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Healthier Buildings, Happier Residents,
A Smart Investment.

Steps to go Smoke Free

Live Smoke Free staff and materials are available for you to utilize when transitioning to a smoke-free building.

Live Smoke Free has organized the resources and materials that you may need for these steps into a Three-Part Series for Apartment Managers. If you would like to receive hard copies of the folders and their contents, please contact Live Smoke Free. For smoke-free housing programs who are inspired by our work, we ask that you contact us prior to reproducing, modifying or sharing our work, and that you credit us for the initial creation of these resources; we are very proud of the hardwork and creativity that went into making these resources.

Association boards of common-interest communities go through similar steps when adopting a smoke-free policy as their counterparts in rental properties. Visit our common interest communities section learn more.

View our video about how to adopt a smoke-free policy!


Step One: What is Your Situation?

  • Are you planning for new construction?
    A smoke-free policy can help maintain the building’s clean condition and protect your investment from day one.
  • Are you renovating your building or purchasing an older building?
    A smoke-free policy can help protect all of the hard work and money you may be putting into new carpet, paint, or fixtures.
  • Are you moving ahead with a policy with no other changes to your building?
    Many managers adopt a smoke-free policy without renovating or doing major changes to the building.
  • Who determines policy decisions for your building?
    Talk to the building's owner or other key decidion makers about the benefits of going smoke free.
  • Decide 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: Depending on your situation and location, you can choose to allow smoking in all outdoor areas, only allow smoking in designated outdoor areas, or prohibit smoking in all outdoor areas. Limiting or prohibiting smoking outdoors can help reduce smoke drifting into windows and reduce tobacco litter on your property.
    • Common areas: The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in all common areas of all apartment buildings in Minnesota. Common areas include places such as hallways, laundry rooms, underground garages, rental offices, building entrances, exercise rooms, indoor swimming pool areas, and party rooms. For more information visit the Minnesota Clean Indoor Act web page.
  • Live Smoke Free can offer consultations and presentations to your staff and residents.

Step Two: Survey Your Residents

  • Find out how many residents smoke in their apartment units
    • Not all households with smokers allow smoking in their units
    • Some nonsmokers may allow guests to smoke in their units
  • Live Smoke Free has sample surveys and letters to send to residents
  • Conducting a survey serves three purposes:
    • Gathers information about the status of your building
    • Alerts residents that change may be ahead
    • Gives residents a chance to voice their opinion

Step Three: Set a Quit Date

  • Set a time frame for implementing the new policy
  • Notify residents of your reasons for going smoke free
    • Live Smoke Free has a sample notification letter to send to residents
    • Inform residents at what time they will need to abide by the new policy if they wish to remain in the building
    • Reasonable notice: You will want to notify your residents about the policy change in a reasonable period of time. Depending on your building’s situation, reasonable notice could be 30-60 days. Live Smoke Free recommends 60-90 days notice.
  • Hold a resident meeting to educate residents about the policy
    • Live Smoke Free can present to the residents about the merits of a smoke-free housing policy.
  • Renew leases using a smoke-free lease addendum
  • Determine your implementation strategy. Common strategies for converting to a smoke-free building are:
    • "Phase-in" method: This process typically takes one year (or the length of your longest lease period). Begin having new renters who move into the building sign a smoke-free lease addendum or policy. Announce the policy change to current residents and have them sign a smoke-free lease addendum or policy at the time of their lease renewal.
    • "Quit-date" method: This process may only take a couple of months. Decide what date you would like the building to go smoke free. Give your residents notice of the policy change and tell them that they must sign a smoke-free lease addendum or policy by a certain date (a few weeks before the policy change).
    • Utilize these timelines and checklists to help you with your implementation strategy.
  • NOTE: Residents who smoke can still live in the building as long as they abide by the smoke-free policy. A smoke-free policy does not force someone who smokes to move out or means they are being 'kicked' out of their apartment.

Step Four: Determine Incentives (if appropriate for your building)

  • Offer residents an incentive to sign the smoke-free policy early
    • Incentives could include a free party room rental, a discount on a garage rental, a discount on the next month's rent, or other bonuses your building may be able to offer.
  • Consider offering the option for smoking residents to move to another building in your complex
    • For example, if only two residents in Building A smoke, offer to pay for their moving expenses so that they can move to Building B so that Building A can become smoke free.

Step Five: Post Signs and Remind Residents

  • Send out a reminder announcement to residents a few days prior to the policy going into effect
  • 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

  • Renters are looking for smoke-free buildings
  • Advertising that your building is smoke free will make it stand out to renters
  • List your building on Live Smoke Free’s online directory of smoke-free apartment buildings

Step Seven: Enforce Your Policy

  • Smoke-free policies are largely self-enforcing
  • Ensure that the lease language prohibits smoking and specifies that it is a violation of the lease to smoke in case an eviction becomes necessary
  • Document violations and get witnesses who would be able to testify to incidents of smoking by resident
  • Enforce a smoke-free policy the way you’d enforce other policy or lease violations (ie, documented warnings and possible eventual termination)
  • Be consistent, fair, and timely when following up on violations (try these tips for conflict resolution)