As more people become aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke, keeping your property smoke-free is more than just controlling a nuisance—it’s protecting the health and well-being of other tenants and neighbors.
But how far can landlords go to control smoking on their rental property?
Most states support a landlord’s right to designate his or her rental property as smoke-free. Smokers are not a protected legal class and smoking is not a right, so most of the laws don’t stop a landlord from implementing regulations and restrictions about smoking.

Screening Smokers During the Application Process

Because smokers are not a protected class under federal or state law, as a landlord you can refuse to rent to smokers. In other words, you can reject an application if you are told that the applicant intends to smoke in your rental property.
So, if you are interested in keeping your rental property 100% smoke-free, it is not illegal for you to refuse smoking tenants. It is your right and responsibility to set up and maintain your property the way you want, as long as it is legal.

We Discuss Smoking In Rentals On Our Podcast

This is an old (but good) podcast when was called “Landlord University” we’ve since changed the name to “RentPrep For Landlords.”
Listen in as Steve White and former co-host Jeff Pearson discuss smokers rights when it comes to rental properties.

You can subscribe to our podcast to stay up to date on all the latest news pertinent to a landlord or property manager.
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New episodes publish every Thursday morning.

Address Smoking During Tenant Screening Process

Smokers are not a protected class. This means that during the tenant screening process you’re allowed to screen out applicants based on your smoking policy.
Consider including your smoking policy in your rental listings and rental criteria.
This won’t weed out every smoker but it will encourage many to not apply. Some landlords institute heavy fines for smoking damage and that known in their screening to discourage renters who smoke.

No Smoking Clause in Lease Agreement

As long as the smoking restrictions are included in the lease agreement, most states will back up the landlord’s rights to create a smoke-free environment at the rental property. Generally, you can establish the conditions on where and if a tenant can smoke. The strictness of the restrictions is up to you.
Some landlords establish a smoking area somewhere on the property, such as outside at least 10 feet from the rental house, or in a certain area by the outdoor pool. Or, you can prohibit smoking on the entire property. However, you do this, the lease agreement must clearly state the conditions so that they can be enforced.
If the current lease agreement does not include language that prohibits smoking, you cannot force a tenant to stop smoking at the property. You will need to add an addendum to the lease to address smoking in the rental property.

Smoke-Free Trends in Rental Properties

Nowadays, it may mean better business, in the long run, to keep smokers out of your rental property. Smoking tenants increase the likelihood of damage to the unit—burn and scorch marks, odor removal services and even fires.
Landlords are also the target of an increasing number of lawsuits by non-smoking tenants who are affected by secondhand smoke and claiming that landlords either don’t enforce a no smoking policy or don’t have a good enough ventilation system to take care of smoke. You can avoid this altogether when your property is smoke-free.

Is it OK to Evict a Smoker?

If the lease agreement clearly outlines the smoking restrictions and your tenant is in violation, you can start the process of eviction. It proceeds the same way any lease violation does—with an official notice to comply or quit, then filing the notice with the local court system.
Do YOU ban smoking in your rental property? Let me know in the comments below!

18 Comments

  1. In Texas you can ban smoking in a rental home. Keep in mind smokers are not in a protected class. As a real estate agent I have seen the damages to a home caused by smoking. The expense of repainting, replacing carpet and removing the smell can be very costly.

    • Thankfully smokers are not a protected class! And I agree that the damages can add up quickly, especially trying to get the smell out when your new tenant or owner is a non-smoker and can sniff it out like a blood hound. I say keep the smoking outside for sure.

  2. I have a no smoking rooming house, I screened tenants they were non smokers untill after they moved in. then they started smoking out side in designated area then got as they stated, ” too lazy to go outside to smoke” so they smoke inside. i am allergic to smoke and due to the arrangement of windows I need to pretty much never open my window because their smoke comes in through my windows. I have reminded asked, and even nagged them to go outside they what are you going to do about it? Ii know i can evict them and that it will cost me 1000.00s of dollars to do so. An ideas or remedies I have not come up with yet. please feel free to offer advice.

  3. Elliemae, sorry to hear about your struggles. Sometimes the answer is a lot easier than the road you’ll travel to get there. You already understand this since you mentioned the cost of the eviction.
    Before I give my advice on what to do, I want to make a comparison to another struggle landlords deal with- late rent payments.
    The tenant that is allowed to pay late once, without any recourse or late fees, will almost certainly pay late habitually. Why? Because they know now what they can get away with. Give a tenant an inch and they’ll take a mile.
    Much in the same way, if you don’t deal with the smoking problem professionally, fairly and consistently, your tenants will continue to break the rules.
    Asking and reminding is nice, but when that fails you can’t resort to nagging because it shows weakness. You’re giving them that inch to take.
    A landlord that commands respect for the rules should handle the situation as follows –
    1. Issue WRITTEN notice every time you communicate about breaking the rules. This will do two things, give you the documentation you’ll need to prove they’ve been notified the lease has been broken, and let them know you’re serious about it.
    2. Set your rule and stick to it! If you tell them after 3 notices are given their lease will be terminated, you have to follow through.
    Now if they choose to not respect the lease and continue to smoke you have to get rid of them. If for no other reason than your own health! Once you’ve made that decision there is one more thing you can do to avoid the eviction – cash for keys. Here is more info on that if you’re interested http://rentprep.com/collecting-rent/cash-for-keys-program-pay-renters-leave/
    I also emailed you a free No Smoking Notice that we sell as part of our Form Bundle to help you out 🙂
    Let me know how it goes.

  4. Tara, you’ll need to be sure you’re using written notices to inform the tenants of the no-smoking policy.
    If that policy is broken continuously, you should document each subsequent attempt to give notice. A judge will want to see that the proper steps have been taken before the eviction is approved.
    So yes, you can legally evict on a month to month lease. You say “there is no lease in force” however this is not true. Once a lease goes month to month the original lease terms are carried over.
    Now.. since the lease is month to month, my advice would be to give 60 days notice to vacate and avoid the eviction all together. Month to month for the tenant means that they can be given 30 days notice (or 60 days depending on your state) to vacate the property.

  5. I’m sure texting could be considered written notice, but I’d still recommend a printed notice. Why chance it with your local courts if it ever came to that.
    And Tara.. you HAVE to put every occupant on the lease. 2 years is way too long to update a lease when the occupancy changes. So I would have her sign a new lease immediately. That would be a perfect time to review your no-smoking policy and lay out your expectations very clearly.
    Let me know how it goes.

  6. Not sure I’d believe everything you see on the web Christopher. Any non-smoker who’s been in a room or bar filled with smoke would argue that second hand smoke absolutely affects you. In fact, I just went to friends house recently and someone was smoking one of those ridiculous vape pens. The plumes of white smoke, or vapor as it was argued, absolutely made several people, including myself, sick from breathing it in.
    Sounds like propaganda for smokers that there’s no such thing as second hand smoke. Kinda like there’s no such thing as global warming or the Holocaust never happened.

  7. My landlord just sent me a text saying that if we don’t stop smoking he’s going to terminate our lease. But I’ve looked over my lease numerous of times and have not seen anything about not smoking in or on the premesis.

    • Ask the landlord about it. Good communication on your part will be required considering the landlord has potentially failed at that. Mention there is no language in the lease, obviously you should be notified of any no-smoking policies.

  8. can the landlord ban certain smokers and certain apartments from not being allowed to smoke but allow all others to smoke?

  9. I signed a 1 year lease for a basement rental in a three story home. We have a new roommate moving in on the top floor where my landlord also resides. The landlord wants us all to sign a new lease when the new roommate comes in the middle of July. My landlord has also accused me of smoking marijuana in the home even though I’ve insisted that i don’t. He will actually catch me when i go to the common areas and talk my ear off about it (about 15 mins). The current lease says nothing about smoking being prohibited or even the word smoking in the lease but He has even mentioned how the new lease we will sign will have updated terms to no smoking. I said i would sign the new lease (verbally not in written words) but at this point i am nervous he will try to use that against me to evict me. This is in DC so marijuana is decriminalized and not illegal. I am frustrated because i am not smoking but he is pretty much harassing me if i had been to the point where I might just do it. Do i need to sign the new lease? Can i be in trouble if i do smoke in the home even though there is no mention of it being prohibited in the current lease

  10. I’m not a smoker and I hate smoke. But even this is preposterous to me. It’s like saying “no painters are allowed to live here? Got canvas? Got paint? You might drip paint on the floor” even though the lease clearly states one is responsible for the damages they cause. Plain and simple. I feels almost teetering on the edge of discrimination, whether smokers are a protected class or not. Whether or not smoking leaves behind harmful chemicals that are hazardous to tenants that move in afterward, even after the property is cleaned as it should be is just as debatable as to whether or not regular chemical-based household cleaning products could be hazardous to a new family moving in with a small child, or using wheat flour in the kitchen is to a newly-moved-in celiac or wheat allergy sufferer. This is ridiculous and crosses a major privacy line. Especially to indicate that they cannot even smoke within a few feet of the home when passers by walking down the street just feet from the front door certainly can.

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