Step 5: Enforcing your smoke-free policy

Engaging and communicating with your stakeholders regarding your smoke-free policy will go a long way in facilitating enforcement. Likely, your residents will be the biggest advocates of your policy and will readily tell you when someone is not following the rules. Most people comply with smoke-free policies when they are clearly and effectively communicated. Still, you should be prepared and know ahead of time how you will respond to any problems.

How to handle violations

Your enforcement plan will likely depend on your tenants and their behaviour, whether or not there is damage to the unit, and the extent of second-hand smoke exposure to other tenants.

You always have the choice to take a soft or hard approach with smoking violations. Regardless, a smoke-free policy needs clear and committed consequences (e.g., warnings and penalties) for non-compliance.

Steps to take if there is evidence that a violation has occurred

  1. Talk to the tenant and try to achieve a verbal agreement regarding compliance. Review and explain the smoke-free policy with the tenant.
  2. If an agreement is reached, it can be helpful to put it in writing for future reference. Have the tenant sign a copy of the dated letter from the landlord to the tenant, confirming the discussion and the tenant’s agreement to abide by the smoke-free policy.
  3. If the smoking continues, issue a caution notice advising the tenant that:
    • they have breached the terms of the smoke-free policy (explain how);
    • they are requested to smoke only where permitted under the policy (give options); and,
    • ongoing failure to comply with the policy could result in the tenancy ending (eviction).
  4. Document all violations, and, if possible, get witnesses who would be able and willing to testify to incidents of smoking by the tenant if necessary.
  5. Conduct regular inspections.
  6. Actively address complaints of second-hand smoke exposure.

Download a sample complaint flowchartcomplaint log and caution notice.

If a tenant commits a series of breaches of the smoke-free policy, a landlord has grounds to end the tenancy. As with any termination of a tenancy, if the tenant disputes the termination, it may need to be resolved through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service. This process will be easier for the landlord if the smoke-free policy is included in the tenant’s lease.

If a current tenant on a periodic lease refuses to sign an amendment to their tenancy agreement, there may be legal grounds to hold them to your smoke-free policy. A strong argument can be made that the RTA must permit a landlord to impose rules where reasonably necessary to fulfill their covenants. This includes the ability to prohibit smoking in individual units if a case can be made that second-hand smoke may become injurious or dangerous to the public health. This argument, however, has yet to be tested in Alberta courts.

Issues while transitioning to smoke-free status

If your building is converting to smoke-free status either through a phased-in approach or due to exempted tenants, it will continue to be important to address complaints of second-hand smoke migrating in smoke-free units from spaces where smoking is still allowed. If applicable, clarify with staff that while exempted or phased-in residents may be allowed to smoke in their units, complaints of second-hand smoke must still be addressed and documented. If it is significantly bothering other tenants, the second-hand smoke can constitute a nuisance which would need to be addressed.

Have you started implementing a smoke-free policy?

We want to hear from you! Contact us to tell us about your experience consulting stakeholders and drafting, implementing and enforcing your building's smoke-free policy.

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