The campaigns to persuade people to quit smoking have been such a success that figures from Public Health England show only 16.9% of the adult population now smoke compared to over 50% thirty years ago. That's just one in six adults who feel the need to light up, and those figures will continue to drop.
That is all very commendable. But how does smoking affect private landlords?
Smoking presents a dilemma for landlords. Do you stop tenants from smoking in your property? How do you stop them? Is it within your power to stop them? Is it possible to evict tenants for smoking? We'll answer these questions but also look at whether smokers could present a potential opportunity for landlords.
What's the problem with smokers?
Smoking may affect the smoker’s general health, but the issues landlords have are more of a financial nature. If you’ve never had a tenant with a smoking habit before, it’s likely that you may not have considered the risks of letting to smokers and why many landlords choose to enforce no-smoking policies.
Smoke can be very detrimental to the value and quality of your rental property. In most cases, the landlord will need to redecorate when the smoker leaves the property, which is costly and time-consuming. These are a few common problems that smoking can cause:
Fire risk - Cigarettes are a common cause of house fires. A fire is a disaster for private landlords, for obvious reasons.
Discolour paintworks such as walls
Yellowing of walls, baseboards, furniture etc
Tough, strong smell getting into walls and carpets, which is tricky to remove
Ash causes damage to carpets and rugs
The health hazard of second-hand smoke for residents throughout the building
Potential damage to ventilation systems
More difficult to attract a non-smoker tenant in the future
Can I stop tenants smoking in my property?
In theory yes.
It is advised to try to prevent the issue arising in the very beginning when advertising your property. On a property advert, you can state certain requirements; such as only accepting non-smokers. If you advertise with MakeUrMove, our team will filter out smokers during the pre-screening process before viewings are arranged. However, there is a slight possibility that prospective tenants may not be completely truthful and admit that they do smoke.
Whether you have stated ‘non-smokers only’ in the listing or not, bringing it in the tenancy agreement can protect you and the tenant legally. Simply insert a clause specifically preventing your tenant, their guests and visitors from smoking inside the property will be sufficient.
The above is straightforward and easy to implement; however, enforcing is the more difficult task.
Enforcing a smoking ban
Let's face it, there aren't loads of preventive measures you can take. Trust plays a significant role in this. If the tenant says they aren't smoking, you basically have to take them for their word. You are not allowed to install video cameras and monitor their activity to ensure they aren't having a crafty cig. Honestly, you can't do that.
If you think your tenant is smoking
Although you have a clause in your tenancy agreement which forbids your tenant from smoking, some tenants may ignore the agreement and breach terms anyway.
If you suspect the tenants are smoking in the property, maybe you've caught them in the act when you did a repair, eviction may seem like the most direct and favourable route. It isn’t.
Eviction is a time-consuming and complicated process. To take a tenant to court, sufficient evidence is required. In most cases, it may not be the easiest to gather adequate evidence to a level where a judge would grant a possession order. It is also rare that a judge would evict a tenant simply because they smoke, unless the tenant has breached multiple clauses in the tenancy agreement.
Nonetheless, there are actions you can take if you suspect your tenants are smoking in the property.
Sending A Policy Reminder Letter
If the suspicion is strong, it is a good idea to send out a policy reminder letter. Sending a no-smoking memo to tenants serves as a quick and simple reminder that smoking is prohibited. The letter should be sent out as soon as you suspect a violation of the smoking policy.
If you are convinced that smoke has caused damage to your property, you can claim redecoration costs back from the tenant's security deposit. But again, this may come with difficulty.
You may be able to detect the lingering odour of tobacco, but it is difficult to prove a 'smell' to an arbitrator in a dispute hearing. Showing damages to the property with photography and your inventory can also be difficult as it may resemble wear and tear.
Hence, it does look a little bleak if you do have a tenant who is a secret smoker. Even though it's easier said than done, the best preventative method is to find an honest non-smoker; such as getting references from a potential tenant’s previous landlord before agreeing on an offer.
Could smokers be a hidden opportunity for landlords?
Although the number of smokers has plummeted, there are still around 7.2million adult smokers in the UK. That is not a small number at all, and many of which are renting privately.
This could present a potential opportunity for the landlord who is prepared to advertise their property as welcoming smokers - at a price, of course. In the meantime. smokers should be prepared to pay a premium for the 'privilege' of enjoying a cigarette at home.
Can tenants smoke in communal areas?
A quick note regarding smoking in communal areas. If your property has areas used by multiple tenants, those areas must be no-smoking. These areas include shared living rooms, toilets, kitchens etc in an HMO or student house. It is required to display the correct notices, so tenants are aware that smoking is prohibited in these areas.
Ready to advertise your property and find tenants? It only takes a few clicks. You can start by listing your property with MakeUrMove. We look after every listing and pre-screen applicants for you before arranging viewings.