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Steps to Go Smoke Free for Common Interest Communities

Increasingly, homeowner’s associations, residents, and property managers of common interest communities (condos, townhomes, and cooperatives) are interested in smoke-free policy options for their property.

 Live Smoke Free staff and materials are available for you to utilize when transitioning to a smoke-free building. If you would like to receive hard copies of the folders and their contents, please contact Live Smoke Free.


Step One: Educate and Survey Members

  • Homeowner’s Associations have a number of things to consider before moving forward with a smoke-free policy. They will want to consider support for the policy change by association members, what parts of the property will be covered by the policy, how to handle current smokers, and likelihood that the policy will be modified in the near future. 
  • A good first step is to educate association members about the many benefits of smoke-free policies.  Live Smoke Free offers free educational materials and presentations that can be provided to Board and Association members.

  • Many associations choose to survey all homeowners in the association to find out how many homeowners smoke in their homes and/or have been affected by secondhand smoke coming into their unit. Conducting a survey serves three purposes:

1. Gathers information about the smoking behavior in your building

2. Alerts residents that change may be ahead

3. Gives residents a chance to voice their opinion

Live Smoke Free can offer consultations and give presentations to your board and homeowners about the benefits of a smoke-free policy.

Step Two: Determine Policy Details and Timelines

  • Which areas the policy will cover?
    • Individual units: Covering all residential units ensures that smoke cannot drift from one unit to another unit in the building.
    • Outdoor areas: Limiting or prohibiting smoking outdoors can help reduce smoke drifting into windows and tobacco litter on your property. Depending on your situation and location, you can choose to:
      • allow smoking in all outdoor areas
      • designate specific outdoor areas for smoking
      • prohibit smoking in all outdoor areas
  • How will ‘smoking’ be defined?
    • Besides traditional cigarettes, your smoke-free policy could include:
      • Traditional tobacco cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
      • Electronic Cigarettes
      • Incense
    • Live Smoke Free has sample definitions you can include in your policy.
    • You can learn more about electronic cigarettes, incense and medical marijuana here
  • Who will need to abide by the policy?
    • Renters
    • Current Owners
    • Future Owners
  • How will the policy be enforced and how will violations be handled?

 Step Three: Adopt a Policy

  • A smoke-free policy in a common interest community can be adopted via a change to the house rules or declaration.  Whether to include a policy in the House Rules or Declaration depends on a number of factors including: support for the policy change by association members, likelihood that the policy will be modified in the near future, and expectation that the policy might be legally challenged.

    • House Rules- A rules and regulations change can generally be accomplished by a majority vote of the association board. 

    • Declaration- According to MN state law, a change to the declaration requires a super majority of at least 67% of votes in the association.   
  • Is it better to Include the Policy in the Declaration or in the Rules?
    • A new rule and regulation is easier to implement and change, but is also more susceptible to challenges.  A change to the declaration is more difficult and costly to pass, but it will be given deference by the courts and be stronger against legal challenges. 

Live Smoke Free can offer consultations and give educational presentations to your board and homeowners about the pros and cons of each adoption strategy.

Step Four: Implement the Policy

  • Notify residents of the policy details and timeline
    • Live Smoke Free has a sample notification letter that can be modified
  • Update documents
    • Consult with your association attorney and make the appropriate changes to the house rules or declaration.
    • Live Smoke Free has sample smoke-free policy language for homeowner’s associations
    • Notify new purchases and rentals about the smoke-free policy

Step Five: Post Signage  

  • Post signs at the entrances to the buildings and anywhere else on your property where you want to ensure that no smoking occurs

Step Six: Advertise Your Policy

  • Buyers and renters are looking for smoke-free buildings
  • Advertising and promoting that your building is smoke free will make it attractive to prospective buyers
  • List your building in Minnesota’s Smoke-Free Housing Directory

Step Seven: Enforce Your Policy

  • A smoke-free policy should be enforced as the association would any other policy.  Although most smoke-free policies are largely self-enforcing, the procedures to warn a violator of infractions and the steps for enforcement should be clearly documented in the policy. 
  • If enforcement becomes necessary, the association should follow the procedures as documented, and always enforce the policy uniformly (against all violators), consistently (whenever a violation occurs), and in a timely manner. In many common interest communities, enforcing a smoke-free policy means that residents who violate the smoking policy may receive warning notices, fines and ultimately a lien on their property.