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Are Tenants Responsible for Damages that are Caused by Smoking Cigarettes?

Posted by sonrise on October 18, 2022
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Landlords sometimes struggle with the decision of whether to allow renters to smoke in their rental properties for one simple dilemma: prohibiting smoking may decrease their pool of applicants but allowing smoking creates the risk of serious (and expensive) property damage. From replacement and odor removal costs to the risk of fire and high tenant turnover, damages that are caused by smoking cigarettes in a rental property can be very serious.

Tenants should also consider whether it’s worth it to smoke in a rental. The question they need to ask is, if damages do occur, who is responsible? The answer, despite what some renters might prefer to believe, is that the responsibility for smoking related damages does not fall on landlords’ shoulders but rather on the tenant who caused the damages.

Are Tenants Responsible for Damages that are Caused by Smoking Cigarettes?

While smoking damage to a rental unit is undoubtedly frustrating, the good news for landlords is that they are not legally required to pay for the cost of repair. According to Washington state landlord-tenant law, tenants are responsible for smoking damage.

Under the law, it is part of a tenant’s duty to “not intentionally or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the structure or dwelling.” This includes “the facilities, equipment, furniture, furnishings, and appliances.”

Damages caused by smoking inside a rental property are covered under this law, which makes them the tenant’s responsibility rather than the landlord’s responsibility. Tenants are also responsible for keeping their unit clean and sanitary, properly disposing of garbage and waste from inside their units, and maintaining smoke detector batteries.

Landlord and tenant rights

Tenants can be held responsible for damages caused by themselves or visitors invited to the property. These include yellow walls from smoke, carpets damaged from cigarette ash, and other smoking-related damages.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that not all damages are tenants’ responsibility. Landlords are responsible for repairs and maintenance related to normal wear and tear, as well as damages caused by the landlord’s negligence. Smoking-related damages do not fall under either of these categories.

As a landlord, it’s also important to go through the proper process when charging tenants for damages. You must provide your tenant with an itemized list of damages and costs before charging the tenant or deducting the funds from their security deposit.

Reasons to ban smoking in rentals

Landlords are well within their rights to ban smoking in their rental properties if they so choose (learn more about that here). Ultimately, there are many reasons why landlords might choose to do that.

Replacement and odor removal costs from smoking in an apartment can be very high. The costs of repainting walls and doors, and potentially having to replace everything from carpeting and vinyl flooring to curtains and furnishings often totals $8,000 or more.

And although we’ve already established that tenants are responsible for the cost of damages caused by smoking, getting tenants to pay can be a hassle if the costs end up being more than can be covered by their security deposit. Banning smoking altogether makes the whole situation much simpler.

Learn more

Establishing and enforcing smoking rules in your rental properties can be a hassle, which is one of many reasons why landlords often turn to professional property management for support. Among the many jobs that property managers do, we always ensure that landlord and tenant rights are respected.

Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of property management, and talk with our team about how we can support your rental property business.

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