We have all heard about the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. Arizona law addresses the dangers of secondhand smoke through its Smoke-Free Arizona Act. The Act prohibits smoking in enclosed public buildings and workplaces, as well as in enclosed, common areas of multifamily buildings. Smoking is also not allowed within 20 feet of the windows, doors, and ventilation systems of these common areas.
The bad news for condo owners who want to avoid secondhand smoke is that the Act does not apply to private units in multifamily buildings, including balconies and patios. However, that doesn’t mean that your homeowners association (HOA) can’t go beyond the state’s restrictions.
If your HOA is considering a smoking ban in your building, this could just be a prime time. Over the past 5 years, the smoking rate among adults in Arizona has decreased from 19 percent down to 14 percent, pointing to a growing number of people making a choice to live smoke-free.

The benefits of an HOA no-smoking policy

In a multifamily building, smoking can have far-reaching effects. It can increase the potential risk of fire and other types of property damage. This can raise insurance costs and create liability issues for your HOA. Furthermore, in buildings that permit smoking, association board members and their community management company are more likely to receive smoking-related complaints about: 
  • Secondhand smoke seeping into nonsmokers’ units
  • Discarded cigarette butts creating excessive litter and, especially, fire hazards (a high risk in Arizona)
  • Ashtrays in common areas ruining the property’s aesthetics
Certainly, limiting or banning smoking in your building reduces problems for your association. More importantly, though, it helps to safeguard residents’ health, reduces the risk to their property and enhances their quality of life. In addition, studies have shown that buildings with no-smoking policies have higher property values.
Another benefit of establishing a no-smoking policy applies to buildings seeking LEED certification. The US Green Building Council (USGBC), which oversees the LEED program, considers the reduction of secondhand smoke to be a high priority. For this reason, it weights fulfillment of its Controlling Environmental Tobacco Smoke prerequisite heavier than fulfillment of many of its other LEED standards. 

Choosing the best approach

Some HOAs have established policies that restrict smoking to individual units or specific outdoor areas. Others have chosen to make their properties 100-percent smoke free by not allowing smoking anywhere onsite. Whichever approach you decide to take, you can gain a lot of insight, support and information from an experienced community management company.
We also recommend following these four guidelines to successfully create your no-smoking policy:

1.  Start with a committee.
Involving homeowners from the beginning is the best way to obtain widespread support. Ideally, the committee should consist of a variety of owners, including board members and, if possible, healthcare workers. The job of this committee will be to assess the way that smoking currently affects the community, determine the level of support they have among residents, identify and evaluate the different options and begin developing a policy.

2.  Get feedback from homeowners.
It’s important to know where HOA members stand on having a no-smoking policy, and surveys are a great way to find out. For example, do they want the building to be completely smoke-free, or do they prefer to limit smoking to specific places? Will the ban apply to individual units? What about individual balconies and patios?

You can also use the survey to ask residents if they have had any issues with secondhand smoke and, if so, under what conditions. In addition, a survey will enable you to establish the number of households that have smokers. Once you have collected a significant number of responses, plan on holding a special meeting to discuss the results.

3.  Review your HOA’s governing documents. 
Your governing documents will provide guidance on what you need to do to enact different types of restrictions. Some restrictions may only require that your board create a new rule. Others may require amending the governing documents, which means that you will need a vote by HOA members.

Look over your current documents to make sure you understand proper procedures and percentage of votes needed to establish the kind of no-smoking policy you seek to create. You should also consult with your HOA attorney to make sure you are complying with your governing documents.

4.  Keep homeowners informed.
If your new policy does require a vote by HOA members, your community management company can consult with your attorney to make sure that homeowner communications are drafted and distributed according to state and HOA requirements. It is also important for homeowners to understand: 
  • Details about the proposed policy
  • The percentage of member votes needed to adopt it
  • Plans for enforcement
Use your community website, newsletter, emails, and bulletin boards to deliver information, including articles and resources about how to quit smoking. It’s also a good idea to hold informational meetings where homeowners can be part of the discussion.

Having a smoke-free policy in your building is good for everyone. Residents will be healthier and have a better quality of life. The HOA will also benefit from having a building that has greater value and is more desirable.
Learn how an experienced community management company can help you establish a no-smoking policy, contact FirstService Residential, Arizona’s community management leader.

Who should you contact to report secondhand smoke or other HOA issues? Download our helpful infographic to find out.
Wednesday March 08, 2017