COMMON INTEREST COMMUNITIES
Smoke-free policies can be adopted by common interest communities by making a change to the House Rules or the Declaration. These policies are legal to adopt and can improve your bottom line. Smoke free policies also protect residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke and provide many other benefits. You can read our guidebook Adopting a Smoke-Free Policy: A Guide for Minnesota Homeowners Associations for an overview to adopting a smoke-free policy.
Are you considering adopting a policy for your association? Find answers to your questions:
- Policy benefits
- Legal information
- Steps to go smoke-free
Get the materials and resources you need:
Live Smoke Free has materials to walk you through the whole smoke-free policy adoption and implementation process, including:
A smoke-free policy is a unique and valuable amenity that you can provide your residents. Contact Live Smoke Free for a free consultation on how you can adopt a smoke-free policy for your rental buildings!
Now that you have a smoke-free building, promote it!
Add your smoke-free buildings to the Minnesota Smoke-Free Housing Directory. All renters who call the Live Smoke Free office looking for smoke-free housing are referred to this site; it receives 3,000+ views a month. Let us help you promote your smoke-free building. Log in to create a free account today.
Shout or wave your new policy from the rooftops! Live Smoke Free lets smoke-free properties in the Twin Cities borrow a smoke-free banner for their building. Banners are loaned out for one month and the property is responsible for returning them. Access our banner order form.
Steps to Adopt a Smoke-Free Policy
for a Common Interest Community
Educate and Survey Members
Homeowner’s Associations have a number of things to consider before moving forward with a smoke-free policy. They will want to consider support for the policy change by association members, what parts of the property will be covered by the policy, how to handle current smokers, and likelihood that the policy will be modified in the near future.
A good first step is to educate association members about the many benefits of smoke-free policies. Live Smoke Free offers free educational materials and presentations that can be provided to Board and Association members.
Many associations choose to survey all homeowners in the association to find out how many homeowners smoke in their homes and/or have been affected by secondhand smoke coming into their unit. Conducting a survey serves three purposes:
- Gathers information about the smoking behavior in your building
- Alerts residents that change may be ahead
- Gives residents a chance to voice their opinion
Live Smoke Free can offer consultations and give presentations to your board and homeowners about the benefits of a smoke-free policy.
Determine Policy Details and Timelines
Which areas the policy will cover?
- Individual units: Covering all residential units ensures that smoke cannot drift from one unit to another unit in the building.
- Outdoor areas: Limiting or prohibiting smoking outdoors can help reduce smoke drifting into windows and tobacco litter on your property.
Depending on your situation and location, you can choose to:
- allow smoking in all outdoor areas
- designate specific outdoor areas for smoking
- prohibit smoking in all outdoor areas
How will ‘smoking’ be defined?
- Besides traditional cigarettes, your smoke-free policy could include electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and Incense.
- Live Smoke Free has sample definitions you can include in your policy.
- You can learn more about electronic cigarettes, incense and medical marijuana here.
Who will need to abide by the policy?
- Provide homeowners who rent their units with smoke-free lease language
- Current Owners
- Future Owners
How will the policy be enforced and how will violations be handled?
Adopt a Policy
A smoke-free policy in a common interest community can be adopted via a change to the house rules or declaration. Whether to include a policy in the House Rules or Declaration depends on a number of factors including: support for the policy change by association members, likelihood that the policy will be modified in the near future, and expectation that the policy might be legally challenged.
- House Rules- A rules and regulations change can generally be accomplished by a majority vote of the association board.
- Declaration- According to MN state law, a change to the declaration requires a super majority of at least 67% of votes in the association.
Is it better to Include the Policy in the Declaration or in the Rules?
A new rule and regulation is easier to implement and change, but is also more susceptible to challenges. A change to the declaration is more difficult and costly to pass, but it will be given deference by the courts and be stronger against legal challenges.
Live Smoke Free can offer consultations and give educational presentations to your board and homeowners about the pros and cons of each adoption strategy.
Implement the Policy
Notify residents of the policy details and timeline
- Live Smoke Free has a sample notification letter that can be modified
- Consult with your association attorney and make the appropriate changes to the house rules or declaration.
- Live Smoke Free has sample smoke-free policy language for homeowner’s associations
- Notify new purchases and rentals about the smoke-free policy
Post signs at the entrances to the buildings and anywhere else on your property where you want to ensure that no smoking occurs
Signs and window clings are available from Live Smoke Free
Advertise Your Policy
Buyers and renters are looking for smoke-free buildings
Advertising and promoting that your building is smoke free will make it attractive to prospective buyers
List your building in Minnesota’s Smoke-Free Housing Directory
Enforce Your Policy
A smoke-free policy should be enforced as the association would any other policy. Although most smoke-free policies are largely self-enforcing, the procedures to warn a violator of infractions and the steps for enforcement should be clearly documented in the policy.
If enforcement becomes necessary, the association should follow the procedures as documented, and always enforce the policy uniformly (against all violators), consistently (whenever a violation occurs), and in a timely manner. In many common interest communities, enforcing a smoke-free policy means that residents who violate the smoking policy may receive warning notices, fines and ultimately a lien on their property.
Common Interest Communities Research
Despite the growing smoke-free rental property movement, there has been little information about and movement toward smoke-free owner-occupied common interest communities such as condominiums and townhomes.
In response to the need for more information on this topic, in 2009, the Center for Energy and Environment, in partnership with the Public Health Law Center and the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, surveyed 17 Minnesota property managers and a random sample of 495 residents of owner-occupied common interest communities in order to determine how often residents experience and report exposure to secondhand smoke in their common interest community.
In addition, the Public Health Law Center conducted legal research about implementing and enforcing smoke-free policies in such communities. The following fact sheets provide a summary of findings from all three research areas.
This project was supported with a grant from ClearWay MinnesotaSM.
Research that was conducted in apartment buildings, including the air-transfer between units, may also be of interest or use to you.
Check back for updated archived webinars.
Strategies to Eliminate Secondhand Smoke in Your Residence
Document the Problem
Determine the source of the secondhand smoke.
- When do you smell smoke: all the time, only in the evening or morning?
- Where is the smoke entering your unit?
- Where do you think the smoke is coming from?
- Keep a log of when and where in your unit you smell smoke.
Make a list of the solutions you’ve tried already.
- What steps have you taken? View our Temporary Fixes page for short-term solutions.
- Fans, air fresheners, and other “smoke eaters” will only mask the problem, but trying some temporary solutions might help you illustrate the situation to your neighbors and board.
Talk with your neighbors.
- Are your neighbors experiencing the same problem? Will they talk to the association board?
- If you feel comfortable doing so, consider approaching your neighbor who smokes and politely voice your concerns. Focus on solutions, such as asking them to smoke outside and away from the building.
- Keep track of all conversations and correspondence.
Keep track of all symptoms and illnesses.
- Document any health problems you and your family are experiencing as a result of secondhand smoke in your unit.
- Health problems may include ear infections, sore throats, asthma attacks, and bronchitis.
- Ask your health care provider to write a letter stating that the secondhand smoke causes your family to be sick.
Talk to Your Association Board
Write a letter to your association or property manager.
- Explain your problem and offer solutions.
- If appropriate, include a copy of a letter from your doctor explaining your health problems.
- Keep copies of any correspondence.
Follow up by approaching your board and/ or property manager to discuss the situation.
- Be positive, polite, and stick to the issue.
- Ask your board, property manager, and neighbors to work together to solve the problem instead of getting angry or arguing.
- Give your board and property manager information on the dangers of being exposed to secondhand smoke.
- Explain the benefits of having a smoke-free building.
- Work with your property manager and association and offer to brainstorm or implement solutions.
- Possible solutions include:
- Conduct a resident survey.
- Hold a residents’ meeting.
- Have Live Smoke Free come and present to the board and residents.
Emphasize that building owners can legally make their buildings smoke free.
- Suggest that smoke-free units and/ or buildings can be established.
- New owners can start off smoke free.
- Make units that are rented out by owners smoke-free.
Work with an Outside Authority
Contact Live Smoke Free.
- Live Smoke Free can provide you with information, help you write letters, or suggest further steps to take.
Consider contacting the following:
- Your building’s association or management company
- Your local health department
- HOME Line Tenant Advocates hotline at 612-728-5767
- The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-657-3787
Share your story.
- Contact local elected officials such as a city council member, a county commissioner, or a state legislator.
- To find your legislative districts, go to http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us. To search for a list of your legislators, go to www.leg.state.mn.us.
Research your legal options.
- Read about some of your legal options on the Legal Information for Renters page.
- Live Smoke Free has a directory of legal aid services. If you have questions about the services in this directory, contact Live Smoke Free.
- Search for an attorney at www.lawhelpmn.org, which is an online directory of legal resources for low-income Minnesotans.
Commonly Asked Legal Questions For Common Interest Communities
The movement to adopt smoke-free policies for multi-unit residential properties has progressed quickly for rental apartments, but CIC’s are just starting to catch up. Smoke-free policies are legal for common interest communities in Minnesota and can be adopted in a couple of ways. The policies can include all areas of the building, including individual units, common areas and outdoor areas.