Property management and maintenance personnel are in general agreement about the fact that renovating a unit occupied by a smoker is considerably most costly than renovating the same unit occupied by a non-smoker. Renovation issues include removing all traces of smoke odors for simple desirability and because new tenants may have allergy and chemical sensitivities that will adversely affect their health, as well as removing stains and general cleaning. Depending on the length of time the unit was occupied by a smoker, renovation could range from simple cleaning and deodorizing to washing, sealing, and repainting walls, replacing floor coverings and laminate surfaces, and thorough cleaning or even replacement of appliances.
Data from Smoke-Free Housing New England (2009) for NE housing authorities showed the average cost for renovating a non-smoker occupied unit as $560 opposed to as much as $3,515 for a smoker occupied unit, a difference of 528%.
Senior Services of Snohomish County data (May 2009) estimated the cost differential between non-smoked in and smoked in units to be 1,159% greater in the smoked in unit ($230 vs. $2,895).
A quick review of these figures by two Puget Sound area housing authorities found general concurrence and estimated that the differential between non-smoked in and smoked in unit renovations to be $1,750 to $2,000 more costly depending on the length of time the unit was occupied by a smoker.
Although the information did not specifically address damage to the unit by burns on carpet, woodwork, and laminate surfaces, that type of damage is common.
Finally, with smoker occupied units, there is always the risk of damage to the unit from fires caused by smoking materials. This can range from damage limited to the unit itself to smoke and fire damage to other units and common areas in multi-family buildings. A recent smoking related fire in Vancouver H.A. resulted in more than $1,000,000 in damage to the building.
Prepared by Ron Oldham, Executive Director, PNRC-NAHRO
December 8, 2009