The Towbes Group of Santa Barbara, owner of 2,000 apartment units spread across 13 complexes in California, recently announced that tenants can no longer smoke in any of the units. (Current tenants that smoke were given a grace period to comply.)
Towbes’ move was at least partly motivated by a California law passed last fall that gave apartment house owners a statutory right to ban smoking inside tenant units. Very possibly owners already had this power, but the law provides a clear-cut defense against potential lawsuits filed by angry apartment-dwelling smokers.
The president of Towbes explained the company’s decision in terms of maintenance costs. On average, he said, the cost of cleaning up after a smoker moves out is about double that of a nonsmoker. Scraping the walls and deep cleaning of countertops and other surfaces is often necessary to get rid of the smell of smoke left by a heavy smoker. Further, efforts to insulate smoking units from nonsmoking units are costly and not always effective.
It’s interesting to consider other business aspects of a smoking ban. For example, would a no-smoking rule result in a smaller pool of tenant applicants? Some potential tenants will look elsewhere if a building doesn’t allow them to smoke inside. On the other hand, nonsmokers will be drawn to nonsmoking buildings. Since smokers are a minority these days, perhaps there’s a market advantage to going nonsmoking.
Many states prohibit smoking in workplaces, but no state prohibits smoking inside apartments. (There are no federal no-smoking laws. Wikipedia has a nice map and chart showing state smoking bans.)
How do you feel about apartment house owners issuing smoking bans? And what about a law prohibiting smoking inside units? One upscale California community has moved in this direction. Several years ago, the city of Calabas, CA enacted an ordinance that requires 80% of the units in every apartment building to be non-smoking.
Remember, Rockwell Institute is happy to answer all your real estate education questions.