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Smoking bans gain ground

Smoking bans gain ground

In an effort to protect people living in multi-unit housing from secondhand smoke, the town of San Rafael, California has passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for residents to smoke in their own homes if they share a wall with another dwelling.

The ban, which city officials touted as most stringent in the nation, applies to both owners and renters, and it covers condominiums, co-ops, apartments and any multi-family residences containing three or more units, according to a RealtorMag story.

Implementing no-smoking policies in multi-family communities can help prevent fires, reduce maintenance costs and may result in insurance discounts as well.

Many developers and property managers around the country have already adhered to the move and enforced smoking bans to make their communities smoke-free. Related Companies was the first developer and property owner to ban smoking in all 40,000 of its rental residences in 17 states.

Also a big supporter of smoke-free environments, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development encourages public housing agencies to implement smoke-free policies as well. The Houston Housing Authority has instituted a no smoking policy which bans smoking at the agency’s 25 public housing and tax credit properties in Houston.

The news has created much controversy and debate over libertarian principles since the ordinance affects private behavior. While people may argue that what they do in their own homes it’s private business, it’s not less true that second-hand smoke is to blame for many health problems, including severe asthma attacks and heart disease. Studies show that in some apartment buildings tobacco smoke can drift from one unit into another, or can enter an apartment or condo from halls, stairs, balconies, patios and courtyards, affecting other people’s well-being. The same goes for fire.

Residents of Hillsborough Pointe Apartments in Northwest Omaha, Nebraska, have been confronted with three fires in 13 months. The most recent incident was a two-alarm blaze that sent one person to the hospital in addition to causing property damage. There was another fire last March and the third was in December 2012. Investigators concluded all three fires were caused by improper handling of cigarettes. As a result, apartment managers decided to ban smoking all throughout the property, including apartments, decks and patios.

What’s very important to remember, especially if you’re a renter, is that when fire strikes the landlord is not responsible for damages to the contents of the apartment. Usually, a landlord’s insurance only covers the building and structure of the compound. It’s renter’s insurance that would protect your belongings, such as TV, computer, furniture or clothes, in the event of a fire or any other destructive event. Additionally, it should cover your personal liability if someone is injured while at your residence.