Property Management Trends in 2012: Part 2 – Smoke-Free Apartments

Property Management Insider is looking back at the multifamily industry trends of 2012 and how they could affect the industry in 2013.

Smoking bans at apartments have trended upward in recent years, and in 2012 it began a chain-like ascent that’s heated up conversations not only around the water cooler but at conferences and apartment associations and board rooms from coast to coast.

California became one of the early frontrunners to eliminating smoking inside apartments, prompting the American Lung Association’s Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing to proclaim the state as the “the next frontier” in combating second-hand smoke last year. The pace of the Golden State’s territorial migration quickened in 2012, with at least a half a dozen cities and counties joining 13 others with no-smoking ordinances at apartments and condominiums.

In early December, despite the formal objections of the North Bay Association of Realtors – citing that the ordinance would prohibit owners from utilizing the property for something that isn’t unlawful – Petaluma became the latest to ban lighting up at apartments and other multifamily dwellings, as well as hotels and motels.

While new territories were designated no-smoking at apartments and condominiums along the West Coast, other cities across the U.S. are snuffing out smoking at multifamily properties, receiving mixed reactions. Some property owners and associations are opposed to aspects of bans, while others are hoping to monetize on the benefits of reducing second-hand smoke.

Tobacco Road Setting the Smoke-Free Example

Of all places, Tobacco Road is quietly setting an example that smoking restrictions at apartments do work. In the past four years, Ginkgo Residential has slowly begun instituting no-smoking at about two dozens of its properties in North Carolina, recognized along with Kentucky as leading U.S. tobacco producers. Principal & Chief Operating Officer Scott Wilkerson says a significant majority of the properties’ residents want to live in smoke-free environments, and it’s only a matter of time before that becomes the industry norm.

“There is such a high percentage of residents that prefer and want it,” Wilkerson said. “When the market wants that, more and more people will do it. They’re finding it’s better for business and residents prefer it. Properties are also saving money and legal risk is reduced. I think owners will embrace it.”

Enforcement is Still a Burden

But, dealing with city ordinances, especially enforcement, isn’t so inviting. Molly Kirkland, San Diego Apartment Association Director of Affairs, told PMI earlier this year that apartment owners aren’t opposed to smoking restrictions, but they bristle at having to enforce an ordinance based on a complaint without actually seeing a violation.

“It really is placing the enforcement burden on the property owner and manager to be the smoking police, and we don’t like that.”

No doubt, eliminating smoking in apartments was a hot topic in 2012, and as the trend continues to gain momentum it will continue to make headlines in 2013.

Smoke-Free Apartment Articles on Property Management Insider:

 


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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