The dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke are well known, and tobacco use is now the leading cause of disease and preventable death in the United States and in Canada. Smoking doesn’t just impact our personal health – it also affects the buildings we live in, potentially increasing the risks of fire and property damage, raising insurance costs, increasing legal liability and more. In addition, property management companies, condominium associations and property owners often field complaints from homeowners about how smoking doesn’t just affect their health and safety, but also their lifestyle – issues like secondhand smoke drifting into their units, increased litter and fire hazards from discarded cigarette butts, smelly and unsightly ashtrays ruining the aesthetics of common areas and more.
As a result, many residential buildings are opting to ban smoking to some level. In a 100% smoke-free building, smoking is prohibited both inside and outside the premises, including individual condominiums units and common areas including lobbies, stairwells, swimming pools and grounds. Some building polices are designed to permit smoking only in prescribed outdoor areas. Any no-smoking policy will provide benefits to homeowners, by protecting their health and property, as well as improving their quality of life.
Thinking of going smoke-free? If you think implementing a smoke-free policy is the right choice for your building, a good property management company can provide invaluable information, support and guidance in the process. Especially with as personal a matter as smoking, it’s important to gain consensus from residents and ensure compliance with your association’s governing documents.
Here are a few guidelines to help you go smoke-free:
1) Form a committee.
Making homeowners part of the process is the first step to garnering critical support. If possible, try to bring together a diverse group of homeowners, board members and perhaps even medical professionals or public health workers to review the current situation, assess residents’ level of support, research and identify options and start to develop a policy. How? We’re glad you asked…
2) Solicit homeowner feedback.
Is your goal to be 100% smoke-free or do you think it’s better to allow smoking in a certain portions of the property’s common areas? Should the ban include individual units, or perhaps just balconies and patios? Send a survey to homeowners to solicit their opinions. For example, do they have any issues with secondhand smoke entering their units? Does their own household include smokers? Would they support a smoking ban, and if so, to what extent? Once you have this information, you can call a special meeting to discuss it. Understanding where your stakeholders stand and what they want will go a long way toward helping you develop a no-smoking policy that meets the needs of the majority.
3) Consult your governing documents.
These describe what steps you must take to add a new amendment – in this case, implementing a smoke-free building policy – and what percentage of votes is required to make a change. It’s advisable to consult with an experienced community association attorney to provide guidance, conduct due diligence and make sure you thoroughly understand and adhere with your building’s governing documents. Some restrictions may be implemented through board-made rule whereas others may require an amendment to the governing documents with your association attorney can assist with.
4) Communicate with homeowners.
If an amendment to the governing documents is required a homeowner vote is needed, your property management company can work with your attorney on the communication to homeowners sending them detailed information about the proposed policy, the percentage of homeowner votes needed to change it, how the board and management team plan to enforce the new policy and other relevant issues. You can communicate via emails, newsletters, special notices, articles, etc., as well as by holding informational meetings to educate homeowners and address their questions and concerns. And you can even go a step further to protect residents’ health by distributing articles about the benefits of quitting smoking and providing information and resources to help them kick the habit.
There are benefits to going smoke-free, benefits you should communicate clearly to residents if the issue is important to your board. If your building is considering LEED Certification, a no-smoking policy may help you obtain certification more quickly. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Canadian Green Building Council, the agencies responsible for assigning LEED Certification, have emphasized the importance of controlling Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a prerequisite for certification, in both New Construction and Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance. This protects the health of the residents, as well as that of the ventilation equipment, wall treatments and carpets, and valuables in the building. Controlling Environmental Tobacco Smoke is considered so critical by the USGBC that it is weighted more heavily as a credit toward LEED certification than several other issues, including Low Volatile Organic Chemical Paint, Green Cleaning, Daylight Views, Thermal Comfort, Pest Management and Indoor Air Quality. Data also shows that smoke-free buildings have higher resale and rental values than other buildings.
By developing and implementing a smoke-free policy, you can significantly improve the health and well-being of residents, enhance their quality of life and enhance the value and desirability of your building, both now and in the future. For more information, visit FirstService Residential
, North America’s condominium association management leader.