Apartments Outlaw Smoking—Even Within the Units

by George Knowles

The DC area has seen an expansion of apartment buildings that have instituted a strict no-smoking policy, a rule that extends to the units themselves. The practice has proven to be a popular one, as a number of management firms plan to expand the policy in the area.

220 Twentieth

One of the pioneers of this practice was 220 20th Street, the first apartment building in Northern Virginia to implement a no-smoking policy when it opened in June 2009. According to Mara Olguin of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, it was essential for 220 20th Street, which has a number of green elements, to “walk the walk” in their approach to environmentally-friendly living.

Another new building getting involved in the non-smoking movement is 425 Mass, which saw its first move-in on April 24th. You might recognize this address as it is that of The Dumont, the failed condo project in Mount Vernon Square that recently converted to rentals after being purchased by Equity Residential. Equity Residential’s Bobbie Pollard cited the District’s leading role in banning smoking from bars and restaurants as one of the reasons for implementing the rule, and she described the likely renters as “young and aware of the environment.”

425 Mass

Renters appear to be embracing the practice. As of May 6th, 50 units had been leased at 425 Mass, and “not one person” has been upset about the no-smoking policy, according to Pollard. On an initial resident survey of Millennium at Metropolitan Park, another smoke-free apartment building in Northern Virginia, 71 percent of the participants responded that the building’s policy “strongly influenced” their decision to rent an apartment there. Karen Kossow of Kettler, which manages the building, noted that the Millennium’s no-smoking policy has been very successful and the repercussions of disobeying it quite serious: renters can be evicted if caught smoking anywhere inside the building, and are made aware of this on the initial rental application form. Such measures do not appear to be necessary, as many renters so far see the policy as a draw. Gina Spychalla, 29, has lived at The Millenium since March, and says that compared to other buildings she has lived in, she can “feel the difference in air quality” and that the building’s no-smoking rule was one of the main attractions to living in at The Millenium.

Some management companies plan to expand the practice. Kossow believes that non-smoking apartment buildings are part of a larger trend, and Kettler has extended this rule to other area projects including The Metropolitan at Village at Leesburg. The policy will also be implemented at a future property that Kettler will manage on Glebe Road. When UrbanTurf attended the November opening of View 14, the 184-unit luxury apartment building at the corner of 14th Street and Florida Avenue in the U Street Corridor, a View 14 rep said that the building was strongly considering a no-smoking policy (though management ultimately decided against it). Mara Olguin told UrbanTurf that the smoke-free apartment policy will be extended to future Vornado/Charles E. Smith projects because for now, “sustainability is on everyone’s mind.”

Depite its growing popularity, there are undoubtedly renters out there that feel as though this policy encroaches on their civil liberties. So with that in mind, would you live in a completely non-smoking building? Let us know in the comments.

See other articles related to: renting in dc, editors choice

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/apartments_outlaw_smoking_--_even_within_the_units/2050


  1. Outlaw It said at 12:35 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:

    Given that my apartment smells like an ashtray because of my next door neighbor, I am fully in favor of this movement.

  1. Rob said at 12:46 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:

    More buildings need to do this—it would be a big plus for me when I’m deciding on an apartment to rent.

    The benefit isn’t just cleaner air.  It’s also safer to live in a smoke-free building, because the risk of fire is a lot lower.  The building my girlfriend lived in last year had three fires during the year that were caused by smoking (and this was a pretty new luxury building near Logan Circle).  Thanks to fire alarms and sprinklers, each one was extinguished pretty quickly and did little damage outside the smoker’s apartment, but it was still a real worry (and a reason that she moved out of that building). 

    425 Mass is more expensive than we’d like, and not in a good location for us, but we might consider it just because of the no-smoking policy.  And I wish View 14 had gone non-smoking—if it had, it would probably be at the top of our list.

  1. Joe Camel said at 5:07 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:

    How do you enforce this? I have several affordable housing complexes and the tenants smoke more than Donald Draper on a bad day.

  1. roots said at 5:15 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:

    It’s a great idea and honestly, renters should have little to no say on this topic because in the end it’s the OWNERS who are left with the problem of a smoke-filled unit.

    Enforcement might be an issue but I think if there is a scent of cigarette smoke, then it should be allowed to search the condo unit. That may be a bit extreme but another option may be to delegate the responsibility to tenants/neighbors.

    Also with recent research coming out on first, second, and even third-hand smoke-related medical issues, this is not only a economical or housing concern but also a health concner.

  1. Dianne said at 8:10 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:

    This is the best idea.  Location being equal, I would—hands down—choose the smoke free place.  I might even be willing to pay a bit more.

    I bought my house last year, partly because of the smoke problem.  A smoker moved into the apartment next door, and it was unbearable.  We realized that we could move and end up with the same problem.  Then we started looking at condos—and realized we could end up with the same problem and, worse, be stuck with it.

  1. Dianne said at 8:37 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:

    One more thing—I said I would be willing to pay a “bit” more for smoke-free, but this has to be extended to more than just the most expensive buildings.  We seriously considered Millennium at Metropolitan Park until we saw the prices.  We were able to buy a freestanding townhouse in a nice part of Old Town, Alexandria for $300 *less* per month than we would have had to pay per month for an equally-sized unit there with small balcony.

  1. SWester said at 8:46 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:


    On the contrary, I’d say that people who want to smoke should be the ones paying the premium when picking a place to live.  It’s like a hotel room; sure, you can smoke - but they’ll charge you $250 to clean up the mess afterward.

  1. Dianne said at 9:22 pm on Friday May 7, 2010:


    I don’t think non-smokers should have to pay a premium.  It’s just a reality.  Currently there are not many smoke-free buildings.  Owners will make their buildings smoke-free if they can get a benefit—such as a premium price for an in-demand product that is in limited supply.  But eventually that balance may turn with more buildings smoke-free than not.  Then, smokers will have to pay a premium to live in a building that allows smoking.  But that’s going to take a while—in my workplace it seems that a lot of people have taken up (or gone back to) smoking lately. I’m hoping it’s an aberration.

  1. Pat said at 1:50 pm on Monday May 10, 2010:

    I’m all for it!  Last year I had a lung injury (source unknown, most likely from walking everyday through a construction zone that was going on at the time) and my doctor wanted me to stay away from cigarette smoke.  Unfortunately, I live in a small four unit condo building and my downstairs neighbors smoke cigarettes and weed like it’s going out of style and it’s nauseating because it comes through the ventilation. So I’m trying to find a renter for my place so I can move to non-smoking building. I think all apartment buildings should be non-smoking.

  1. Karen said at 12:32 pm on Friday May 14, 2010:

    We don’t believe that enforcement is going to be a problem.  Renters sign a lease addendum, and may be evicted if they are caught smoking.  We don’t believe that it will even get to this point as it will likely “self police” in that residents will help to let us know if others are smoking.

  1. Nico said at 3:16 pm on Wednesday June 16, 2010:

    I searched forever when renting for a smoke-free location. Every apt building I’ve ever lived in had smokers parked in front of the door. I don’t want to live anywhere near that poison, neither do I want to walk through it everyday. I hope this eventually becomes the norm everywhere. Its not like they are just poisoning themselves~ its passerby’s, children, environment and even PETS.

  1. Oopsie Daisy said at 1:21 pm on Saturday February 11, 2012:

    Yes there are non-smoking buildings- but not affordable for most - so what do the rest of us do?

    If you or your children have asthma is there no recourse if you live in a building with a single, shared HVAC system?  Cigarette smoke is more than just foul odor, the carbon monoxide content of second hand smoke is many times greater than initial inhalation from a cigarette.

    Would love to see some conclusive regulation from DC Council on this one.

  1. Alli said at 11:15 am on Monday August 26, 2013:

    In considering a move to the area, we are looking at SOLELY smoke-free buildings and prefer a smoke-free COMMUNITY (Not allowed on the grounds.) And, yes, we are willing to pay for it; which in my opinion is completely wrong. Smokers cost money no matter how you slice it - cleanliness, health, environment, etc. 

    I personally do not believe that an apartment building should be certified “Green” if it allows smoking at all - this is a violation of Green Living. 

    I have asthma, triggered by tobacco smoke.  I am forced to pay more or visit the ER daily.  This needs to stop.  Smoking kills innocent people. Period. It is the only legalized manslaughter in this country. I WILL pay more to live smoke-free because I am forced to do so.  I have to in order to live at all!

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