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Learning More About Real Estate

After finally saving up enough money to use as a down payment, I decided that it was time to hit the market. I met with a lender, got pre-approved for a loan, and then started visiting different properties. However, I quickly realized that I didn't know as much about real estate as I would have hoped. I wanted to find a great neighborhood and know what to ask the professionals, but I could tell that I needed a little help. To point me in the right direction, I started working with a great real estate agent who was familiar with the area. This blog is all about educating the general public on real estate matters.

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Learning More About Real Estate

Should You Make Your Rentals Non-Smoking?

by Nathan Olson

If you're the owner of apartment rentals you've probably already taken the steps necessary to ban smoking in common areas. But what about banning smoking in your rental units altogether? Whole towns are taking the step of banning smokers from apartments, but should you? Here's what you should know.

Smoking damages property and makes it harder to rent.

It probably isn't a shock to you that smoking damages property. What might shock you, however, is just how much it damages property. In 2011 alone, for example, smoking was responsible for 90,000 fires and $621 million worth of property damage. Smoking also causes a general devaluation of residential property. Real estate agents estimate that smoking inside a home reduces its value by 20-29% and makes it harder to market.

The nicotine that comes from tobacco smoke can actually get into both the paint and the drywall of your units. While the smokers themselves might not notice, the next renter in the unit might. That means that you have to take extra steps to clean a unit after a smoking tenant moves out. Typically, you have to clean the walls with something like trisodium phosphate and seal them with a stain-blocking primer before you can even start to repaint. If you don't do it correctly, nicotine stains can bleed right through the new coats of paint. The carpets and padding in your rental units are also going to pick up odors from the tobacco use and not even a thorough cleaning may remove the smells from some carpets. That often necessitates throwing out otherwise usable carpets, even after a relatively short-term tenancy.

Given the way that non-smokers can react to the residual smoke odors in an apartment and knowing that less than 17% of U.S. adults identify themselves as smokers, you may not even want to show an apartment until the smoke smell is gone and the nicotine stains are covered up. That means that you can lose out on potential tenants in the meantime. If you can't get the smoke smell out of a place, that may mean settling for a tenant that you'd rather not have. The harsh reality is that there are fewer smokers among those with higher socioeconomic status.

The transition has to be made gradually.

Unfortunately, unless your town also enacts legislation that will force the change, you'll have to make the transition to non-smoking gradually, lease by lease. Smoking isn't a protected right, like someone's religion, so you're free to limit your rentals to non-smokers. However, since it's a legal activity, the ban has to be agreed upon by both you and your tenant in order to be legal.

Managing the transition could become a little complicated and emotional, especially if you have long-term tenants that are smokers. When it comes time to renew their lease, you'll be placed in the position of having to insist that they either agree to become non-smokers or relocate. You'll also have to be ready to enforce the ban, which means regularly checking the property for stray butts and the odor of cigarettes. 

If you're contemplating transitioning your rental apartments to non-smoking units, you may want to consider hiring a property management company to help you manage the transition. A property manager can not only act as a buffer between you and the tenants, he or she can take on the responsibility of negotiating the non-smoking leases and enforcing them.

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