Tenants Guide to Smoke-Free Living

The most effective way to eliminate secondhand smoke in a multi-unit building is for your landlord to make the building completely smoke-free. More and more landlords are making their properties smoke-free. Just like prohibiting pets, landlords can prohibit smoking. It is entirely legal, and implementing the rule is simple. When current tenants renew their leases, the landlord simply has them sign a lease addendum that prohibits smoking. New tenants sign the addendum when signing their lease.

So, how do you convince your landlord to make the change? The key is to communicate persuasively and make the issue relevant to the landlord. Landlords are particularly interested in keeping their costs low and reducing conflict among tenants. Here are some things you can do:


Getting Started

Document the problem. Identify the source of the secondhand smoke, how it enters your apartment and when it is worst. Keep a written record with dates and times of exposure. Simply mentioning to your landlord that you smell secondhand smoke makes it seem like a mere annoyance, rather than a serious problem.

Secondhand Smoke Log Template (Word)



Get testimonials. Have others confirm the presence of secondhand smoke in your apartment or their own. The consensus of neighboring tenants, friends, maintenance personnel and others can be very convincing.

Build consensus among the other tenants and get their support. Ask friends in the building whether they are experiencing the same problem. Have them document the problem just like you did. Talk to them about the benefits of a smoke-free building. Send letters to other tenants asking them to get involved. Present the support for a smoke-free policy to a residents’ council if there is one for your housing location.


Make a Plan

Recommend going smoke-free as a solution. If there is a residents’ council, meet with them first and explain the smoke-free benefits. Next make sure your landlord knows that drifting secondhand smoke is a serious problem the building.

Other tenants can help highlight the problem by mailing letters or sending emails about their exposure to secondhand smoke in the building. The more letters and emails received by the landlord, the more important the issue becomes. Also, have as many tenants as possible sign a petition in support of a smoke-free rule and share the petition with the landlord.

Letter to Landlord Template (Word)



Tell your landlord about the many benefits of going smoke-free. When landlords make their properties smoke-free, they can:

  • Attract more tenants. Johnson County has some of the lowest smoking rates in the state, meaning a potential high demand for smoke-free housing. Many smokers do not smoke inside their homes and are interested in smoke-free housing.
  • Save money by reducing the need for repairs and by reducing insurance costs. Apartments where smoking is allowed will require more time and money to re-rent.
  • Eliminate the leading cause of residential fires. Nationwide, property damage from cigarette-caused fires exceeds $400 million annually.
  • Keep tenants happy. Tenants may choose to move out rather than expose themselves to secondhand smoke.

Provide your landlord with resources on going smoke-free. Information for landlords on how to make their properties smoke-free is available on this website.



Respond to your landlord’s concerns. Keep the following facts in mind if your landlord raises concerns about making a change:

  • Smoke-free policies are easy to enforce. No-smoking rules are largely self-enforcing. They attract tenants who support smoke-free policies.
  • Smoke-free policies should not increase liability. With a properly drafted no smoking rule, landlords are given the flexibility and time they need for enforcement. The real threat of liability comes from ignoring the problem and allowing secondhand smoke exposure to continue.
  • Implementing a smoke-free rule is easy and inexpensive. When current tenants renew their leases, the landlord simply has them sign a lease addendum that prohibits smoking. New tenants sign when signing their lease.