Smoking in Your Apartment: Banned in the Near Future?

Published on May 31, 2012

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Will smoking in your apartment be banned in the future?  Actually, in many (and increasingly more) buildings in NYC, it is already not allowed.  But new legislation may force landlords to declare apartments smoking or non-smoking.

No matter what you think of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his policies over these last ten years or so, one thing's for certain: the Mayor's anti-smoking crusade (and its attendant laws and regulations) have changed the way the city, um, smells.

Think about it: before 2003 and the first Bloomberg ban, you could smoke--and plenty of people did--in just about any bar or restaurant; today it feels strange (and, I must say, as a former smoker myself, totally gross) to walk into an eatery in another part of the world and be met with a thick tobacco haze.

Less immediately noticeable, perhaps, but no less a game-changer was Bloomberg's 2011 smoking ban in all city parks. And now the Mayor is trying to make it even more difficult for smokers to light up anywhere by (indirectly) going after residential buildings of all types, including NYC rental apartments.

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As the Wall Street Journal reported last month, Mayor Bloomberg's anti-smoking legislation is (possibly... likely...) about to be extended to NYC co-ops, condos, and rental apartment buildings.

Here's how Bloomberg's proposed law, currently on the table, would work, and how it would effect you. Basically, all NYC residential building would have to codify, or publicly state, their smoking policy, whether that means some apartments are non-smoking or smoking, or the whole building. The Mayor isn't seeking to ban smoking in your apartment directly by law.  However, the affect of the law may indeed be to do just that in most buildings.

Needless to say, if a landlord had to pick, it seems far more likely that they'd designate an apartment, or their building, non-smoking, rather than turn off a vast majority of prospective buyers/tenants by calling it "smoking". Therefore, you can easily envision a near-future in which smokers who move into a NYC rental apartment would be faced with breaking the terms of their lease by smoking in their apartment.

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And in an article last week, the New York Times pointed out smokers are already having a more difficult time finding a NYC rental apartment than their non-smoking counterparts. Listen to Mike Salvo, a real estate broker/smoker: “If you’re looking for a place that officially allows smoking, your numbers are going to go way, way down.”

Or Leonard Steinberg, a managing director at Prudential Douglas Elliman, who says about apartment hunters who smoke: “It welcomes you like a cloud of disgustingness. Hate, hate, hate.” And this pre-potential legislation!

So what can smokers looking for a NYC rental apartment do? Increasingly it seems: 1) Quit (this would be my suggestion if only for all the money you'll save!); or, 2) Keep quiet about your habit and hope you don't get caught. 

While it seems unlikely that smoking in all apartments will be banned outright, it does appear likely that all landlords will be forced in the new future to officially designate if your apartment allows smoking.  And I would expect the majority of those designations to be non-smoking.

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