If you are the landlord or property manager of one or more buildings with existing tenants, and you want to convert them to smoke-free status, this section will provide you with some useful tips on how to make it happen.
Rest assured that you won’t have any trouble attracting tenants to your smoke-free building due to the market demand for smoke-free housing in Ontario. Plus, you’ll reap the benefits of reduced complaints, costs, and fire risks of maintaining buildings where smoking is not permitted.
Remember that existing tenants must be ‘grandfathered,’ or exempted, from your policy. You will therefore need to phase-in the no-smoking policy as existing tenants (who choose not to sign a new lease) vacate the premises.
On this page you will find six easy steps to make and keep your building(s) smoke-free!
If you are a medium or large sized landlord, consider striking a committee or working group to deal with this issue:
- What is your long-term vision? Do you eventually want to convert all of your units to non-smoking, or do you forsee reserving a certain percentage where smoking will continue to be permitted?
- Review second-hand smoke related complaints. These may offer some early hints as to the type of no-smoking policy you develop.
- Solicit input from your employees and other stakeholders–including them in the process from the outset will encourage buy-in and support.
- Conduct a tenant survey to find out:
- the extent of the problem of second-hand smoke infiltration (i.e. number of tenants affected);
- the number of households that already prohibit smoking inside;
- the number of households where one or more people smoke;
- the level of support you could expect for various no-smoking policy scenarios.
Based on the input from staff, stakeholders and tenants, decide on the extent of your policy. No-smoking options include:
- Inside some of the private units, such as designating a wing, floor or one building out of a complex. However, note that second-hand smoke travels between units and floors, and designating only some units as no-smoking could still result in tenants’ involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke;
- Inside all of the private units;
- As above, plus balconies or private use patios;
- As above, plus outdoor smoke-free buffer zones around doorways, operable windows and air intakes. Although the distance you choose is totally up to your discretion, a 9 metre rule is consistent with provincial legislation (for certain buildings like hospitals) and could lessen potential confusion for tenants;
- As above, plus the entire property. Most attractive to non-smoking tenants and easiest to enforce is a policy that includes all private units, balconies, patios and the grounds right up to the property line.
- Note that another option is to create an outdoor designated smoking area away from doorways, operable windows, air intakes and outdoor common areas like patios. Ideally, such an area would have a roof, a place to sit and somewhere to safely dispose of butts.
Decide on a start date. Experience dictates that it’s better to go slower than to try and rush things through. Six months to a year should be plenty of time to gather the required information and make proper preparations. Spring and summer are ideal times to launch a new policy–that gives people enough time to get used to stepping outside for a cigarette before the snow flies!
Check out our sample no-smoking policy in the tools section, and then tailor it to fit your specific needs.
Ideally, your communications strategy will be multi-pronged, ongoing and positive, with a focus on the health benefits of being 100% smoke-free:
- Inform your existing tenants by letter (and post in common areas) that on the stated effective date, the no-smoking policy will be in effect for new tenants. It’s important to communicate the new policy with existing tenants to explain and reassure them that they will be exempted from the policy. Refer to the tools section for a sample tenant notification letter.
- Inform existing resident managers/caretakers by letter. While existing resident managers are ‘grandfathered’ while off-duty in their rental units, all new resident managers must abide by your no-smoking policy. The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which bans smoking in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces, continues to apply to resident managers while on duty. Refer to the tools section for a sample resident manager notification letter.
- If applicable, inform tenants on the waiting list about the new no-smoking policy.
- Post signage in appropriate locations. If your policy applies to the entire property, consider a sign by the parking lot, on the outside of the building or somewhere similarly prominent that says “Welcome to Our Smoke-Free Property.”
- Post no-smoking signs in the front lobby, at elevators and in other common areas.
- Contact your local public health unit to ask about signage.
- If you have a newsletter or website, include information about second-hand smoke and the importance of your no-smoking policy for the health of tenants and staff.
- If you are a medium-sized or large landlord, consider issuing a press release. Since smoke-free housing is still a new concept in Ontario, your no-smoking policy is news. Earned media is a great way to advertise as well as inform.
- Advertise your smoke-free units in directories or websites where your building is listed. Going smoke-free is a clear marketing advantage.
- Consider a comment box in the lobby to solicit feedback from your tenants.
- Once your policy has been in place for a while (6 months to a year), consider a survey to get feedback on what your tenants think. Constructive comments can be useful to help improve things, and positive comments can be used to promote and advertise your smoke-free building.
- Contact us and share your good news! Eventually we’ll have a smoke-free directory which you’ll be a part of.
- Insert your no-smoking policy into the lease and application form, if applicable.
- Consider asking your tenants to initial the no-smoking clause when they sign the lease–if you have to enforce your policy at the Landlord and Tenant Board, this measure will make it much more difficult for them to claim they were not aware of the policy when they moved in.
- Ensure that new tenants understand your goal. If you plan on creating no-smoking floors or wings, let them know which ones they will eventually be. If the goal is to make your entire building 100% smoke-free, be clear about the transition before they sign the tenancy agreement. Inform potential tenants that:
- There are grandfathered tenants who are permitted to smoke in the building and you can’t guarantee a 100% smoke-free environment until the transition is complete;
- Explain that while smoking is permitted in grandfathered units, complaints of second-hand smoke will still be addressed if it is found that a significant amount of smoke is infiltrating their homes. Refer to the enforcement section to read more about reasonable enjoyment.
- While you cannot ban smoking in existing tenancies, you can offer all existing tenants the opportunity to sign a no-smoking addendum to their current tenancy agreement.
- If suitable, consider staggering the implementation of your policy. For example, if your goal is to eventually have a 100% smoke-free property, you could start with all indoor private units, but continue to permit smoking outdoors in a designated smoking area for a limited length of time (i.e. 1 year).
- Consider offering incentives to residents to move to another of your buildings. (i.e. If only two tenants in Building A smoke, offer incentives for them to move to Building B, so that Building A can become 100% smoke-free.)
Be prepared. Know ahead of time how you will respond to any problems. Experience with smoke-free workplaces and public places, along with smoke-free buildings in other jurisdictions, indicates that most people follow the rules. You do not have to personally witness a tenant smoking to enforce your policy. In all likelihood your tenants will be the biggest advocates of your policy and will readily let you know when someone is not following the rules.
Your enforcement plan will likely depend on your tenant(s) and their behaviour, whether or not there is damage to the unit, and whether or not you live in the building too. You always have the choice to take a soft or hard approach with smoking violations. A soft approach involves speaking directly with the tenant and writing a warning letter before serving the tenant a Notice to Terminate a Tenancy Early form. A hard approach skips the warnings and lets the ‘Notice to Terminate a Tenancy Early’ form serve as an eviction warning.
In Ontario, smoking in violation of a no-smoking policy is not considered a material breach of the lease. You would therefore likely enforce your policy for one of the following reasons:
- Damage—The tenant, the tenant’s guest or another occupant of the rental unit willfully or negligently damaged the rental unit or the residential complex as per section 62(1) of the Act (Form N5).
- Damage—The tenant, the tenant’s guest or another occupant of the rental unit willfully damaged the rental unit or the residential complex as per section 63(1a) of the Act (Form N7).
- Reasonable enjoyment—The tenant, the tenant’s guest or another occupant of the rental unit substantially interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the residential complex by the landlord or another tenant, or substantially interfered with another lawful right, privilege or interest of the landlord or another tenant as per section 64(1) of the Act (Form N5).
- Reasonable enjoyment of landlord in a small building (landlord must reside in a building containing not more than three residential units)–The tenant, the tenant’s guest or another occupant of the rental unit substantially interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the building by the landlord, or substantially interfered with another lawful right, privilege or interest of the landlord as per section 65(1) of the Act(Form N7).
In past cases at the Landlord and Tenant Board, adjudicators have accepted evidence in the form of log books detailing the dates and times that second-hand smoke infiltrated another apartment, in addition to testimony from third parties confirming the smell of second-hand smoke and its impact on health and well-being.
Visit our enforcement section for more information.
- Contact your local public health unit to find out about cessation resources in your community and post information in common areas, such as your laundry room;
- See if there is an opportunity to partner with your local public health unit on this issue–they may be able to help bring cessation resources and services into your building.