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How smoking at home reduces property values

Posted by Milana Cizmar on May 24, 2013

medium_237055775photo credit: lanier67 via photopin cc

Homeowners risk coughing up big bucks if they’re also smokers

A recent survey of Ontario real estate agents in Ontario found that smoking in a home could lower the value of your property by up to 30 per cent.

The survey was sponsored by Pfizer Canada and besides the obvious damage by staining walls and carpets, it can leave a smell that is very hard to eliminate. I remember having a client close a deal and noticed a smell of smoke when they entered the home on closing. I asked why they didn’t notice the smell when they originally toured the home and they said fans were on with electric air fresheners plugged into the walls. That apparently masked the smell that day.

It makes sense that a home with a smoky smell or strong odour will be harder to sell as it will deter most buyers.

Landlords are permitted to include no smoking clauses in their leases. But they can only evict a tenant who smokes if they can prove the smoking has damaged the unit or is bothering the other tenants.

Here’s a case in point. In December, 2006 John Davidson rented a furnished condominium on Scollard St., in Toronto where the lease contained a no-smoking clause. The owner, Chris Cebula, noticed the smell of smoke in the apartment almost immediately, but Davidson refused to stop smoking. The landlord put the condo unit up for sale but his agent said the smell of smoke was hurting his ability to sell it.

The landlord submitted estimates to the board to eradicate the smell of smoke from the apartment. Including staining and painting all the walls, replacing and/or upholstering the furniture, box spring and mattress, linens, drapes and carpets the cost amounted to $8,900. The landlord also claimed an extra one month’s damage of $2,052, since it would take one month to do the renovations.

In a decision dated February 25, 2008, Landlord and Tenant Board adjudicator Egya Sangmuah found that Davidson’s smoking did damage the unit and awarded full damages to Cebula.

The Non-Smoker’s Rights Association published their own study demonstrating that the average costs for a landlord to clean an apartment is two to three times greater when it was occupied by a heavy smoker. They also quote statistics from Canadian Fire Marshals demonstrating that cigarettes, lighters and matches remain one of the top causes of residential fires.

Similar statistics are found with resale cars where the prior owner was a heavy smoker and it is difficult to remove the smell from the upholstery.

Smoke or pet odours, such as cat urine, can cause headaches when trying to sell a home. There are solutions and companies that can solve these issues.

Restoration companies such as Winmar Disaster Restoration, Medallion Healthy Homes of Canada and Biosense Environmental offer solutions that can assist with these problems. The process involved is using concentrated ozone gas to get into all areas of the home, including the walls, to assist in cleaning out the smell, even when the home was occupied previously by heavy smokers.

There are, of course, household products such as vinegar that you can use for minor problem odours or an over-the-counter product such as Nature’s Miracle, to remove pet odours.

Buyers, be suspicious if you notice the fans going or electric air fresheners whenever visiting a home for the first time.

Sellers, don’t try to cover up or hide odour issues that you know about. Get rid of any foul odour before putting your home for sale, to maximize your return.

Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at [email protected]

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