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Should Your Income Property Be Smoke-Free?

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Smoking in income property


Owning income property certainly has its share of challenges, not the least of which is trying to clean up one of your apartments after a smoker moves out.  If you’ve ever rented to a smoker (and if you’ve been renting a property for any length of time, I’m sure you have), you know that the built-up smoke stench can be overwhelming.  This, of course, can hinder your ability to find decent tenants to move in.

Yes, you can clean up the apartment and eliminate the smell, but this can be costly because many times it’ll require that you install new carpets, replace the mini-blinds, and repaint the unit.  So all told, you’d probably be looking at a minimum of $1,000 to eliminate the smoke remnants from a long-term tenant.

Of course, this begs the question: is it worth it to allow a smoker to move in?  Well, it is difficult to give you any landlord advice in this regard because the answer will depend on your own unique situation, but one thing worth noting is that you are “allowed to disallow” smoking in the unit.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but this is not considered discrimination because you as the property owner have the right to set the rules – including those around noise, pets in apartments, and you guessed it, smoking.

If you do want to mandate an anti-smoking policy, you’ll want to formalize it in writing, and communicate it early and often.  You might even want to affix small “no smoking” plates or signs near apartment entrances.  Also, make sure that you inform new applicants and prospective new tenants of your policy before taking any next steps, as this policy could be a deal breaker for heavy smokers and if so you’ll want to know this before doing any tenant verification.  Also remember that your anti-smoking policy, if you choose to have one, should extend to common areas as well.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to post “no smoking” signs in laundry areas, lobbies, and other common areas.

The bottom line is that only you can decide whether or not to allow smoking in your rental properties.  If you have qualified renters coming out the wazoo, then it would be wise to prohibit smoking.  On the other hand, if good renters are few-and-far-between in your area, then it might be wise to accept any qualified renters you come across – even smokers.  Just remember that if you do have an anti-smoking policy, communicate it early and often, post signs, and write in into the leases.  Good luck!

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