As a landlord, you will have your own specific rules on smoking inside rental properties. For most, it’s a prohibited. In the majority of tenancy agreements, smoking will be outlined as one of the things that is not allowed as the risk of damage, stains and other issues is deemed too high.
Despite this, some tenants may knowingly (or unknowingly) choose to flout these rules and smoke indoors regardless.
Fortunately for you, there are a number of signs and giveaways to look out for that make it clear if smoking has been taking place.
The smell of cigarette smoke tends to linger for a long while, even if drastic attempts have been made to cover it. Tenants who choose to smoke indoors may look to cover their tracks – perhaps by spraying air freshener, lighting scented candles or using air diffusers. They may simply open all doors and windows to try and get rid of the stench. If, during a routine inspection of your property, there are clear attempts to disguise certain smells, this may be a warning sign that a tenant has been up to no good.
What’s more, cigarette smoke is very good at attaching itself to clothes, furniture, curtains, drapes, carpets and linen. If smoking has occurred in a room, it’s likely that the effects of this will show itself. The smell of smoke is likely to cling to walls, ceilings and floors and is very difficult – nigh-on impossible – to get rid of completely.
Another clear tell-tale sign is cigarette stains, which can be found on walls, curtains, light fixtures, lamps and various surfaces. Again, they are very hard to disguise completely. They will typically be yellow or brown spots – and might only be very small – but are clear indicators that smoking has been taking place in a room. Even if walls have been repainted, smoke stains will find a way of showing up on paintwork and wallpaper. If your tenant suddenly requests to repaint a room, this might be a cause for concern.
While such a request will in many cases be completely harmless, it may be worth carrying out an inspection of the home before any redecorating takes place to ensure that tenants have been sticking to the rules of the tenancy agreement.
Evidence of cigarette butts in the garden may also set alarm bells ringing. While smoking outdoors may be allowed, it could also be the case that tenants have been smoking indoors and have simply disposed of their butts outside. Cigarette burns – generally found on furniture and carpets – will also be nearly impossible to disguise. If drastic attempts have been made by tenants to conceal items of furniture or certain parts of the property, your suspicions will quite rightly be aroused.
In addition, you may find evidence of ash trays – or other items being used as temporary ash trays such as mugs, bowls and small plates – which is also a sure-fire sign of a smoke-friendly home. Cigarette ash and residue, too, may have found its way onto window sills, furniture, electrical items and shelves, even if tenants have been careful to try and hide this. It’s extremely stubborn and will find its way into all manner of cracks and surfaces.
Lastly, yellow-brown dots on walls – especially surrounding doorframes – are a nailed-on sign of nicotine damage.
Put simply, if a tenant has been smoking in one of your rental properties on a regular basis, there is a good chance you will be able to tell. Smoke damage will make itself very apparent when you – or your letting agent – carry out a routine inspection of the home.
Some tenants may simply not be aware that smoking isn’t allowed. They may not have studied the tenancy agreement closely enough, or it may not have been made clear enough to them what the rules and regulations were when they moved in.
This is why a clear and thorough tenancy agreement is so vital, to ensure there is no confusion or mixed messages. It may be wise to remind tenants of the house rules every so often; you may even wish to have a notice or document outlining the do’s and don’ts of the tenancy in the home itself. If you really want to make things crystal clear, no smoking signs could be placed in your rental property for added peace of mind.
You want to avoid disputes and confrontation as much as possible, but it will need to be made clear to tenants that smoke damage will need to be repaired – and that these repair bills will be paid for from their deposit. Adopting a conciliatory, reasoned tone – and ensuring tenants are aware of their rights and obligations when it comes to smoking indoors – is the wisest course of action.
In the vast majority of cases, tenants will adhere to the tenancy agreement and not smoke indoors. A small minority, however, may choose to flout the rules – or may be unaware of them. Regular inspections of your rental property (agreed in advance with tenants) will help to nip issues in the bud early on, while working closely with your letting agent to ensure tenants stick to the tenancy agreement at all times is crucial.
At Letting Solutions, we are West Lothian’s first dedicated lettings agency and make it our mission to help landlords get the most from their rental properties. As part of the management package we offer, we carry out three monthly management inspections of your property, including a written report on how the tenancy is going.
For more information about what we offer, please get in touch with us on 01506 496 006. We also provide a free and instant online valuations to give you an idea of how much your rental property could be worth in the current marketplace.