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Smoke-Free Housing Enforcement Tips

  • Talk to your tenants. As you adopt a smoke-free policy, it is best to have a clearly organized communication plan for talking with your tenants.
  • Remember you are not telling people they have to quit smoking. The purpose of the policy is to protect your property from damage and fire danger. When changing a policy, remind tenants the policy has been adopted to protect all tenants, including people who smoke, from secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Include smoke-free policies as part of your lease or house rules. New tenants should initial each paragraph of the lease, including sections that explain the smoking policy on the property. Make sure your tenants are aware of the consequences for violating the lease or house rules.  This includes all tenants and any of their guests.
  • Have plenty smoke-free signage. Signs and window decals remind tenants and their guests, of the smoke-free policy. Order free materials.
  • Smoke-free policies are self-enforcing. Your tenants are your greatest allies. If a tenant complains about smoking in your units, try to resolve the issue in a friendly and timely fashion.
  • Let tenants know that violating the smoke-free policy has a cost.  Violations may result in loss of their security deposit. Cleaning and maintenance of a unit where tenants smoke is very costly. Make sure your tenants know they will be held financial responsible for policy violations.
  • Treat smoking like any other lease violation. Smoking violations are just like any other.  How would you respond to a noise complaint?  Pet complaint?  Inappropriate disposal of garbage?  A smoke-free policy needs to be addressed, enforced and respected the same as other house rules and lease provisions.
  • Be prompt, uniform and consistent.  Lack of enforcement with one tenant can diminish enforcement with future tenants. Prompt, consistent action will send a clear message to everyone in your building that smoking is not allowed.
  • Smoking is seldom the only violation. A tenant who breaks one lease condition is likely breaking others. If you come to a point where you need to evict, be sure to include all lease violations in your eviction notice, including all instances of recorded smoking violations.

“Nothing prevents a property owner or manager from adopting rules that limit or even prohibit smoking.  It is legal for landlords and property managers to adopt smoke-free housing policies to protect residents from secondhand smoke, to reduce property damage and reduce fire danger.”

– Janet T. Mills, Maine Attorney General
2009-2011 and 2013-present