“As we turned over units, we posted a sign saying it was non-smoking.” *

How do I develop a no-smoking policy?

Local landlords who have no-smoking rules tell us it can be as simple as a handshake, but it's a good idea to write your rule into the rental agreement. You can write it in under "other rules" or use one of the following no-smoking lease addendums:

Here are some guidelines for what to include in your policy, when to adopt your policy, how to get tenant input, and special considerations for HUD-Assisted housing.

What to include in your policy:

  • List of the places where smoking is and is not allowed
  • Who the policy applies to (tenants, guests, staff, service persons, etc.)
  • Who is responsible for enforcing the rule
  • Consequences for violations
  • Effective date of the policy
  • Definition of smoking
  • Whether to have a designated smoking area outside (make sure it is located 25 feet away from doors, windows, and major walkways)

“It started with a couple floors. We told people that in a year it would be non-smoking, and we’d give them resources to help them quit.” *

When to implement your policy

When you are opening a new building or complex, the easiest thing to do is to prohibit smoking from the beginning. When converting an existing building or complex, you may need to phase-in the policy as you fill vacancies or as leases are renewed. You can also go "smokefree" after a certain date if you follow landlord-tenant law requirements, including giving advance notice and having tenants agree to the changes in writing.

Temporary solutions as you are phasing in a policy

Here are some ideas that may be able to reduce the secondhand smoke drifting between your tenants' units. Please note that none of these will completely eliminate the problem, and the expense and effort are much greater than simply adopting a no-smoking rule for the whole building.

  • Add more fresh air intake into the ventilation system
  • Clean, change, or install better filters in the ventilation system
  • Restrict the amount of air exhausted through the ventilation system from the units of tenants who smoke
  • Install door sweeps
  • Fill or patch any cracks in the walls
  • Insulate the air spaces around plumbing pipes
  • Insulate and place outlet covers over electrical outlets.

How to get tenant input

In some cases, you may want to get input from your tenants about their preferences. You might want to know how many tenants are bothered by secondhand smoke, how many smoke, how many smoke inside, or how many tenants would be willing to move so you can designate smoking and non-smoking buildings. We have some Sample Tenant Survey Questions if you choose to include this step.

HUD-Assisted Housing

If you are a manager of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-assisted housing, it is important to know that HUD has issued two recent memos that both encourage the adoption of smokefree policies:

Read HUD’s 2009 No-Smoking Recommendation for Public Housing Authorities

Read HUD’s 2010 Notice on Optional Smoke-Free Housing Policy Implementation  


* Quotes taken from the report Opinions of Experienced Metro-Area Landlords Regarding Smoking Policies and Practices, Cambell Delong Resources, Inc., November 2006.