Over 7 million people in the UK are smokers. The figure is declining year-on year and with National No Smoking Day taking place this month, more will soon be quitting the habit.
But it’s still likely that at some point you’ll find the perfect tenant for your property except for one thing: they smoke.
While 14.7% of the population regularly light up, it’s estimated that only 7% of rental properties actively welcome smokers.
A different attitude could open landlords up to a wider pool of prospective tenants. But they do have legitimate concerns: lingering smells, potential damage to furniture and the risk of serious fire. And this understandably limits the number of landlords who are willing to add “Smokers welcome” to their online ads.
So where do landlords like you stand? Can you stop tenants from smoking in your property? Read on to find out.
Understanding the Law About Smoking
There’s little legislation to fall back on if you prefer tenants not to smoke.
Under the Health Act 2006, smoking regulations came into force in April 2007 to ban all smoking in premises “open to the public”. Aimed at reducing the harmful effects of cigarettes, it applies to numerous places including bars, restaurants and workplaces.
But it only applies to private rented property if it’s an HMO (house with multiple occupancy) and can’t be used to enforce a no-smoking agreement in a self-contained apartment or house.
If you rent out HMOs, you can stipulate that smoking isn’t allowed in shared areas such as hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. You’ll also need to display the right signage to remind tenants of their responsibilities.
As your decision will be supported by law, it should in theory be easy to enforce. If you do allow smoking in these areas, you’ll be breaking the law, risking prosecution or a fine from your local authority.
Landlords are therefore well within their rights to ask tenants who flout this law to leave their property.
Smoking and Tenancy Agreements
So without any regulations to back up your choice to not allow smoking, what are the options regarding properties that aren’t classed as HMOs?
It’s all down to your tenancy agreement and trust.
You can take steps to prevent tenants from smoking right from when you first start to market your property:
Clearly state on all advertising that you’ll only accept non-smoking tenants.
During the viewing, look for (or ask your agent to look for) signs that the prospective tenant is a smoker. Apart from the obvious smell of tobacco, which can be impossible to mask, check for yellow-stained fingers and teeth.
Remind everyone who comes to view that smoking isn’t permitted and listen carefully to their response. Some may bend the truth a little.
Add a clause to the tenancy agreement which prohibits smoking anywhere inside your property, by tenants and visitors.
Despite your efforts, they may prove futile. Enforceability is the big challenge here.
So what can you do if your tenant goes back on their word and ignores the tenancy agreement?
The first approach is to remind them politely of their commitment and ask them to stop. Invite them to smoke outside to keep the relationship as positive as possible.
If this doesn’t work, you can fall back on one of the discretionary fault-based grounds for possession for assured tenancies: Ground 12 which relates to the tenant breaking one or more terms of the tenancy agreement, except the obligation to pay rent.
However, this can be only be enforced at the discretion of a court which is unlikely to support your claim, especially if the tenant is reliably paying rent, and would prove costly.
If your tenant insists on smoking, you could use their deposit to pay for any damage caused to your property. You may have grounds to spend it on a professional deep clean to remove any stains to fabric and interior walls. The success of this would depend on having a thorough inventory from the start of the tenancy.
At the end of a fixed term, you could also increase their rent to compensate for any damage.
Using E-Cigarettes in Rented Property
While the number of smokers declines, the popularity of vaping continues to rise with over 3 million people in the UK now using e-cigarettes.
More and more ex-smokers are now vapers but can they vape in your property?
There’s no relevant legislation here so it’s over to you whether you allow it or not. As people inhale nicotine within vapour rather than breathing in smoke, e-cigarettes don’t create the same off-putting smell or create a fire risk.
Like with smoking, you can specify in a tenancy agreement that it’s not permitted but it will be harder to both justify, detect and prove.
And if you do allow it but ban cigarettes, you risk alienating your smoking tenants who have to go outside to indulge in their habit.
To allow smoking or not allow smoking. That is a question only an individual landlord can answer. If you want to keep your property smoke-free, the best option is to take all the important steps to find an honest, non-smoking tenant.
List your property with MakeUrMove and we’ll pre-screen all prospective tenants – including whether or not they smoke