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News Release

Campaign aims to raise awareness that smoke-free multi-unit housing is healthy, legal and in demand

Sep 22, 2014
With smoking rates down to about 20 per cent in our region, the vast majority of residents have chosen to make their homes smoke free. But in multi-unit dwellings such as apartment buildings, townhomes and condos almost one in three families is involuntarily exposed to secondhand smoke in their unit coming in through shared ventilation systems, windows and patio doors.

SIMCOE MUSKOKA -  With smoking rates down to about 20 per cent in our region, the vast majority of residents have chosen to make their homes smoke free. But in multi-unit dwellings such as apartment buildings, townhomes and condos almost one in three families is involuntarily exposed to secondhand smoke in their unit coming in through shared ventilation systems, windows and patio doors.

“The Health Unit gets calls on a regular basis from tenants asking for help to protect them and their families from secondhand smoke,” says tobacco program coordinator Leslie Gordon. “The reality is there is no foolproof way to stop seeping tobacco smoke. The answer is to transition the whole structure to No Smoking.”

To raise awareness of the reality that most tenants want to live smoke free and landlords can choose to  make their buildings smoke free, the health unit has launched an education campaign  with the message that smoke-free multi-unit housing is healthy, legal  and in demand! It encourages tenants to ask for it, and landlords to offer it.

“It makes good sense all around,” Gordon said, “It protects the health of all residents. It reduces the risk of fire from smoking, the leading cause of fatal residential fires. And it cuts maintenance and turnover costs for landlords.”

April Stewart, owner of Landlord Legal in Barrie supports the campaign and encourages her clients to make their rental units No Smoking not only to protect their tenants but to protect their investment.

“There’s a real market for smoke-free housing and it’s not a difficult step to take. It’s a matter of adding a No Smoking clause to all new tenants’ leases and over time as units turn over the building will become 100 per cent smoke free,” says Stewart.

“Once that happens everyone can breathe easy,” she says. “Tenants are happy and landlords can look forward to fewer complaints.”

That is exactly what property manager Brian Schryver, has experienced at The Galleries, a 90-unit condominium complex his company Pro Guard Property Management oversees in Collingwood. In 2014 the condo high-rise became a No Smoking complex after numerous complaints about the smell of smoke in units. From the introduction of a No Smoking proposal to the Condo Board back in 2012 to address the prohibitive cost of trying to reduce unit owner’s complaints, right through to implementation in June of this year, he says the transition has been relatively seamless. Schryver’s advice to tenants and landlords who want to go smoke free is make sure there is good communication.

“Residents have valid concerns about secondhand smoke and as a landlord you can spend thousands of dollars trying to seal the units to prevent the seeping. But by bringing tenants together everyone has a chance to understand the extent of the problem, the costs involved and how it infringes on the residents rights to enjoyment in their home.”

This same approach can work in smaller multi-unit dwellings as well. Landlord Steve Dearlove says anyone thinking of becoming a landlord for the first time should start out 100 per cent smoke free. By making it a condition of the rental agreements you can prevent plenty of headaches he says. That’s what he did with the four-plex he rents out in Barrie and he says he hasn’t had any problems with drifting smoke complaints or attracting tenants.

The health unit hopes sharing stories like these will increase awareness among the 30 per cent of the population that lives in multi-unit housing and their landlords and Condominium Boards. Tenants and buyers should ask for smoke-free housing. Landlords should offer it.

The health unit is also ready to help. For information contact Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or

1-877-721-7520. Information, legal opinions, tenant surveys, and tips for going smoke free are also posted on the health unit website at www.simcoemuskokahealth.org

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