The Benefits of Smoke-Free Housing Policies
As a property owner, you’re probably familiar with the benefits of smoke-free policies and how the simple act of making your rentals smoke free can greatly reduce the risk of fire. Because many renters are eager to find a place to live that’s designated non-smoking, you may find it easier to rent your space. And better still, insurance companies often give property owners a discount on landlord insurance when no-smoking rules are in place.
Some property owners have allowed renters to smoke outside on a balcony, or on an exterior deck that’s part of the rental unit. But lit cigarettes left in outdoor ash trays can be blown by the wind onto nearby debris — and they can ignite into a big problem very quickly. So, it’s important that you have clear rules for working with your renters when they’re allowed to smoke on your property to reduce the risk of fire.
There are a lot of great reasons to change your smoking policy, if you haven’t already. You don’t have to do it all at once, either. Let’s look at how a well-crafted smoke-free policy can be a great idea for your rental business — and for the overall health of your renters too!
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The Financial Benefits of Smoke-Free Properties
You do all you can to keep your rental property safe — from installing smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors to complying with state and local codes. Prohibiting smoking on your property can greatly decrease the odds of in-unit fires, but that’s not all.
At American Family Insurance, we’ve responded to smart smoke-free policies by offering discounts to property owners on their fire insurance policies. But you’ll have to comply with smoke-free policy requirements — and specify those details in the lease agreement. Here’s a sample smoke-free lease addendum to consider for your rental property.
American Family Insurance offers fire insurance premium discounts on the following property types:
- Condo Association/Bed & Breakfast
- Rental Dwellings/Apartments
- Condo Rental Units
Property managers and owners can take measures to keep their renters and employees safe from secondhand smoke by creating policies that prohibit smoking. Smoke-free policies typically apply to a rental property’s common areas and within rental units. To help acclimate your tenants to your new policies, you may need to execute your smoke-free plan in phases.
You can start the transition to a smoke-free rental by notifying renters of the policy change and creating designated smoking areas (if desired) before the smoke-free policy takes effect. Then begin amending the lease agreement upon renewals. Be sure to follow the proper notice requirements in your state before changing your smoking policy.
Here are a few steps American Family Insurance requires property managers to take in order to qualify for a smoke-free discount:
- Post notices in common areas and deliver letters to tenants discussing the upcoming migration to a smoke-free building
- Offer an incentive or encourage tenants to use designated smoking areas immediately, even if they’re currently allowed to smoke in-unit
- All new leases must contain a section or an amendment that discusses the new non-smoking status of the building — with rental unit rules and regulations
- Consequences for non-compliance with the non-smoking orders must be clearly stated in the lease and enforced on-site
Here are several key benefits that property owners and renters of smoke-free rentals enjoy:
- Fire risks across property are reduced
- Insurance companies may offer discounts for smoke-free policies
- Zero cost to remediate in-unit smoke damage when units turn over
- Secondhand smoke exposure to neighbors is reduced
- Renters are seeking healthy, smoke-free spaces — and that demand can help to reduce rental vacancies
- Employees of smoke-free facilities enjoy a healthier and safer workplace
The Reasons Why Outdoor Designated Smoking Areas Work Best
When you adopt a smoke-free policy, you can further reduce the risk of fire to your property by assigning safe areas where smoking is allowed. Designated smoking areas do your property several favors:
- Renters have reduced risk to secondhand smoke blowing back into the building through windows or doors
- Renters who smoke may be better able to comply with the smoke-free policy if they have a safe, clean, well-lit and designated place to smoke outdoors
- Outdoor common area fire risks are reduced
- New renters may be put-off by smell of smoke in the building or rental property
- HVAC units won’t require smoke mitigation
- Smoking is limited to an area that is less likely to cause a fire when proper cigarette disposal receptacles are in use
In order to qualify for American Family’s premium discount on fire insurance, the designated smoking area must be:
- At least 20 feet from any building
- Be in compliance with local codes
- Signs must be posted detailing the designated smoking area’s location across rental property common areas and within rental units
- Smoke free policy details must be included in the lease agreement
It’s important to remember that designated smoking areas have their own risks too. For instance, some property managers have experienced fires on their properties when open-top butt cans have become full. They can catch fire and spread to building exteriors, and from there, it’s a short trip into a renter’s home.
For even better health benefits and fire protection, you can skip the designated smoking area altogether and prohibit smoking in all indoor and outdoor areas of the property.
You’ve invested a lot in upgrading your rental property and making improvements that will pay off financially. With so much at stake, reducing fire risks by prohibiting smoking is just good common sense. While you’re crafting a smoke-free policy, be sure to check in with your American Family Insurance agent to understand what the discount will look like. You’ll get expert advice and custom-built coverage to best protect your business investments.