A property manager in San Diego agreed to pay damages to a tenant to settle a claim over secondhand smoke.
The tenant has a child with a respiratory disability, and the neighboring tenants were heavy smokers. The tenant claims that the secondhand smoke was aggravating her son’s condition and asked to be moved to another unit. According to the tenant, the manager refused the request, and the tenant filed a discrimination complaint.
The property manager has agreed to pay the tenant $5,000 in damages, and another $5,600 in rent forgiveness to settle the claim. In addition, employees must attend fair housing training. The property manager denies any liability.
Although this case involved disability discrimination, a similar result could occur if the tenant did not suffer a disability but became sick from secondhand smoke at the rental property. There have been several jury verdicts in favor of tenants whose landlords allowed smoking in units or in common areas.
Tenants also have been successful in establishing that the landlord failed to provide habitable premises or interfered with tenants’ quiet enjoyment by allowing non-smoking tenants to be exposed to secondhand smoke.
Landlords who allow smoking also experienced an increased risk of fire.
Potential liability is one of the best reasons to adopt a non-smoking policy. Smoke-free units also are easier to restore, may be cheaper to insure, and generate the highest rents and tenant retention.
Because current leases allowing smoking must be grandfathered, a non-smoking policy may need to be implemented in stages. In the long run, however, non-smoking policies will minimize income loss.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is 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.