Understanding your legal rights in rental housing
- Smoke-free apartment policies are permitted under federal and state law.
- People who smoke are not a protected legal class, meaning there is no “right to smoke” under law.
- Landlords and property owners/managers can and often do make their entire buildings smoke-free.
- Some landlords and property owners/managers choose to have a no smoking policy cover only certain areas of the building.
- Common areas of a building, like hallways, stairwells and laundry rooms, must be smoke-free under Maine’s public places smoking law.
- People with serious breathing disabilities or smoke allergies have legal protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Federal Fair Housing Act, and the Maine Human Rights Act. If secondhand smoke seriously affects your ability to breathe, consult a doctor to have your condition documented.
- Some landlords and property owners/managers choose to allow existing tenants to continue smoking as long as they live in their apartment, with the smoke-free policy taking effect in that unit when a new tenant moves in.
- Some landlords and property owners/managers allow existing tenants to continue smoking in their unit, until the smoking policy can be legally changed under the terms of the lease or rental agreement. This usually at the time of renewal.
Public and Subsidized Housing
As a concerned tenant, here is what you should know:
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has no policy that restricts landlords from adopting smoke-free policies in any areas of a multi-unit building. These resources explain in more detail what property owners/managers and tenants in these properties can and cannot do, related to smoke-free policies.
- Smoke-free policies are allowed under federal law, including the Federal Fair Housing Act, and under Maine law.
- If an apartment owner who has HUD-assisted housing units decides to include the smoke-free policy in the lease, HUD approval of the lease change may be necessary.
- All of Maine’s Public Housing Authorities have adopted smoke-free policies.