Indoor smoking has been universally banned and it is rare for tenants to smoke cigarettes/tobacco indoors. Nonetheless, indoor pot smoking continues to be a problem for landlords. This issue has become even more difficult to deal with since marijuana smoking was legalized in the State of Oregon. Tenants have become more brazen about their smoking, and it presents a serious challenge for landlords.
Like many landlords, our default policy is that smoking is not permitted, regardless of whether it is smoking of tobacco, marijuana, or vaping. It might seem like the conversation stops there, but it is important to understand the logic behind the policy in case your tenants are resistant:
- Smoking involves fire and smoke, both of which are bad for a property.
- Marijuana may be legal in Oregon, but it is still illegal (a Schedule 1 drug) on a Federal level.
- Marijuana smokers are not a protected class. Just like landlords have the right to deny pet owners, landlords can deny smokers.
- Having a doctor’s note doesn’t automatically make marijuana ok at a rental property. Fair housing law requires accommodations for tenants with medical needs documented by their health care provider, but it is policy controlled by the Federal Government. The Federal Government is not ok with marijuana.
Having a smoking policy and a signed agreement is important, but the work doesn’t stop there. It is hard work to make a non-smoking policy effective. One of the best ways to set your policy up for success is to understand the rationale and communicate it in a conversational and nonjudgemental way.
Having a signed smoking policy doesn’t mean you can start the eviction process when you smell pot. One of the primary tenets of Oregon Landlord-Tenant Law is the chance to “cure” a violation. Tenants usually get the chance to stop the behavior or activity they aren’t supposed to be doing. Hopefully your tenants stop and the story ends there. If they don’t stop, it can be a challenge to prove it is happening. The reality is that even with your iron-clad paperwork, it’s no walk in the park enforcing it. This is why communication with tenants is key.
When a signed non-smoking policy isn’t enough on its own, appealing to a tenant’s desire to get their deposit back can help. If you have to deal with smoke damage/odors at the time of move out, it will definitely impact the tenant’s deposit. Some tenants assume that their landlord will keep their deposit, so there is no point worrying about getting it back. Make it clear to your tenants that you want to give them their deposit back. When a tenant gets their deposit back, it’s a win for everyone.