Inherited Lease - No Rules on Smoking (Milwaukee, WI)

9 Replies

My property here in Milwaukee has an interesting situation. I inherited two tenants living downstairs who have been smoking in the unit. The smell is totally overwhelming even with the HVAC upgrades. I re-read the lease they are presently under and discovered they lease does not have direct language saying they cannot smoke but labels smoking as a form of damage that would affect repairs. The tenants have now said they will not sign a new lease and will not sign a provision to their existing lease. Not sure how to handle this one.

Once you establish well defined house rules , you need to be prepared to enforce them. If you want”no smoking” in your units, give them the option of signing a new lease with these stipulations  or they can move out .

Get the unit cleaned and then get your new tenants screened and in place. I think you will be better off in the long run . Best of luck


If you think you can fill the unit easily, kick them out and fill it.  If it's going to be tough to fill, ask for an increased security deposit and use that for the damage caused by smoking when they move out.

@Nathan Regina where's the property located? Based on that and how nice the place is, the potential ARV, and what you are charging/expect to charge for rent will determine my advice.

Not saying this happened to you, but all too often I see people overpay for a property, usually in a rough area, because cash flow numbers look good on paper. They close and realize the tenants are nightmares (don’t take care of the place, smoke, don’t pay rent, fight with each other, etc) and think you can just swap them out for a better model. So they kick out their tenants that were bringing in money, albeit with a headache, rehab the place and try to up rent. Now they end up with a place that they are over invested in and they need a rent amount which quality tenants in that area can’t afford. If the quality tenant could afford that, they’d move to a different area. 

Unfortunately smoking tends to be a product of “working class”, “poor”, or the C/D areas people think they get cash flow in. You can PM if you want to talk more.








@Nathan Regina the "damage" is already done. And asking tenants to spot smoking is just not realistic - talk to anyone who tried quitting. 

Adam describes the typical cycle perfectly, I have seen it play out many times. At this point probably easier to go witht the flow.

If you decide to swap them out for non smokers I have a tip for you to get rid of the smoke smell. We have been using an ozone generator for years and literrally oxidizes all sorts of smells including smoke. If you don't want to buy one I know a place that will complete the treatment for $300. 

@Marcus Auerbach thanks! I would appreciate the referral since I doubt this will be my only run in with this. Previous landlord was very hands off with the property and it’s been uphill with these two but we’ll find someone better, the place is still nice.

@Adam Gollatz thanks I will PM you. I have a close mentor who is also a landlord and agent so he made sure we didn’t overpay and we purchased this property so the downstairs unit would rent for 1% of the mortgage which we did. The units are really nice now but these tenants have been an issue.