws, or any other laws for that matter.
It is a well-settled precedent that there is no constitutional right to smoke, nor are smokers protected under the Fair Housing Act or other discrimination laws. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency that oversees enforcement of the federal discrimination laws, has adopted a policy encouraging smoke free rentals. Courts have decided that smokers’ rights are not unfairly restricted by smoke-free housing because no one is saying they have to quit; they just have to avoid subjecting other people to their secondhand smoke.
There is one catch: If smoking is not prohibited in your lease now, then your current tenants who smoke are probably entitled to a grace period until the end of their existing lease terms. All new leases — and renewals — can be subject to the smoking ban.
And, that brings us to… Why you need to go towards smoke free rentals:
Reason #1: Tenants Seek Out Smoke Free Rentals
The number one reason for a smoke free rental policy is that it’s what tenants want. Surveys show that as many as 90% of renters would prefer to live in a smoke free community buildings, and between 32% and 58% of tenants say they’d actually pay higher rent just to score a smoke free rental. So many tenants want nonsmoking units that the demand greatly outpaces the current supply.
If you want to attract the best tenants, then you need to implement a smoking ban.
Reason #1: Smoke Free Rentals Cut Rental Costs
Smoke free rentals are far easier to maintain. The costs of turning a unit after a smoker moves out are off the charts. Even after doing the vinegar thing — wiping down the walls and blinds, counters and appliances, window sills, carpets, draperies, furniture — it still can take weeks to get rid of the smelly residue left behind. In the meantime, new tenants are turning up their noses and asking to see a different unit.
Reason #3: Landlords Liable for Secondhand Smoke Illnesses
Property owners who allow smoking face serious liabilities. Possible legal claims over secondhand smoke include negligence, trespass, breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, nuisance, and violation of the warranty of habitability. If the exposure to secondhand smoke forces a tenant to move, they may have a claim for constructive eviction, rent abatement, or termination of the lease.
Tenants with disabilities can bring actions for aggravation of a medical condition, and landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodation to eliminate the exposure to secondhand smoke. Often, the only realistic way to do that is by banning cigarette smoking throughout the property.
Individual court awards for secondhand-smoke related illnesses have climbed into the millions, and juries have shown no hesitation in finding property owners liable for paying those judgements.
The risk of fire is far greater in buildings where residents are allowed to smoke. Nearly 1,000 people in the U.S. die each year in fires caused by cigarettes, many of those in rental properties. Property damage claims are extensive, as are the costs of relocating tenants from buildings where fires have occurred.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the advantages of a smoke-free rental policy. Other savings include the ability to score free advertising on Smoke-Free Housing websites, like smokefreerental.com. Some insurance carriers may be willing to look at prime rates for non-smoking buildings. Besides, what are you going to do when the laws change in your area and you are forced to go smoke-free anyway?
Smoke free rentals are a win-win. You’d be foolish to wait any longer.
Not sure how to implement a smoking ban? Check back with us and we’ll take you through it step-by-step.