Recent renter surveys prove that the demand for smoke-free rentals is outpacing the supply.
One poll, taken by Ipsos Reid in November, 2011 on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society, showed that 67 per cent of Ontarians believe that all apartments, condos and co-ops in the province should be 100 per cent smokefree. Among young adults aged 18-34, this number rises to 83 per cent.
“Ipsos Reid also conducted polling in November, 2010, showing that four in five Ontarians living in apartments, condominiums or housing co-ops want to live in a smoke-free building, all other things being equal,” said Pippa Beck, chair of Smoke-Free Housing Ontario and policy analyst for the Smoking and Health Action Foundation. “In Ontario, no-smoking policies are legal and enforceable in all multi-unit dwellings. However, despite this fact and significant demand, the supply of smoke-free housing in Ontario remains disproportionately low.”
Between January and February 2008, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. & Yukon commissioned BC Stats to conduct a survey of 1,000 British Columbians living in apartments and condominiums about their experiences with second-hand smoke.
That survey found that while most in British Columbia are protected from exposure to second-hand smoke at work and in public places, more than 200,000 residents of apartments and condominiums were being exposed to unwanted smoke infiltrating their homes. This signaled an alarming trend given that the majority of British Columbians–85 per cent, are non-smokers and that multi-unit households make up 38 per cent of all residences in BC.
The B.C. survey also highlights that while one-third of apartment and condominium dwellers are exposed to unwanted second-hand smoke from their neighbours, the majority don’t complain about it. Yet;, each year, between 50,000 to 100,000 of British Columbia renters may move because of problems with second-hand smoke.
The most common sources of second-hand smoke are from neighbouring units and outside balconies.
Given these statistics, adopting a no-smoking policy can provide landlords with a unique marketing advantage in British Columbia, where there are few available smoke-free buildings for those who want and need to live smoke-free.
In 2006, Manitoba’s largest landlord, Globe General Agencies, recognized a similar untapped marketing opportunity and implemented a no-smoking policy for all new tenancies in their apartment buildings in Manitoba, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Montreal. They found it was easy to do, reduced costs, and their turnover rates have dropped.
“No-smoking policies in multi-unit dwellings are a win-win: cleaner, healthier indoor air for all residents and a healthier bottom line for owners and managers in terms of less cleaning and maintenance,” according to Joanne Di Nardo, senior manager, public issues for the Canadian Cancer Society.
While demand for smoke-free housing options continues to far exceed the supply in Ontario, housing providers there are beginning to respond. A number of examples demonstrate that no-smoking policies can be successfully implemented and enforced. One such example is Artscape Wychwood Barns in Toronto which opened as a 100 per cent smoke-free building in 2008. Also, currently in development in Ottawa is Domicile One3One, the city’s first smoke-free condominium, scheduled to open in 2012.
Involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke occurs in any type of residence with shared walls, hallways or ventilation. Residents in multi-unit dwellings can be exposed to dangerous levels of tobacco smoke through cracks in fixtures, electrical outlets, pipes, vents and baseboards, as well as through shared ventilation systems and windows.
Landlords considering a nonsmoking policy may have questions regarding whether such a policy is enforceable, particularly, whether they can evict a tenant for smoking. In British Columbia, Smoke-Free Housing BC offers assurance that landlords there can evict a tenant who violates a no-smoking clause written into the tenancy agreement or lease, as long as they first provide the tenant notice regarding the smoking complaint, and allow a reasonable time for the tenant to stop smoking in the property before serving notice of the eviction.
Unlike other jurisdictions, smoking in violation of a no-smoking policy is not considered a material breach of the lease in Ontario. Smoke-Free Housing Ontario suggests that landlords there will need to enforce the policy citing breach of reasonable enjoyment, substantial interference with another lawful right, privilege or interest of the landlord, damage, safety, or so on. Other landlords have done this successfully, according to SFHO. However, an individual landlord’s success before the Landlord and Tenant Board will rely on a number of factors, including the weight of the evidence produced by the landlord.
Still, a nonsmoking policy may be easier than mediating disputes between smoking and nonsmoking tenants, and may reduce a landlord’s overall costs.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.