Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What can I do about secondhand smoke? 

A. If secondhand smoke is drifting into your apartment, your health may be at risk. Think about whether you would like to move to a nonsmoking building or try to work with neighbors and your landlord to make your building nonsmoking. It is important to document the problem as accurately as possible. Write down where and when smoke is coming into your apartment. Put all of your requests to your landlord in writing, and keep copies of everything. Send all correspondence with a "certificate of mailing," which proves that you sent the letter. Maintain a communication record to keep track of all correspondence with your landlord, the neighbors who smoke, and any other agencies with which you talk. Make an appointment with your doctor to have your health evaluated. Please also see our section on quick fixes for ideas on how to reduce the secondhand smoke drifting into your apartment.

Note: The only way to avoid the health hazards of secondhand smoke is by living in a completely smokefree building.

Q. I have health problems. Can I request a Reasonable Accommodation? 

A. In most types of housing, the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, which is defined as having a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, having a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment. Breathing is a major life activity. If you have a disability, you may be able to ask for "reasonable accommodations" to allow you to live safely and comfortably in your home. An example of “reasonable accommodation” for persons with disabilities would be a ramp for a person in a wheelchair. If you have a disability that is affected by secondhand smoke, and secondhand smoke is preventing you from having equal access to your housing, you might be able to request a reasonable accommodation, such as a no-smoking rule for your building, being moved to a non-smoking building, separate ventilation or sealing off your apartment. Please see the section on theFederal Fair Housing Act for more information on requesting reasonable accommodations.

Q. Can my landlord evict me if I complain about secondhand smoke? 

A. In most states, landlords can evict residents for "no cause," but it is illegal to evict a resident in retaliation for making a complaint. It is very important that you keep a written record of all your communications with your landlord. If they try to evict you for making a complaint, you can show that it is an illegal retaliatory eviction, not a "no cause" eviction.

Q. Is it legal to restrict or ban smoking in apartment buildings?

A. Apartment owners have the legal right to make their rental property smokefree, just as they are allowed to prohibit pet ownership. Landlords may choose to rent only to nonsmokers and may prohibit smoking in individual units, as well as in outdoor common areas (in the State of Vermont, common areas of apartment buildings are, by law, already smokefree). It is also legal for a landlord to advertise an apartment as “smokefree.” There is no state or federal constitutional right to smoke. 

Owners of Section 8 or public housing have the same right to ban or otherwise restrict smoking, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).