Saturday, March 1, 2014

How Property Managers Can Legally Prohibit Smoking in Rental Properties

An owner of rental property including single-family residences and multi-unit apartment buildings can legally prohibit smoking in and around their properties just like they can prohibit pets, too many guests, or too much noise.  In addition to the obvious health related reasons and rationale for eliminating smoking in rental units by reducing or preventing exposure to secondhand smoke, a no-smoking policy can also reduce risks of fire which may lead to reduced insurance premiums for the properties.  Another benefit is that there may be a lower number of turnovers and a lower maintenance load on the building by eliminating smoking on and around the property.  The bottom line is that a property manager, landlord, or property owner all have the legal right to prohibit smoking in and around a rental property and should for all of the properties under ownership or management.

Property Managers Can Prohibit Smoking in Common Areas
Common areas like walkways, hallways, lobby areas, swimming pool areas, spa rooms, and other gathering rooms are all places where a property manager can also prohibit smoking.  A prohibition on smoking in common areas is remarkably similar to other common area rules like restricted hours for pool or spa use, hours for the laundry room, noise restrictions, or a requirement that children must be accompanied by a parent at the common area pool.

Property Managers Can Prohibit Smoking in Individual Units
Similar to restrictions on pets, numbers of guests, excessive noise and the like a property manager or property management company can prohibit smoking in a rental unit.  The restriction would be drafted right into the lease or rental agreement.  A violation of the restriction would be treated just like a non-paying tenant complete with a three-day notice and an eviction proceeding if the tenant was defiant and continued to smoke in violation of the restriction.

If a property manager took over a unit where smoking were permitted and a policy change were desired the property manager can amend the lease or rental agreement to reflect the new policy.  If the tenant were on a 12-month lease then the amendment would take effect at the end of that term.  If the tenant were on a month-to-month agreement then the amendment would take effect after 30 days had passed from the date of notification to the tenant.  In either instance the property manager has the right to amend the lease and restrict the tenant from smoking.

Balconies and Patios Can Also be Off Limits to Smoking
In addition to inside unit restrictions a property manager may restrict smoking on balconies, patios, and any surrounding areas adjacent to a rental unit.  A clear and concise statement in the lease or rental agreement that specifically details a strict no-smoking policy for the rental unit and describes the particular areas where smoking is prohibited must be inserted into the lease or rental agreement.

A Smoke-Free Environment is Legal and Not Discriminatory
It is not a violation of Fair Housing laws to prohibit smoking inside of or around rental units.  In fact, property managers should promote the fact that their properties are smoke-free environments for several reasons.  First, a smoke-free environment will help promote healthy living.  Second, a smoking restriction will help attract potential tenants who are looking to be in a smoke-free environment.  Third, a non-smoking policy will help reduce risks fire and will reduce maintenance costs over time.

Conclusion
Californians have existing protections from exposure to smoke, second-hand smoke and smoking in general in places of employment, restaurants, and recreational facilities, however, there are no state laws restricting smoking at rental units.  Even though the state doesn’t restrict folks from smoking in their rental units property managers can and should require these restrictions.  All parties benefit by a non-smoking policy, even those who smoke as they will find themselves less likely to smoke the more difficult it becomes.