Iowa residents want and are asking for smoke-free housing. Eighty percent of the people who live in Iowa don't smoke and most people do not want to live in housing where smoking is allowed. Learn more about your rights to smoke-free housing and how to protect yourself and your family from secondhand smoke by finding smoke-free housing.

Residential Rights

Drifting smoke from another unit in your apartment building is a nuisance and can cause illness. Smokers are not a protected legal class, there is no “right to smoke” under any U.S. law. Fortunately, smoke-free policies in apartments or other residential rental properties are legal under federal and state law and existing laws protect your rights to a smoke-free apartment.

Federal laws that may help protect tenants affected by secondhand smoke include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Federal Rehabilitation Act, and the Federal Fair Housing Act. If a resident has a health condition considered to be a disability and the condition is worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke, the resident may be able to request a "reasonable accommodation" to reduce or eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act states that if a person has a breathing problem and a statement from their doctor; management is required to move the person smoking to another unit to accommodate the person with the disability. Review your lease to find out if it already contains provisions that could be used to alleviate exposure to secondhand smoke, such as a ‘nuisance clause’ often included protecting residents from loud music.

Talking to Your Property Manager

It is important to express your concern with your property manager, as exposure to secondhand smoke can be extremely dangerous. See the steps below to prepare for the conversation.

Secondhand Smoke Talk to Building Manager

Step 1

Document the Problem

Step 2

Talk with Your Building Manager

Step 3

Work with an Outside Authority

Step 1: Document the Problem

  • Where is the smoke entering your unit, where do you think it is coming from and what time of day do you smell it? Keep a log (Example: Secondhand Smoke Exposure Log) of when and where in your unit you smell smoke.

  • Are your neighbors experiencing the same problem? Have you approached the tenant you believe is smoking to politely ask them to smoke outside or away from the building? Keep track of all conversations.

  • Has your family experienced any illness you believe is due to secondhand smoke exposure? You can even ask your health care provider to write a letter that the secondhand smoke causes your family to be ill.

Step 2: Talk with your Building Manager

  • Write a letter (Example: Letter to Property Manager) or meet with your building manager or property owner to discuss this problem. Be positive and polite.

  • Share the dangers of secondhand smoke and the benefits of having a smoke-free building and offer solutions to the problem. Explain that is it 100% legal to implement a smoke-free policy in the apartment building. Share the Property Manager's Guide and the Iowa Smoke Free Homes Registry with your Property Manager.

Step 3: Work with an Outside Authority

Before You Rent

Before signing a lease with a rental property, there are a few steps you can take to ensure you and your family will be protected from secondhand smoke.

  • Learn about the importance of living in an apartment building with a smoke-free policy
  • Understand what the Iowa Smokefree Air Act does and does not cover in apartment buildings
  • Search the Iowa Smoke Free Homes Registry for smoke-free housing in your area

Questions to Ask Property Managers