Landlords across the country have new incentive to go smoke-free: the nation’s public housing watchdog is doing it.
HUD has proposed a new rule that would require more than 3,100 public housing agencies to ban smoking, and not just in common areas or outside buildings. This smoking ban will apply to individual apartment units as well. The rule will impact more than 940,000 units that are currently not smoke-free, including more than 500,000 units inhabited by elderly households.
The ban would prohibit tenants from lighting up in private units, common areas, administrative offices, and outdoor areas within 25 feet of buildings.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy has been vocal about what he sees as a health crisis caused by exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke. According to Murthy, 58 million Americans, including 15 million children, are currently exposed to secondhand smoke. This exposure is known to cause severe health issues.
In addition to the health problems, apartment units housing smokers are more difficult to turn, and smoking increases the risk of an apartment fire.
In fact, according to government reports, cigarette smoking causes over 100,000 fires each year, resulting in more than 500 death and close to half a billion dollars in direct property damage. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths in multifamily buildings.
HUD Secretary Julián Castro says that the proposed rule will protect nearly 750,000 children, and also save public housing agencies an estimated $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires. The change also is expected to reduce property damage and maintenance costs.
HUD will seek public comment on this proposed rule for 60 days.
Many public housing providers and private landlords already have gone smoke-free. These property managers report fewer tenant complaints, greater ease in marketing and filling vacancies with quality tenants, as well as lower unit turnover costs.
However, some landlords still are holding out, perhaps for fear that rejecting tenants who smoke is discriminatory. HUD’s aggressive move proves that not only is a comprehensive smoking ban legal, but it’s becoming the norm.
A smoking ban is a wise business decision for landlords.
The process of converting a building to no-smoking can take time, so it’s important to get the process rolling. A good first step is to survey current tenants to see how they feel about a rule change. This will give you a sense of how difficult — or easy — it may be to implement a new, no-smoking policy. It’s likely that a majority of tenants will favor the decision.
A smoking ban must be included in the lease terms if it is to be enforceable. Units currently rented to smokers may have to be ‘grandfathered’ until the end of the lease term, or until the resident agrees to the modification. Don’t be shy to ask for consent. Some will agree.
Once you’ve implementing the smoking ban, it’s also a good idea to take advantage of free advertising offered for smoke-free units. Several nonprofit “tobacco-free” nonprofit websites provide this service, along with sample smoke-free lease provisions and other tips for landlords.
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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.