Establishing a no-smoking policy for a new apartment building or complex is the fastest and easiest way to go smoke-free. All of your tenants will be new tenants signing brand new leases, so there’s no grandfathering and no gradual turn-over. You can open your doors as a 100% smoke-free building from the outset. Furthermore, since your tenants will have sought out your smoke-free units, or at the very least will have knowingly entered into the smoke-free lease, you shouldn’t have a problem with enforcement.

Step 1: Develop your policy

Since this is a new building, you are not bound by any previous policies or tenancy agreements. 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.

If you are not prepared to make your entire property 100% smoke-free, consider:

  • A smoke-free buffer zone 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; and/or
  • 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.

If you are a large landlord with staff or other stakeholders, seek their input on your policy. They will be much more likely to have buy-in and be supportive with enforcement if you have included them in the process. Plus, if you have smokers on staff, they will also have a place to smoke.

Check out our sample no-smoking policy in the tools section, and then tailor it to your specific needs.

Step 2: Develop a communications strategy

Ideally, your communications strategy will be multi-pronged, ongoing and positive, with a focus on the health benefits of being 100% smoke-free:

  • 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.
Step 3: Implement your policy
  • 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.
Step 4: Enforce your policy

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:

  1. Damage—The tenant, the tenant’s guest or another occupant of the rental unit willfully or negligentlydamaged the rental unit or the residential complex as per section 62(1) of the Act (Form N5).
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

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