Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal — Fall Preview — September 27 - October 10, 2013 — A


A ttorney

ationwide, multi- f am i l y p r o p e r t y owners are fielding a By Tracey Goldstein, Esquire, Feinstein, Raiss, Kelin & Booker, L.L.C. Rising tenant smoking complaints: what’s a multi-family property owner to do? N with respiratory concerns, such as asthma, are especially vulnerable to THS.

The dangers of third-hand smoke (THS), the residue that permeates rugs, upholstery, walls, furniture and other surfaces long after the second- hand smoke has been cleared from an area, is also being rec- ognized as extremely harmful. According to the New Jersey Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP), THS may be more of a health hazard than SHS as it continues to emit particles long after the ciga- rette has been extinguished and the smoke has dissipated. Infants, children and those

unit. The issue of smoking in multi-family properties is further compounded when it comes to safety concerns beyond exposure to SHS and THS. Smoking paraphernalia can easily lead to accidental fires. Examples include a ten- ant falling asleep while smok- ing or young children start- ing fires when playing with matches or lighters. HUD Endorses Smoke- Free Public Housing and in Market-Rate Units There is no existing fed-

continued on page 9A eral or state law that prohib- its owners from instituting a 100-percent smoke-free policy. Furthermore, HUD has en- dorsed no-smoking policies since 2009, when the agency encouraged all multi-family owners, including public hous- ing authorities and landlords of private market-rate units, to adopt a smoke-free dwelling. In addition to public housing complexes, smoke-free build- ings seem to be most common in new construction. As Americans become more

rising num- ber of tenant complaints r e l a t ed t o smoking in i nd i v i dua l apartment- rental units. Wh i l e t h e cha l l enge s

Between SHS and THS, it is no surprise that property maintenance and unit turn- over costs are considerably higher for multi-family own- ers. Smoking is known to cause extensive property damages, from yellowed walls to discol- ored window treatments and ruined carpets. According to HUD, apartment turnover costs are two to seven times greater for a smoking unit as compared to a non-smoking

Tracey Goldstein

associated with smoking are not new to seasoned owners and property managers, medi- cal studies focusing on the dan- gers of second and third-hand smoke have thrust this issue to the forefront. Adding further to this renewed focus is a promi- nent real estate firm’s recent announcement that it would ban smoking in its 40,000 rental units nationwide. As a result, the multi-family property smoking debate has been pushed firmly into the limelight. There are many well-docu- mented studies, including a 2010 report by the U.S. Sur- geon General, indicating that second-hand smoke (SHS) is a clear health hazard. Because of its migratory properties, smoke from one multi-family unit can infiltrate hallways, common areas and other resi- dential units. The U.S. Sur- geon General further asserts that there is no risk-free level when it comes to SHS. It is imperative that prop- erty owners educate them- selves regarding their legal obligations as well as how to properly handle a smoking complaint. In some states like New Jersey, if the smoke is emanating from one unit into another, and interfering with the “peace and quiet” of oth- ers, the landlord is obligated to take steps to remedy the situation. It is important to note that residents who smoke do not have the absolute right to do so in their private apart- ment if it interferes with the enjoyment of others. And, if an individual with a disability complains about SHS smoke, and requests a reasonable accommodation, the landlord must comply. Mandated by the Federal Fair Housing Act, the reasonable accommodation may include terminating a lease or provid- ing an apartment transfer. New Data on Third- Hand Smoke


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