Smoking Policies: Do Renters Want Smoke-Free Living?

64% of renters want smoke-free buildings, but 65% of renters aren't willing to pay for the luxury.

64% of NYC renters want smoke-free buildings, but they
aren’t willing to pay for the luxury.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a law requiring all residential landlords to create a smoking policy for every rental, coop and condo building. If implemented, landlords would need to specify where smoking is and is not allowed in each of their buildings (the terrace, the lobby, individual apartments, etc.). Many believe this requirement will lead to numerous buildings banning smoking altogether and for the 14% of New Yorkers that smoke, this could make apartment hunting nearly impossible.

Already, smokers’ options are slim. A recent New York Times appraisal found that in a Craigslist search, there were only four listings in all five boroughs that openly allowed smoking. But why would landlords and community associations choose to ostracize a rather large pool of potential renters?

In addition to the reduced risk of fire and elimination of smoke damage that no-smoking policies bring, landlords are also intent on meeting the interests of the housing market. The fact is that there is now an avid majority of non-smokers in New York City and they are very concerned with keeping smoke as far away as possible. Many landlords, like Archstone, ban smoking on certain floors, but many renters say they don’t even want there to be smoke in the same building.

We asked NYC renters looking for an apartment if they would want to live in a smoke-free apartment building. 64% of renters said yes, they would want to live in a smoke-free building (861 responses). But 65% of renters aren’t willing to pay more for the luxury (1,087 responses). In fact, only 17% said they would be willing to pay more.  Just how much more? The median response from this 17% was $100 more per month. What this could mean is that non-smokers aren’t willing to put their money where their smoke-free mouth is. But what it could also mean is that “smoke-free living” in the minds of the majority of New York City renters is not something that can be monetized (at least for right now) and that it is becoming more and more of a standard rather than a feature.

So what are smokers supposed to do? Some may feel forced to keep their habit quiet in order to avoid the hassle and to hang on to their security deposits. Others may have an exceedingly difficult time finding a new place if they are in transition when the legislation goes into effect.

But the good news is that there will be no sudden mass uprooting of smokers. Several communities have already decided that if they make the switch to non-smoking, that they will include “grandfather” provisions exempting current owners from the ban. Many others are intent on consulting their tenants in order to work toward solutions that appeal to their specific communities.

While this potential legislation does not constitute an outright ban, this trend does mark a major development in the era of American smoking – a trend that may one day sequester the activity of smoking in New York City to little more than a novelty seen only in niche apartment buildings, secluded lounges, and episodes of Mad Men.


Survey Details – Conducted May 2012
Question 1: Would you want to live in an apartment building where nobody is allowed to smoke anywhere in the building or not?
861 responses
Question 2: Would you be willing to pay more in rent to live in a smoke-free apartment building? If Yes, please indicate how much more per month you would be willing to pay.
1,087 responses