Can A Landlord Prohibit Smoking Outside?

Most tenants are familiar with the smoking policy their complex has for their units, but what about smoking outside your apartment?  Can your landlord ban you from even smoking outside? 

Yes, your landlord can ban you from smoking outside or anywhere on their property as long as they have that stipulation laid out in the lease. 

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Can My Landlord Ban Smoking Outside?

When you are renting an apartment, you are living on someone else’s property.  Yes, the apartment you rent is yours, but you don’t have the title or the rights that come with having the title.  

The landlord is going to view smoking as a nuisance to the other tenants, not just for health reasons, but also to protect their property.  Smoking on the inside of an apartment will turn the walls yellow with nicotine, and make the carpets, walls, and ceilings all turn yellow and have a terrible smell to it.   Many times, there is not much you can do to get this smell out of the apartment, and there is nothing else you can do but replace all the carpets and hope that the Killz and paint you use is going to cover up the smell adequately.  

On top of the physical damage to the apartment, as we mentioned above, it is a health hazard.  Most apartment complexes are going to share air in some capacity. Even if it is blowing from outside or down the hall, it is still secondhand smoke, and it still stinks.  This is the “nuisance” factor that your landlord doesn’t want to have to deal with.

Smokers are not a “protected class” of people.  So, as long as your landlord has everything written out clearly in the lease agreement concerning the smoking policy, they can either allow smoking everywhere or nowhere.    

The landlord, who is the owner of the property, can set up whatever smoking regulations they wish, as long as it is clearly spelled out in the lease.

Your lease should have the apartment complex’s policy on smoking laid out clearly in the document.  If it doesn’t, and it doesn’t specifically say that there is no smoking on the premise, you cannot be evicted for that. 

You may have to stop smoking outside from now on, but that wouldn’t be ground for a landlord to evict you because it wasn’t clearly stated in the lease.  Below, we will go through what happens if you come across this situation and what the landlord must do if they are going to change the terms in the lease. 

Can A Landlord Evict A Tenant For Smoking?

Your landlord can evict you if you are smoking against the smoking policy they have laid out in the lease.  But if they don’t have anything laid out in the lease and are just unhappy with your smoking habit, then they have no right to evict you on that basis.  They can change their lease policy, which you will have to adhere to, but if it isn’t in the lease, you can’t be evicted for it. 

Now if it IS laid out in the lease, and you are smoking against the prohibitions that have already been established, then you can absolutely be evicted by your landlord. 

The same goes if you have a guest over and they violate the smoking policy.  All guests and their behavior are your responsibility when they are at your apartment.  If they are smoking in breach of the policy in the lease, then you may suffer the consequences.  

I can’t tell you how many times I have had to handle calls from tenants complaining that their neighbors are smoking in their apartment.  9 times out of 10, I would send my manager over to address the issue and everyone was having a party inside the apartment and they decided to throw the no-smoking policy out the window rather than their smoke.   

The actual tenants would blame the behavior on their guests and promise that it would never happen again, but that doesn’t prevent the neighbors from being infringed upon against their will, and the apartment from forever smelling like Kool’s. 

Long story short, we have had to evict people for doing exactly this, unfortunately, because they are repeat offenders.  It’s not fair to the other tenants that are around them to deal with something they aren’t paying for. 

And technically, your landlord can evict you the FIRST time they catch you smoking in your unit or outside, or whatever is prohibited in the lease.  So, if you want to smoke at your apartment, either inside or out, make sure you know and understand your apartment complex’s smoking policy.   

Can A Landlord Prohibit Vaping?

While vaping isn’t as harmful to the body as cigarette smoke is, and the secondhand smoke is exponentially less harmful than cigarette smoke, AND the damage to property is virtually non-existent, Vaping is still considered “smoking” and thus, the landlord can prohibit tenants from doing so. 

No doubt, over the next several years, the rules and regulations are going to change on a state by state basis in regards to vaping, but right now, it is a landlord’s right to determine whether or not you can vape in your apartment.  

While I have seen apartment complexes have smoking policies that prohibit vaping INSIDE the apartment, I have never even heard of a complex that prohibits vaping or E-Cigarettes OUTSIDE the apartment.  To that end, I have never actually heard of a case of people being evicted for vaping in an apartment either. The signs that the tenants are actually vaping are so minuscule, you would have a tough time trying to prove they were actually vaping unless they were doing it in your face, blatantly.  

I PERSONALLY am of the mindset that landlords should EXPLICITLY allow vaping in their apartment complexes.  For a couple of reasons.  

First, vices are a part of life, and people are going to have them no matter what your particular view is on them, for or against.  People do a ton of things that hurt their bodies and other people’s property. Minimizing that damage, both to the person and the property should be the goal here, not one of standing on principle. 

Secondly, it all comes down to a “Would You Rather….” Situation.  We already know people are going to smoke. That’s a given. So, would you rather them smoke something that leaves no trace and doesn’t bother the neighbors, or have them smoke something that is not only toxic to everyone around them but damage your property as well?   

This is the choice it really comes down to, views on smoking aside.  

Hence, Apartment School supports landlords to ALLOW vaping at their complex without ENDORSING anyone to vape or start vaping.  

Are You Allowed to Smoke On Your Apartment Balcony?

This depends on what your lease says.  If your lease prohibits smoking inside your apartment, but not outside, then more than likely you are going to be able to smoke on your balcony, because that is “outside”.  

Now, if you are constantly blowing smoke in your neighbor’s window and leaving butts and ash everywhere, people are going to complain about your habit.  The best way to prevent this from happening is just to be respectful of your surroundings and the property. 

If your lease specifically prohibits smoking ANYWHERE on the property, then you are not going to be able to smoke on your balcony no matter if you think the rule is stupid or not.  Remember, the landlord is the one who owns the property, so they are the ones that get to make the rules. You get to choose which rules you want to live under when you choose your apartment. 

Can I Be Denied In The Application Process If I Am A Smoker?

Smokers are not a “protected class” in society.  This means that a landlord can discriminate against smokers if they so choose.  Additionally, they can ask you if you are a smoker during the application process and deny your rental rights if that is their prerogative. 

If you are a smoker though, this is not the complex or landlord you are going to want to be renting from anyway.  You are not going to want to spend years hiding your smoking habit and trying to dodge your landlord and neighbors every time you want to have a smoke.  Go and find someplace that is more conducive to smoking, as those complexes are definitely out there.  

Changes To Smoking Policy In The Lease

Let’s say that your landlord doesn’t have it laid out in the lease that you cannot specifically smoke outside on their property.  

Your landlord or another tenant sees you smoking outside and reports you.

Now what? 

Well, because there wasn’t wording in the lease saying you can’t smoke outside, you cannot get evicted for this.  Even is your landlord TOLD you that you can’t smoke outside, that wouldn’t count. It MUST be in the lease for it to be enforceable.  

So now, your landlord sees that it isn’t in the lease, and wants to change it.  Technically, they cannot stop you from smoking outside until the lease has been officially changed.  That means that they have to give you 30 days’ notice before the change in the lease takes effect. Even if you are already on a month-to-month lease, they MUST give you 30 days before those changes take place. 

After the 30 days, those changes will be in place, and you won’t be able to smoke outside anymore.   

Know your rights as a tenant, but also pair those rights with being respectful to your neighbors, your landlord, and their property.   If the apartment complex you are currently in is giving you are hard time about your smoking habit, it may be time to find a new one that makes life less stressful for you.   

Remember, a landlord CAN prohibit you from smoking outside, but only if it is written in the lease.  Check your lease agreement to see what it says specifically about where you can and can’t smoke.

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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