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Frequently Asked Questions for Property Owners and Managers

Legal Disclaimer: Any legal information provided on this website, including model policy documents, forms and other downloadable materials, does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult an attorney.

1. What is considered a smoke-free apartment?

A smoke-free apartment is one where smoking is not permitted in the unit and adjacent units sharing the same common air handling or HVAC system. This assures that cigarette smoke will not drift from one unit to another.

2. It is illegal for a landlord or owner to designate units smoke-free?

It is legal for a landlord or apartment building owner or manager to designate rental units as smoke-free. Because increasingly renters prefer smoke-free properties, it is also an economic advantage for landlords and owners to market at least some properties as smoke-free. In some cases, residents are willing to pay a premium to rent smoke-free apartments.

3. How does going smoke-free benefit landlords?

Going smoke-free saves you money and helps you meet your legal obligations. Adopting a no-smoking policy helps you:

  • Protect the value of your property and preserve your resale value.
  • Save money on renovations
  • Save money on insurance.
  • Prevent fires.
  • Fulfill your obligation to protect other tenants.
  • It’s good for business.

4. What is the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) position regarding smoke-free dwellings?

HUD strongly encourages Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and all multifamily housing owners/agents to implement smoke-free policies in their properties. On December 5, 2016, HUD published a final rule for each Public Housing Agency to initiate a smoke-free policy. The effective date of the Rule is February 3, 2017, and it provides an 18-month implementation period. All PHAs must have a smoke-free policy in place by July 31, 2018. Learn more >

5. Don’t individuals have a “right” to smoke in their homes if they choose?

There is no legal right to smoke. Smokers are not a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or other federal law.

6. Why aren’t all assisted housing, multi-family and rental apartments smoke-free?

Currently, there is no federal law requiring assisted housing to be smoke-free. The Smoke-Free Environments Law Project notes that as of January, 2011, there are at least 230 federally assisted properties in 27 states that have adopted smoke-free policies.

7. What is the landlord and/or owner’s role in protecting residents from secondhand smoke?

Reasonable accommodations for a resident with a disability made worse by exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke may be required under the Fair Housing Act.

8. Won’t a landlord’s or owner’s insurance protect him/her from liability for residents’ injuries resulting from secondhand smoke?

If a resident is injured or made seriously ill by involuntary exposure to smoke and chooses to take legal action, insurance might not cover that liability, especially if there is a pollution exclusion in the owner’s commercial general liability policy.

9. If I go smoke-free, how can I compete with other landlords?

You are joining a growing number of landlords in many communities and states across the nation who prohibit smoking in public and private rental units—including private sector landlords. Experience also shows that while smokers facing a smoking ban often talk about moving, they usually don’t.

10. Won’t a no-smoking policy be hard to enforce?

Enforcement is a common concern but our experience indicates that no-smoking policies are largely self-enforcing. Because the vast majority of tenants expect and tend to prefer a smoke-free environment, they also tend to abide by a no-smoking policy.

11. What do I say when my tenants argue that smoking marijuana is now legal so they should be able to smoke it in their units?

This is where your definition of “smoke” becomes important. Smoke is smoke and it interferes with the quality of life of your other, non-smoking tenants who share your multi-family housing. You have the same legal right to ban the smoking of marijuana in your units as you do tobacco.

12. Where can I refer tenants for help if they want to quit smoking?

There are a number of resources for smokers wanting to quit. Breathe DC is an organization that can work directly with your residents, staff and guests who are smokers by providing the necessary resources to move individuals on the path toward smoking cessation.

Another resource in District of Columbia is the Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW. This service offers counseling, information, a step-by-step quit-smoking guide, and nicotine gum and patches.

Visit the Tenant Resources page on this site for more information >