With so many people becoming more aware every day about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, keeping your rental properties smoke-free is no longer just about protecting the property. It is also about protecting the general health and overall well-being of the rest of your tenants. The big question is, “Just how far you can go with regard to banning smoking on in your rental units and your properties?”
While most states fully support your rights to designate your rental properties as smoke-free, you should check with your state and local laws to be sure. The simple fact is that smokers are not considered a practiced class in the way those with specific medical conditions are. Thus, they are not protected by the laws that protect those in such a protected class and as such are, there is nothing in them to stop you from implementing a “No Smoking” policy in your rental properties.
Nip It in the Bud
The best way to ensure your rental properties remain smoke-free is to start right at the beginning when you initially screen potential tenants. Since there are no state or federal laws naming smokers as a protected class, there is nothing stopping you from rejecting any applicant who smokes. In other words, according to the law or lack thereof, there is nothing to stop you from rejecting a tenant simply because you wish to keep your properties 100% smoke-free.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you want your property to remain smoke-free, you must include this fact in the lease. How you handle this, is completely up to you. You can ban it altogether, create designated smoking areas, or stipulate how from the dwelling they have to be before they can light up. You could make it anywhere outside, by the pool, out on the patio, but no matter where you declare to be a designated smoking area, you need to put it clearly in the lease and put up signs.
However, if your current lease does not stipulate the property as a non-smoking area, you cannot stop current tenants from smoking. Your only option is to include it in new leases and wait until each smoking tenant moves out. After this, you can implement your new policy with each new tenant as they come along. In time your rental properties will become completely smoke-free.
What If You Catch Someone Smoking
If you have a no smoking policy in place and you catch one of your tenant’s smoking, you need to notify them of the policy and that they are in violation of their lease. Do this on paper, not an email, not in person, and not on the phone. You need the written documentation in case the situation should escalate to the point where you need to evict them.
Can you legally evict someone just for smoking on your property? If you have a no smoking clause in your lease and the tenant signed it indicating they have full knowledge of what is included in the lease, the answer is yes. This would be treated in a court of law in the same manner as any other violation of the lease and would fully support the eviction. Just be sure you follow the proper procedure by giving your tenant an eviction notice and then filing a notice with your local court.