A property manager asks this week how to stop tenant smoking in a non-smoking unit, is a question that comes up often. So how to prove tenant smoking is the question for Ask Landlord Hank. Remember Hank is not an attorney and he is not offering legal advice. If you have a question for him please fill out the form below.
Dear Landlord Hank,
I am a property manager for two complexes, and we are having issues with tenant smoking. I saw your article in RHJ last year about tenants smoking and hope you can help me.
At one of my properties we have an elderly lady who has been said to be smoking in her unit. The complex has only four units per building, and from this building we haven’t had complaints before until this tenant moved in four months ago.
When my maintenance supervisor and my leasing agent performed our annual inspections one month ago, they did mention it smelled like cigarettes, but there were also a fair amount of plug-in citrus air fresheners.
This tenant doesn’t respond to my messages about not smoking in her unit. (She is not my biggest fan, because I enforce lease-agreement rules.)
What can I do to prove she is smoking in her unit and stop tenant smoking when she denies it Please help.
Dear Landlady Melissa,
Some folks just don’t want to abide by the rules even though they agreed, in writing, that they would. So you aren’t popular with this smoking tenant because you enforce the lease that forbids smoking!
And you’re looking for some proof that you could take to court to prove this tenant is smoking.
I wish we could bottle the air for the judge to smell, but that’s not possible right now. You will have to rely on witness testimony, and photographic proof. I would inspect the unit again with your maintenance supervisor and leasing agent, and have cameras ready and take photos of any evidence.
I’d look for ashtrays, as well as stains on walls, furniture, lamp shades, counters, curtains or blinds, and take photos. I’d also look for cigarette butts, burns in flooring, counters, tubs, etc., and any visible residue or color change in paint on walls.
The biggest clue is the smell. Someone may be able to take a photo of her smoking on her balcony and maintenance can check the hallway in the evening to see if any smoke smell is coming from her door.
I would put a three-day notice on her door that says she is in violation of the no-smoking terms of the lease. If she continues to smoke, then it’s time to file eviction.
She is damaging your property, in addition to violating the lease. If you do nothing, other tenants may complain or move out due to the air pollution – or others may start to smoke in their units too. Don’t delay, get on this right away and stop tenant smoking.
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