Are we Ready for Smoke-Free Housing? Part II

Last time we talked about the benefits of going smoke-free. Today, we’ll dive into how you can implement this at your properties.

What are the realities of implementing a smoke-free policy?

Amanda Clark, of Guardian Management, spoke about the company’s 12,000 multifamily units in four states (one-half affordable housing). In 2006, they decided to begin the transition to smoke-free in every single one of their buildings. This decision was influenced by a renter’s survey which found that 76% of residents would rather live in a smoke-free building. The survey also found that while 21% of tenants at the time smoked, only 11% were in the habit of smoking inside. Once Guardian found that their residents would be served by such a policy, they moved forward in the following steps.

  1. They developed their policy. They decided to prohibit smoking inside apartment buildings and common areas such as entryways, parking areas, patios and balconies, and within 25 feet of any building. On properties which had the space, designated smoking areas were created.
  2. They made a transition plan. While the policy was implemented immediately for new residents, an effective date was chosen for all existing month-to-month tenants. Most tenants signed new leases within twelve months, and no residents were grandfathered in.
  3. They gave notice to their residents. This included contacting HUD and owners, speaking to staff members, and sending letters to all residents 120 days prior to the change.
  4. They marketed the policy. “No smoking” was now listed on ads as an amenity; in addition, they conducted media outreach and trained staff to be spokespersons on the policy. They also offered information on how to quit smoking to all interested residents.
  5. Finally, they enforced the policy. The policy is listed, with the other rules of each building, on the rental agreement. There are also signs and stickers. Tenants are held financially responsible for repairing units damaged by noncompliance, and violations are documented with a warning system.

One year after the policy was first implemented, residents were surveyed again. Three-quarters of all residents reported being happy with the no-smoking policy; even 30% of smokers said they liked the new rules. The benefits of the new policy included the following:

  • Health and wellness: The amount of non-smokers who reported never being exposed to second-hand smoke increased by 75%. 43% of tenants who smoked reported smoking less after the policy was implemented, and nearly half of tenants who smoked attempted to quit.
  • Reduction in costs: Guardian found that their average cost to turn over a one-bedroom unit dropped by over $1,000 after units were uniformly non-smoking.

Insurance rates also dropped once the policy was implemented. Certain insurance companies now offer incentives to go smoke-free—Capital Insurance Group, which was represented during the presentation, now offers a 10% credit for smoke-free units.

Are you thinking about going smoke-free?  You can find further information and resources can be found at, and we’d love to hear about how you successfully made this happen in the comments below or on our Facebook page!



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