Smokers, outdoors/indoors, declared and otherwise

7 Replies

I am stunned at the number of smokers that are out there in the rental pool. Right now out of seven units I have four smokers, all of which claim to be 'outdoors' smokers, two of which I discovered subsequent to leasing. They smoke on balconies, decks, etc., and claim never to smoke indoors. I discovered one of these smoked today as I went over with some paperwork that needed to be done. He was out on the balcony smoking with the sliding door open, he said so that he could hear the door as he was expecting me. Smoke had drifted into the unit and you could clearly smell it, disappointing as I had recently spent $12,500 on new carpet, paint, work in the kitchen and bath. The place is pristine! So my question would be to what extent do you think 'outdoor' smokers really are outdoor smokers, and do you think it is realistic to avoid them? I don't let people in who smoke in the unit, but then no one seems to admit that they smoke in the unit. It seems they are all outdoor smokers now. As an aside, I'm in Canada (near Detroit and Toronto). We get a very real winter. I am not sure how religious outdoor smokers will be about staying outdoors in the depths of wintertime.

The things that a lot of renters seem have in common:  Smoking, Pets, Car Payments and  Expensive Cable TV Service.

I will not rent to a smoker unless I am desperate for a tenant.  They will most certainly smoke in your home and lie to your face about it.  Even still, smoking in their car or outside still gets in their clothing, which then infiltrates your home. 

The smell of pets is equally annoying, so we apply a surcharge if the tenant has a dog or cat.  You cant count on having to replace the carpet if they have a dog.

There are many reasons not to rent to smokers. Such as: health hazard, fire hazard, property damage, property litter, and the likelihood of other addictive behaviors taking hold.

There are also many ways to inspect and discover the smoking that is going on inside your unit. We never rented to a smoker who didn't at some point end up smoking in the unit, no matter what they told us. Look for the yellow nicotine on furnace filters. You can pick up the yellow tell tale sign of nicotine on walls and woodwork too, especially around doors and windows. To reveal it, wipe the walls and woodwork, blinds and window glass with disinfectant wipes. Lift up the floor registers and see if there are cigarette butts in the air ducts... we hold a camera in the duct and snap a picture to see what has fallen in there. If the unit has a fireplace, look in the firebox. Look for burn marks on floor coverings, window sills, fireplace mantle and bathroom vanity.

To reduce the smoke smell, wipe down the entire apartment with a vinegar wash and set pans of white vinegar around the place. Expect to replace the carpet and pad. Expect to wash down the walls and woodwork (vinegar wash, tsp, commercial product for smoke removal, etc.), Expect to paint the walls and ceilings with an odor blocker primer and finish coat.

Establish a no-smoking policy and enforce it. Ours carries a $50 fine for each violation of smoking anywhere on the premises, inside or outside. I stayed in a hotel recently and their fee for smoking in the room was $200. I'm thinking of raising mine. Our records indicate it costs us about $2000 extra to redo a two bedroom apartment after smokers have smoked inside the unit.

There are more non-smokers looking for smoke-free properties than smokers looking for smoking lenient properties, except perhaps in a few parts of the country. For some landlords, it can be a niche either way.

There was a previous post here on BP (sorry, I can't remember whose) linking to an article that stated the lower a person's income level, the more likely that they would be a smoker. If you have lower-end properties, you're much more likely to have smoker-applicants. Depending on your area, you may be substantially cutting down your pool of possible tenants. That said . . . 

I don't allow smoking on or in my property. Period. Like Marcia, there's a fine for smoking in the lease, plus I make it clear that doing so breaks the lease & is grounds for eviction. 

Anyone who smokes will eventually "forget" & do it inside. Would you stand outside in 20-degree weather with sleet blowing in your face? 

Mine are all good units, the cheapest I have is $950 and is a nice unit in a good building. My others are $1,100 to $1,199 plus utilities in a market where the big landlords routinely charge $800-850 including utilities. So I am not offering cheap units to low end tenants. It just seems that tenants smoke, that they conceal this during the application process, and that there is nothing you can do once they are in.

The laws in Ontario are extraordinarily tenant friendly and tenants have tenure once they are in. You can't decide to not renew their lease, the lease keeps going as long as they like. You can't kick them out for smoking even if it is a term of the lease that they do not smoke. You can only sue in small claims  for expenses of remediating the property once they have left. I am hoping that the tenants generally keep out of the units when smoking but I have to agree with other posters, I suspect at least some of the time they are indoors. This is quite frustrating.

Interesting conversation going on here guys. I have not had personal experience dealing with this issue in my units. I do know that the laws are very different between US and Canada and even within provinces in Canada. So always research in your area and find out what is applicable. ON, Canada is very very pro-tenants and I believe you cannot discriminate/reject someone because they smoke. That actually may mean that you can’t even add it to the lease? Maybe someone can please confirm that. Familiarizing myself more with the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Act is on my to do list.

I have some friends who have found a niche for this market. These properties are more in the lower socio-economic neighborhoods and as @Kathleen Leary  mentioned there may be correlation between income level and active smokers. Let’s say you have a multi-unit property in one of these neighborhoods, it may be easier for you to find tenants there. Also if everyone in the building is smoking it all great. They will all interact better. And then you also don’t have to clean the unit so a non-smoker can occupy; simply find another tenant that smokes.

Regarding the issue @Stephen E.  is having. That seems to be a challenging one. Could you clean up the unit and then raise the rent so you attract better tenants, who may less likely be smokers?

Simple solution- make your property Smoke Free! Look at the furthest out lease end date and that will determine your properties "Quit Date".

Yes, you may cut out a small portion of your prospect pool and face a week or so of vacancy loss. But think about the money you are going to have to re-invest in that pristine unit you have. Not to mention the cost of turnovers from your non-smoking residents having enough of the four chimneys smoking around their homes.

If you are interested in going Smoke Free at your property feel free to message me and I will help walk you through the process. It is a wise financial move for almost zero cost

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