As a landlord, you likely know all about the many potential damages and hazards caused by tenants smoking inside your rental property. These days, most landlords choose to implement a strict no smoking in your rental property policy in all indoor spaces.
But enforcing that policy isn’t always easy. Some renters may choose to smoke inside their unit despite your rules against it. That puts you in the difficult position of having to prove that your tenants are smoking, which is often easier said than done. In the state of Washington, tenants are financially responsible for damages to a rental unit caused by smoking inside, but in order to make sure they pay what they owe, you may have to prove that smoking actually occurred.
How To Prove a Tenant Is Smoking in Your Rental Property
Signs of smoking indoors
It’s virtually impossible to smoke indoors without leaving telltale signs behind. These are some of the most important signs to look for to prove your renters have been smoking:
- Odors: One of the most obvious signs of smoking is the odor of cigarette smoke, which is almost impossible to cover up. The smell of smoke usually clings to a wide range of surfaces, especially fabric items like carpeting and curtains. In addition to the smell of smoke itself, you may also notice additional odors used to cover it up, such as excessive use of candles, incense and air fresheners.
- Discoloration: Over time, regular smoking indoors inevitably leads to stains and discoloration on various surfaces. It will be most apparent on light-colored wallpaper and paint, as well as ceilings, light fixtures, and switch plates. Stains are also common around window and door frames, especially if tenants have been smoking inside your property and using a fan to blow the smoke outside.
- Burn marks: Burn marks are often left behind by accidentally-dropped cigarette butts or ash, and even careful smokers are likely to leave behind the occasional burn. Look for cigarette burns on carpets especially, but also on other surfaces like cushions, tabletops, counters, window sills, and sinks. Tenants may attempt to cover up burns by moving area rugs or cushions, but they are almost impossible to hide completely.
- Physical traces: No matter how careful a smoker may be, cigarette butts and ashes have a way of escaping and being left behind. Keep an eye out for stray remnants behind curtains, underneath cushions and pieces of furniture, and inside mugs or cups that may have been used as makeshift ashtrays. If tenants are smoking inside, they may empty ashtrays out all at once right before an inspection, so keep an eye out for large amounts of ash and spent cigarettes in trash cans.
How to handle tenants smoking inside your rental property
If you suspect that tenants are smoking in your rental property, it’s best to approach the situation calmly. Making accusations right out of the gate doesn’t do anyone any good, and could cause legal issues for you if you don’t have proof. Here’s how best to handle it:
- Communicate: Make sure your no-smoking policy is clearly outlined in your lease agreement and post signage on the property that smoking is not allowed. Gently remind tenants of their obligations under the lease agreement if you believe they may be in violation. Explain the damage it can cause, and remind them that they can be financially responsible.
- Document everything: One reason you should always inspect and photograph each unit before tenants move in is so that you can compare the state of the property after they move out. These photographs can be used as proof of the physical damage that was caused by smoking.
Want to learn more about how to best enforce a no-smoking policy in your rental property? Contact us today for information on how professional property management can help.