Landlord Rights in Smoke-free Apartments

You have the right to set reasonable rules that protect your investment–just like you might have rules about pets or candles.

Smoking is not a protected behavior under any federal, state or local laws. Read an analysis by the Technical Assistance Legal Center stating that there is no constitutional right to smoke (PDF).

A synopsis by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (PDF) provides a detailed analysis of a landlord or owner's legal right to prohibit smoking on their properties.

Smoke-free Policies Reduce Owner Liability

Smoke-free rules can protect property owners from certain liabilities. Non-smokers with serious breathing disabilities or smoke allergies have legal protection under federal and state laws. Secondhand smoke can interfere with some disabled residents' ability to have equal access to, and enjoyment of, their housing.

Residents may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or the Fair Housing Act (PDF). When this is the case, property managers and owners are required to make reasonable accommodations to protect their residents from secondhand smoke.

Courts in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York and Washington state have also found property managers liable when they fail to address problems caused by secondhand smoke.

Residents have successfully sued for breach of warranty of habitability, constructive eviction and breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment, because property managers did not stop smoke from drifting into their units.1

HUD-assisted Housing

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) re-released a memo that “strongly encourages Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to implement non-smoking policies in some or all of their public housing units.” The memo goes on to state: “PHAs are permitted and strongly encouraged to implement a non-smoking policy at their discretion, subject to state and local law.”

In Washington, majority of the 37 housing authorities have made some or all of their buildings smoke-free, including the King County Housing Authority, the Walla Walla Housing Authority and the Clallam Housing Authority.

The Smoke-Free Environments Law Project conducted an analysis of federal and state laws, HUD rules and legal cases (PDF) found “unequivocally that a ban on smoking for new tenants who move into public or section 8 housing is permissible in all 50 states.” However, landlords may be required to allow existing residents to continue smoking until the time of their lease renewal.

More Resources


  1. Secondhand Smoke in Apartment Buildings and Condominiums, Smoke-Free Environments Law Project, Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.