Changing Multi-Family to Non-Smoking

6 Replies

One year ago I decided that as tenants left I would transition to non-smoking. All new move-ins sign a no smoking agreement as part of their rental package. We've definitely had some bumps in the road but I'm toying with the idea of going smoke free for existing tenants. I have four buildings. I'm nervous about losing tenants. I do not have a problem providing an outdoor area where smoking could be allowed. Any advice or words of wisdom to share? 

We transitioned a building as well. We had 2 units month to month and gave them 30 days and then began the notices to cease and quit. We had one with an inherited lease and he put up a fight and there was enough there on other things to justify non renewal under NJ's strict anti-eviction law so I waited them out.

Regardless- we did not go smoke free until we got rid of everyone and that was something we needed to do to reposition the property anyway. It is a huge difference and well worth it. I was horrified to see the burn marks in the rugs of one of the tenants who apparently had a drug habit as well.

Our new tenants are clean and awesome- we have through wired smoke and carbon monoxide and when an inspector or potential tenant walks in it is fresh, clean and beautiful. I would never make an outside smoking area- cigarette butts suck and you will only encourage renting to smokers. And no smoker is going to go outside to smoke when they don't want to- they will open a window.

One thing that cigarette and marijuana smokers don't recognize is how horribly they smell of their chosen vice. They think an open window is a cure-all.

I was a smoker and quitting was by far the hardest thing to do- so I am sympathetic, but not in my buildings.


It will help you attract more high quality tenants. Most people favor smoke-free premises over those that allow smoking, so use this in your marketing.

We've had a no-smoking policy for over ten years. That's no smoking anywhere on the premises, inside or outside. We purchased a property in 2005 that had smokers already there. So we gradually transitioned them and they either moved out or stayed with the new rules.

Your local health department might have smoking cessation materials available that you could give to tenants who smoke. Ours does, as well as some other freebies to help you promote smoke-free premises.  

Also, your insurance agent might offer incentives to you too, ask about it.

Many fires have started by smokers tossing burning cigarette butts into flower pots, barkdust and other landscaping material. Outside smoke will travel through open windows and bother tenants. We haven't had any tenant who didn't smoke inside once the weather got bad, no matter what they promised at the start.

Also, people who smoke have a greater likelihood of taking up other addictive habits as well.... drugs, gambling, etc.

Here's a copy of our No-Smoking policy, which has worked well for us:

NO-SMOKING POLICY.Tenant acknowledges the premises are designated as smoke-free and agrees not to smoke and will not allow any of their family or guests to smoke on the premises, either inside the unit or outside on adjoining grounds.Tenant agrees to abide by this no-smoking policy.This includes smoking tobacco, marijuana, any other substance, and vaping. If Tenant smokes or allows others to smoke on the premises, Tenant agrees to pay a penalty fee of fifty dollars ($50) per violation.

I never thought of this as I am rarely around smokers but it makes perfect sense! SMOKE FREE inherently attracts better tenants and is worth the hassle of repositioning if necessary. 

I converted a 4plex to non smoking a few years back when I took over managing it.  I gave everyone a notice in change of terms and a letter explaining.  I gave 90+ days to ease in the transition.  I made the no-smoking policy clear, not allowed anywhere, inside, outside, driveway, walkway, carport, etc...   I had one tenant say thanks that's the push I need to quit smoking.

And yes, your future tenants will appreciate a no-smoking property not to mention your wallet come turn over time!

I definatly recommend going no smoking, no pets if you want to both improve the quality of tenants as well as reduce the cost to maintain your units in rent ready condition at turnover.

It does eliminate some from the tenant pool but keep in mind that is the whole purpose of screening to end up with the best possible tenants. Smokers and pet owners tend to swim in the shallow end.