Smoke-Free Apartment and Condominium Guide
This guide is intended to address landlord's and tenant's questions about regulations and laws relative to apartments and condominiums, and how Secondhand Smoke plays a role. For more information about Secondhand Smoke, visit the Secondhand Smoke page.
Shared ventilation systems are a major concern for those living in apartment and condominiums due to these facts:
- Commercial air filtering systems are designed to remove the odor, not the cancer-causing substances.
- Shared ventilation systems can cause tobacco smoke to blow from one room to another.
- Secondhand smoke can seep into and out of open windows and doorways.
- Secondhand smoke lingers in a room long after the smoking has stopped.
The U.S. General's 2006 Report concludes that eliminating smoking indoors fully protects nonsmoker's from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the preeminent U.S. body on ventilation issues, has concluded that ventilation technology cannot be relied on to control health risks from secondhand smoke exposure. At present, the only means of effectively eliminating health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity. For additional information on ventilation issues and research studies visit American for Nonsmokers' Rights.
The right of nonsmokers to be free from exposure to secondhand smoke is protected by both legislation and judicial law. There are federal, state, and local laws protecting nonsmokers. It is perfectly legal for managers and landlords to make rental units smoke-free.
- Smokers are not considered a protected group under anti-discrimination laws.
- Smoking is not considered a "constitutional right," therefore, a building manager or landlord has the right to restrict smoking in the building.
- In federally subsidized housing, one cannot refuse to rent to smoker, but can prohibit smoking in the unit.
- Smoke-free housing is permitted under Utah law.
Benefits of Smoke-Free Units
- Secondhand smoke (SHS) is hazardous to one's health.
- SHS drifting from other units is a problem for many renters and owners.
- There is a market for smoke-free rental units in a wide spread of prices and for various types of renters or buyers.
- Landlords or condominium associations who ignore the issue of smoking, face a growing likelihood of suits by victims of SHS exposure.
- Smoke-free units may have an increased re-sale value.
- Landlords and apartment managers can save money by reducing the damage that smoke causes to units.
- Smoke-free units reduce fire danger, which may also reduce insurance costs.
- Smoking materials is the leading cause of home and total fire deaths in the U.S.
What Can Be Done to Eliminate Drifting Smoke?
The U.S. Surgeon General's 2006 Report concludes that eliminating smoking in indoor places fully protects nonsmoker's from exposure to secondhand smoke. As an owner or manager, there are repairs or changes that may reduce your tenants' exposure to secondhand smoke. These changes will help to reduce the health risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure, but will not eliminate the drift of smoke 100%. These repairs or changes include:
- Fill in openings in floors and walls using tape, foam or caulk.
- Install pads and seals around electrical outlets and switches.
- Waterproof doors and windows with weathering stripping.
- Install fans and increase outside air.
- Ask smokers to restrict smoking.
- Post "No-Smoking" signs in common areas.
Frequently Asked Questions: Landlords
Would a smoke-free policy illegally and unfairly discriminate against smokers?
The right to smoke or not to smoke is not a right that is protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because smokers are not a protected class under federal law. Also, owners may use as a legitimate argument that smoking adds maintenance expenses and damages carpets, drapes and paint. A smoke-free policy is acceptable only if it targets the behavior, not the smoker. That is, you can rent to a smoker, but they are not allowed to smoke in the units. You have the right to restrict smoking in the units, building, common areas, and on the premises.
Would a smoke-free policy instigate a lawsuit from an angry smoker?
You will more likely face a lawsuit from a frustrated nonsmoker than from a smoker. Today's legal climate tends to favor nonsmokers in these kinds of disputes. Many legal cases involving various apartment dwellings throughout the United States have been filed and won by 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.
Would enforcement of a smoking ban be difficult?
Once you implement a policy, smoking will be so noticeable by other residents that you are likely to hear about it. Enforcing a policy is less of a headache that mediating disputes between smoker and nonsmokers without a policy in place. "No Smoking" signs help increase awareness and decrease the need for management intervention. You would use roughly the same enforcement policy you use for other violations of rules such as throwing loud parties, or parking in prohibited areas. If you do have a "no-smoking" policy in place and you do not enforce it, you may be held liable for the consequences.
As a manager/owner, can I tell someone that they can or cannot smoke in their own home?
Most complexes restrict behavior to some degree, whether it involves loud noise or pets. As the manager/owner, you have the right to create reasonable rules for your tenants.
Frequently Asked Questions: Tenants
Are there laws related to smoking in apartment buildings?
Yes. In 1997, the Utah State Legislation passed what is known as the Secondhand Smoke Amendments. These amendments establish that any smoke that drifts into any residential unit a person rents, leases, or owns, is a nuisance under the law. For more information on these amendments visit the Secondhand Smoke Amendments page.
How can I change the smoking policy in my apartment complex?
Residents of apartments and condominiums have been successful in organizing smoke-free policies in their communities. You can work with other residents and your manager or landlord to get a smoke-free policy in your complex. Remember, when you work together with nonsmokers and smokers, you can create policies that work best for everyone. Over time, areas will become smoke-free and residents will be living in a healthy environment.
What can I get my landlord to do to reduce my exposure to secondhand smoke?
The Utah Department of Health, some local health departments and community agencies are addressing issues of secondhand smoke in multiple dwelling units. Suggest to your property manager to contact someone at the state or local level to discuss what options are available to him or her in establishing smoke-free policies.
You may also want to review "Eliminating Drifting Smoke" above.
Signs are an easy and effective way to notify guests or other visitors to premises and facilities about the smoking policy. For more information, click signs below:
- Utah Annual Report
- 2010 Utah Tobacco Facts
- Decreasing Smoking 1% Benefits
- School's Guide to Tobacco Control
Lose My Wife...
The statewide directory is a listing of rental properties that provide smoke-free housing in Utah. This listing is provided as a free service to managers, owners, and renters. Managers or owners who are interested in listing your property, visit the Smoke-free Apartment and Condominium Directory.
For guides, newsletters, and flyers about implementing a Smoke-Free unit environment, check out these resources:
- Protect Your Family Flyer
- Second hand Smoke: A Guide for Residents
- Multi-Unit Housing guide to increasing revenue by adopting smoke-free policies.
Key elements of a smoke-free lease are: the unit should be defined as smoke-free, the owners or managers of the units are responsible for enforcing the ban on smoking, and to post signs accordingly.