Smokers make up 16.8 percent of adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. You broaden your potential renter pool if you allow smokers to rent from you, but you have to consider the long-term implications of having smokers in your rental property. Smokers are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, so you have complete control over whether these renters are allowed in your property without discrimination concerns.

Long-Term Property Concerns
When a tenant smokes inside your property, a distinct odor spreads throughout the rental unit. The smell settles into the carpet and the paint. Over time, white paint and other flat surfaces gain a yellow tinge from the smoke residue. Bringing back a smoked-in apartment to pristine condition takes significantly more time and resources than a typical post-tenant cleaning, with repainting and thorough carpet cleaning required, as well as deep cleaning for other porous surfaces of your property.
If your properties have a shared ventilation system between apartments or common spaces, the smoke damage may affect more than the smoker's unit. Secondhand smoke also represents a health hazard for other tenants, who may choose to not renew their leases based on the smoking problem.

Fire Hazards
The National Fire Protection Association found 90,000 fires were caused by smoking materials, such as cigarettes. Tenants who smoke in your properties bring additional fire risk to the table, compared to a non-smoking tenant. People who don't put out cigarettes properly or smoke while drowsy run the risk of starting a fire, which could cause major property damage and loss of life. If you have a smoke detector that's particularly sensitive, the smoker may have disabled it to avoid dealing with the alarm. Smokers may also burn holes in carpet, walls, or other areas of the property due to improperly placed cigarettes.

Turnover Issues
Showing a smoker's property to non-smokers results in many prospective tenants getting turned off by the apartment's smell. Cigarette smoke smell lingers in the apartment, and may sometimes persist even after you repaint and clean the carpet. If the tenant lives in your property long enough, you may need to completely replace the carpet and use specialized paint on the walls. This downtime results in no rental income from that unit while you're waiting on a new tenant, as well as increased cleaning and maintenance costs.

Smoking Compromises
Instead of barring smokers from renting your property, consider compromising with the smokers. Some smoking related compromises include:

  • Only smoking outside
  • Locating smokers' apartments on the top floor of your properties
  • Offering balconies and other private outdoor spaces for smokers
  • Placing smokers in properties without shared ventilation
  • Creating an outdoor smoking area for tenants

If you offer smoking compromises, make sure any accommodations adhere to your local, state, and federal smoking regulations.

Smoking Policy
Create a smoking policy covering your decisions so your tenants know your expectations when it comes to smoking in your property. If you don't allow it, make that clear in your lease and your rental property listings. If you do allow it, define where a tenant can smoke

You may broaden your tenant pool by opening your properties to smokers, but it can take you longer to find tenants after the smokers leave due to secondhand smoke smell. Consider your options and your local market when making your smoking policy decisions. If your city has many smokers within your target demographic, you may need to make smoking compromises. If it doesn't, you have the option to bar smoking tenants entirely.


POSTED October 16 2015 2:45 PM

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