Frequently Asked Legal Questions

It is completely legal for a property manager to adopt a smoke-free policy for their rental apartment buildings (including individual units). Please visit the Landlord Rights and Resident Rights pages for detailed information and resources. We have identified some of the most commonly asked legal questions below.

What happens if a property manager is trying to amend an existing lease but the tenant refuses to sign the amendment and continues to smoke?

This is a situation in which the property manager will work with her/his legal team to devise the proper route to continue.

Is it legal for a property manager/owner to adopt a smoke-free policy?

Yes, similar to prohibiting a tenant from possessing a pet or a keg of beer, property managers may prohibit smoking.  In fact, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development issued a notice regarding smoke-free policies in public housing (see attached). The notice strongly encourages Public Housing Authorities to implement smoke-free policies in some, or preferably all of their public housing units, that are not inconsistent with state or local rules and regulations. Further, Iowa Code 142D.5 provides that an owner, operator, manager, or other person having custody or control of an area otherwise exempt from the prohibitions of the Iowa Smokefree Air Act may declare the entire area as a nonsmoking place. This is not inconsistent with Iowa code 562A (the Uniform Residential landlord and tenant law), which does not prohibit a property manager from restricting tenant smoking in their apartment units.

What rights does a smoker have?

There is No Constitutional Right to Smoke. 

Rather than “smoker rights,” please consider the issue as the rights of tenants.  A smoke-free policy is not discriminatory as long as the policy is not used to target a protected class or minority and a building manager or owner maintains the lawful ability to restrict or prohibit smoking.  If a property manager decides to implement a smoke-free policy, the property manager should take caution and “grandfather” those current tenants for a specified period as determined by their lawyer and/or following Iowa Code 562.  You may also refer to the Fair Housing Law

Are assisted living properties considered exempt under the Smoke Free Air Act?

Assisted living is defined as part of the long-term care continuum. Under Code 142.D.4 of the Iowa Smokefree Air Act (Areas where smoking not regulated) “Private and semi-private rooms in long-term care facilities, occupied by one or more individuals, all of whom are smokers and have requested in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted, provided that smoke from these locations does not infiltrate into areas in which smoking is otherwise prohibited under this chapter.” To find the definition of assisted living under Iowa Code, please see 231C.1.