Keeping multi-family housing smoke-free: A guide for property managers

Discover strategies and best practices for property managers to effectively monitor and enforce smoking policies for a smoke-free living environment for all residents.
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June 21, 2024
min read
Keeping multi-family housing smoke-free: A guide for property managers

Smoking in multi-family housing presents challenges that can impact your bottom line, tenant satisfaction, and legal standing.  With increasing awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoke and the potential for property damage, ensuring a smoke-free is critical.  In fact, cigarette-related fires result in $6.95 billion in property damage annually.

The importance of regulating smoking in multi-family housing goes beyond just health and safety; it’s about creating a comfortable and welcoming environment for all tenants. The lingering smell of smoke are a major deterrent for potential renters, and nicotine stains often lead to expensive cleaning and repair costs.

In this blog post, we'll explore the impact of smoking on both property and tenants, and jump into effective strategies and best practices for monitoring and regulating smoking in multi-family housing. 

So whether you're a seasoned property manager or a new landlord, these insights and tips will help you maintain a smoke-free property, enhance tenant satisfaction, and protect your investment. 

Understanding the risks of smoking in multi-family housing

Cigarette smoking shouldn't be taken lightly. Here are some of the ways it can impact you, your tenants and the value of your property.

Low occupancy of non-smokers

Non-smokers are very aware of the risks that come with being exposed to secondhand smoke through shared ventilation, walls, and windows. It can lead to serious health issues which are only exacerbated for children. Non-smoking tenants are much less likely to rent a unit that smells of cigarette smoke, which risks property managers only renting out to smokers—thus increasing the risk of smoking inside and the damages associated with it. Ensuring a smoke-free environment is crucial both for protecting the health and well-being of all residents, and ensuring your property is rented out by non-smokers. 

Property damage and increased maintenance costs

Cigarette smoke permeates walls, carpets, and furniture, leaving behind a persistent odor that is difficult to remove. This residue, known as thirdhand smoke, can cause significant property damage, leading to more frequent and expensive cleanings, repainting, and replacement of fixtures and furnishings. Preventing smoking in your properties can significantly reduce maintenance costs and protect your investment.

Legal and liability issues for landlords

Smoking in multi-family housing can also lead to legal complications. Tenants affected by secondhand smoke may file complaints or lawsuits, citing their right to a healthy living environment. 

The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with respiratory conditions aggravated by secondhand smoke. Additionally, if a smoking-related fire occurs, landlords might face legal liabilities, especially if the property lacks adequate smoke detectors or fire prevention measures, leading to costly legal battles and reputational damage.

Why you should care

Imagine dealing with constant tenant complaints, high turnover rates, and costly property repairs—all because of smoking-related issues. 

Now, envision a healthy, satisfied tenant base, lower maintenance costs, and a reputation as a property manager who truly cares about their residents’ well-being. Monitoring and regulating smoking in your multi-family housing isn't just a policy—it's a smart business move that protects your property, your tenants, and your peace of mind.

By understanding these risks, you’re taking the first step toward creating a safer, healthier, and more attractive living environment for your tenants. Now, let’s explore how to help you achieve this goal.

Best practices for preventing cigarette smoke

1. Create a comprehensive no-smoking policy

Establishing a clear no-smoking policy is vital for safeguarding your property and the health of your tenants.  Start by defining where smoking is prohibited—individual units, common areas, or the entire property.

Include all forms of smoking: traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products. State the reasons for the policy, emphasizing health risks, fire hazards, and the cost of smoke-related damages.

2. Communicate the policy to tenants

Use multiple channels such as emails, newsletters, and notices in common areas to be certain your tenants are aware of no-smoking rules. If you have outside spaces that are also smoke-free, make sure to have clear signs that indicate the penalty or fine for those found smoking.

3. Include no-smoking clauses in lease agreements

To enforce the policy from the get-go, include no-smoking clauses in lease agreements. Specify the consequences of violating the policy, such as fines or eviction. This legal backing reinforces the seriousness of the policy and provides a clear framework for enforcement.

4. Invest in cigarette smoke technology

Unfortunately, policies are often not enough to fully combat at smoking issue. Instead, it’s best to rely upon a cigarette smoking device to help you identify and put a stop to any smoking before it gets out of hand. 

In the next section, we’ll cover what you should be looking for in a cigarette smoking detector

Smoke detection technology for multi-family housing

So you've invested in a multi-family property; the units are modern, the tenants are happy, and everything is going smoothly. But then, you get a complaint from a tenant of lingering cigarette smell. First it’s one tenant, then it’s several, and soon you realize that although you know the vicinity of the smoker, you can’t pinpoint exactly who it is to hold them accountable. 

So, how do you ensure your property stays smoke-free? Enter smoke detection technology.

Types of smoke detectors

  1. Cigarette smoke detectors: These specialized devices are designed to detect the specific particles produced by burning tobacco. They’re more sensitive than traditional smoke detectors, ensuring you catch any indoor smoking quickly.
  2. Air quality monitors: While they’re not smoke detectors per se, air quality monitors track the levels of various pollutants in the air, including those from cigarette smoke. They offer a broader picture of indoor air quality, which can be beneficial for overall tenant health.
  3. Traditional smoke detectors: These are essential for detecting fires but aren’t always sensitive enough for cigarette smoke. However, they are a necessary component of any comprehensive smoke detection system and should be featured in any rental. 

Features to look for in cigarette smoke detectors

When choosing a cigarette smoke detector, consider the following:

  • Sensitivity to cigarette smoke: Ensure the device can specifically detect cigarette smoke particles.
  • Real-time alerts: Instant notifications to your phone or management system.
  • Tamper-proof design: Prevent tenants from disabling the detectors.
  • Easy installation: Devices that can be set up without professional help save time and money.
  • Battery life: Long-lasting batteries reduce maintenance efforts.

Meet Minut: The cigarette smoke detector protecting residential rentals worldwide

Keeping your multi-family property smoke-free isn’t just about reducing complaints and keeping other tenants happy—it’s a very real fire hazard. Minut’s cigarette smoke detector has all of the above features and more. 

Here’s why Minut is used by 50,000 property managers around the world:

  • Advanced smoke detection: Minut is equipped with AI-powered sensors that can accurately detect cigarette smoke. Unlike traditional smoke detectors, Minut’s AI algorithms are fine-tuned to identify the specific particles associated with tobacco smoke, ensuring you get alerts only when it’s necessary.
  • Real-time alerts: Minut will send an instant notification to your smartphone or property management system as soon as it detects cigarette smoke. This real-time alert system allows you to take immediate action, whether that’s reaching out to the tenant or investigating the source yourself.
  • Incident reports: Access historical data with Minut’s incident reports, so you can review information about any smoking events that have occurred in the past. This protects you in the event of a tenant dispute and helps you avoid renting to problematic tenants again in the future.
  • Noise & occupancy monitoring: Minut isn’t just a cigarette smoke detector, it also monitors noise and occupancy levels, temperature, and humidity, providing a comprehensive overview of your rental units’ environment. 
  • Easy installation and integration: With our user-friendly design, and easy-to-use device you can install in minutes without needing professional help. 

Integrate Minut with your PMS

The best cigarette smoke detectors connect directly with your property management software, streamlining alerts and reports. 

This integration allows for centralized monitoring, making it easier to keep an eye on multiple units simultaneously. By choosing a device compatible with your existing systems, you can enhance efficiency and ensure prompt responses to any issues.

Minut enables us to ensure occupants respect our community, comply with local regulations, and it’s improved our operational efficiency. Investing in more devices has been a no-brainer as we expand our business.”  Shaun Balin, COO of Beckon Homes

Discover our success stories

Implementing your cigarette smoke detection system

So, you’ve chosen your device. Now what? Implementation is the next step, and doing it right can save you a lot of headaches down the line.

Installation tips and best practices

  1. Strategic placement: Install detectors in common smoking areas, near windows, and in units where smoking has been an issue. This ensures maximum coverage.
  2. Follow manufacturer instructions: Whoever you choose to go with, each device is different, so follow the specific guidelines for installation to ensure optimal performance.
  3. Test regularly: Ensure all devices are working correctly by performing regular tests. This can be as simple as pressing the test button on each unit.

Monitoring and maintenance of cigarette smoke detectors

Regular monitoring and maintenance are crucial:

  • Routine Checks: Schedule regular inspections to ensure all detectors are functioning properly.
  • Battery Replacement: Keep track of battery life and replace as needed to avoid downtime (Minut is approx. 12 months, or can be plugged in to avoid the need for batteries). 
  • Software Updates: If your devices are smart-enabled, make sure they’re updated with the latest software to benefit from any improvements or new features.

Protect your property and tenants with cigarette smoke detectors

Whether you’ve already faced issues with tenants smoking in your rental units or are being proactive in protecting your properties, a cigarette smoke detector is a smart investment. It saves you stress, time, and damage costs, and minimizes liability risks. Our guide recommended are specifically designed to detect cigarette smoke, alert you to smoke activity, and keep a record of smoking events.

To get the most out of your smoke detection solution, choose a device like the Minut sensor. In addition to cigarette smoke detection, Minut offers other features that protect your properties, such as noise monitoring and window break detection. Whether your rental units are consistently occupied or have occasional vacancies, you can rest assured that your properties are safe and well-monitored.

Ready to find out why over 50,000 property managers worldwide trust Minut with their rentals? Book a demo today, we’d love to discuss how we can help you.