How to Prevent and Detect Vaping or Marijuana Use in Your Phoenix Rental Property
Today, we’re talking about the vaping trend and how it affects your rental property in Phoenix.
Vaping isn’t the only type of smoking that can have a detrimental effect on the value of your home. Cigarette smoke and marijuana are also a danger to home values, and you need to know how to handle these things with tenants and their guests.
Is Marijuana Smoking Legal in Phoenix?
Recreational cannabis smoking is legal in Arizona. However, it’s not permitted to smoke in public (even if it's medical cannabis), making the home and backyard one of the few places where smoking weed is allowed. As a result, there’s a possibility that someone will want to smoke marijuana inside of your rental property.
Can You Ban Vaping or Marijuana Smoking in a Rental Property?
Yes, you can.
It’s equivalent to a smoking ban. The challenge is in detecting when that ban has been violated at your property.
Vaping has become more popular in the last few years, and it’s a growing concern for any landlord or property owner. Vaping and cigarette smoke, and marijuana usage are all concerns, but vaping is especially complex because you can’t always smell it the same way you can smell cigarettes or marijuana.
The law allows you to prohibit any kind of smoking inside your rental home or even anywhere on your property. While it’s almost impossible to prevent it 100 percent of the time because you’re not there watching your tenants, you can control what goes on in your home and at your property and nevertheless establish a rule against vaping and smoking by writing this smoking ban into your lease agreements.
Implement Actionable Penalties for Smoking Violations
Start by including a clause in your lease agreement that states there is no smoking permitted in or at the property, including marijuana. The lease should also indicate what the penalties are if a tenant violates that rule. You’re putting this in place to protect your investment and keep its value high.
When you have tenants or guests of the tenants smoking in the property, your value decreases. It takes a lot of work to get that smell out. A smoking ban is also a form of fire prevention.
Penalties should deter tenants from violating this part of the lease.
It’s not too common to have tenants violate this part of the lease agreement. Good tenants put down a security deposit when they move in, and they want to get it back when they move out. So, they should refrain from smoking.
This risk can also be managed with a strict screening and leasing process. Actionable consequences will help you hold your tenants accountable.
Detecting Damage at a Phoenix Rental Property
The smell is easy to detect when tenants have smoked cigarettes or marijuana. When this is determined during an inspection, you’ll document the evidence and then treat the property with ozone treatments, repainting, and vent cleaning.
Then, you’ll charge the resident’s security deposit for all of those costs.
Vaping is more challenging to detect, and you won’t automatically smell it. This is unfortunate because the debris that’s being left behind will still cause damage to the value of your asset. Vaping in an apartment does have potential hazards. That residue can get into the ceiling and all over the walls. You may not see it or smell it, but that cloud of smoke has to go somewhere.
All of that gathering debris will be an expense. There aren’t any detection kits on the market currently, but for now, you’ll have to look for any physical signs that might show up during an inspection.
Anything that isn’t part of a property’s normal wear and tear can be deducted.
Should You Allow Smoking Marijuana in Your Backyard?
The numbers suggest that, while not especially likely, there is a possibility that your tenants may want to smoke either marijuana or tobacco, particularly as marijuana legalization becomes more prevalent.
According to IBISWorld, a reputable source of statistical information, 13.5% of Americans are expected to be tobacco smokers in 2021. Meanwhile, a 2019 Gallup poll said that 12% of Americans smoke marijuana, which has remained unchanged since 2015. However, since 2019, more states have legalized some form of cannabis usage and, according to the Pew Research Center, nine out of ten Americans support marijuana legalization in some form.
The question is, should you allow tenants to smoke outside in their backyard area if you have one? There are a few considerations.
Secondhand smoke is a surprising landlord liability. Secondhand smoke can be a nuisance if it enters a common area or someone else’s home. Secondhand recreational marijuana smoke can be especially problematic if a neighbor with a disability has respiratory issues.
Encouraging Lease Renewals
Unlike being a pet owner, being a smoker doesn’t make you more likely to be a better tenant. However, one of the gestures that shows tenant appreciation and leads to lease renewals is asking for tenant input. There would be no harm in allowing your tenants to smoke in quiet enjoyment in their backyard so long as they promise not to let secondhand smoke become a nuisance. After all, the threat of losing a portion of their security deposit to repair any rental unit damage caused by smoking cannabis is motivation enough to be responsible smokers. And since the smoking is outside, there will likely be no property damage.
How to Prevent Smoking Damage to Your Phoenix Investment Property
A lot of these challenges can be avoided if you take these important steps:
- Select the right tenant. Ensure you’re paying attention to the tenants who apply and screen them according to a consistent set of standards and guidelines.
- Set expectations with your tenants. When they are preparing to move in and signing the lease, highlight the areas of greatest concern. Your tenants should understand and agree to your smoking ban.
- Hire a professional Phoenix property management company. This will ensure you have an experienced team of professionals to meet all the challenges and select the right tenants.
- Conduct periodic inspections of your rental property. Don’t let your investment property sit without any attention. Get inside the home and make sure there isn’t any kind of smoking going on.
- Practicing regular landscaping maintenance will reduce the risk of fire caused by smoking or other sources. If you're in a fire-prone area, you should always clear underbrush, leaves, and other fauna within a 20-foot radius of your rental property or any other structures.
Tips for Fire Prevention in Phoenix
In addition to smoking bans and regularly clearing brush, there are many ways to proactively practice fire prevention and encourage tenant safety.
- Make a list of house rules and a tenant exit plan. Go over it with your tenants. Simply including it with your rental agreement doesn’t guarantee that your tenants will read your rules and exit plan. If there are children in your rental property, make sure they are present when going over house rules and exit plans as well.
- Conduct regular fire safety inspections. Make sure you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Property managers often use daylight savings time as a reminder to check batteries, but since Arizona doesn’t have daylight savings, a calendar reminder will suffice. A fire safety inspection is also an opportunity to ensure other lease agreement stipulations aren’t being violated or illegal activity is taking place.
- Provide your tenants with fire extinguishers and make sure they know how to use them. Not all fire extinguishers are the same, and not all tenants know how to operate a fire extinguisher. Remember that fire extinguishers need to be replaced every 12 years.
- Consider a fire blanket. Fire blankets are made of fire retardant material and can be used to smother fires. They're helpful for small to medium kitchen fires and can be easier to implement than fire extinguishers if someone doesn't know how to use a fire extinguisher. Fire blankets, however, aren't for oil or grease fires (as in the case of a deep fryer). But if a plate is starting to burn because something was left on high for too long, a fire blanket can help.
- Prohibit grill use. You can prohibit outdoor grill usage, but if you allow it make sure you have rules in place for safe grilling.
- You should require tenants to carry insurance. Insurance can cost as little as a few hundred dollars a year, but insurance can cover the cost of replacing personal items if there's fire, theft, natural disasters, etc.
- Encourage tenants to report issues. One of the most effective ways to encourage tenants to report problems is responding to repair requests ASAP. This also makes tenants feel valued, which encourages lease renewals. Taking too long to respond to repair requests is an often cited reason for opting out of lease renewals.
- Make sure your HVAC system is regularly inspected and replaced at the end of its lifetime. HVAC replacement can be expensive, but if you have the sort of experienced property manager Mynd provides, you can take advantage of tax deductions to make HVAC replacement more manageable.
Keep in mind that all maintenance tasks, repairs, etc., can be documented to help you earn the 20% qualified business income deduction, which can allow you to deduct upwards of 20% of your qualified business income.
Tips for Easy Rental Property Turnover in Phoenix
One of the keys to easy rental property turnover is letting your tenants know that behavior that can lead to property damage, like smoking within the rental property, is forbidden. Repeated offenses can even be punished with early lease termination since smoking indoors is arguably intentional property damage. Here are some other tips for speeding up rental apartment turnover.
- Have a maintenance team you trust enough to operate with greater autonomy. If your team knows what you want already, they can get the repairs done quickly.
- If you find a tenant who signs your lease, but there’s more than a week between your tenant’s move-in, have your team do another inspection and clean-up before your tenant’s move-in date.
- If you have carpet, consider having it replaced with an easier to manage type of flooring. In addition to soaking up odors, carpet is also harder to clean.
- Another common form of property damage is tenants installing their own window treatments. Consider micro blinds, which are easy to clean and will prevent unsightly alternatives such as tenants nailing towels in front of windows (it happens!).
- Self-showings can reduce your vacancies by making showings easier to schedule. You can allow showings during whatever hours you like, say from 7 am to 8 pm, which lets prospective tenants arrange for visits at their leisure.
Bottom Line on Preventing Your Tenant’s Vaping or Marijuana Use
Explain your standards to your tenants, set the criteria for how the property will be maintained, and always verify that the tenants are performing the way you expect them to.
We’re always surprised when an owner tells us he or she has had the same tenant in place for five years and they have been performing well and paying on time, so there’s been no need to visit the property or take a look around. If you never go to the apartment, you’re taking on a lot of risk.
How Do You Know the Home is Being Cared for and Maintained?
At Mynd, we get inside every property about four months before a lease ends. That’s how we know if we want to renew the tenant’s tenancy agreement and keep them for as long as possible or if we want them to move on.
Running your Phoenix rental home like a business takes a lot of work and attention. You wouldn’t leave a bank account alone for five years and not look at it. If you don’t inspect your property and pay attention to the lease enforcement, you’re golfing at night. You have no idea where that ball is going or what your property is doing.
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