Smoke-free condos in vogue

Posted: 12/30/2010

From Chicago Journal
Clean air is taking on a whole new meaning in the Windy City, where smokers regularly are banished to the great outdoors in restaurants, offices and now apartments and condominiums.

The Chicago City Council passed a comprehensive clean air ordinance that became effective on Jan. 16, 2006 and was further expanded on July 1, 2008 with some hefty fines for those who do not comply.

In spring of 2009, AMLI 900, a brand new contemporary 24-story high-rise at 900 S. Clark St. in the South Loop, became Chicago’s first smoke-free apartment building, according to AMLI Residential, the developer.

Legal experts say condo boards and associations have the legal right to make their condominium property smoke free, just as they are free to prohibit pets. There is no state or federal constitutional right for people to smoke.

So it wasn’t surprising that owners at 1418 N. Lake Shore Dr., a luxury 28-unit high-rise on the Gold Coast, voted to become Illinois’ first smoke-free condo building in summer of 2010 by prohibiting cigarette, cigar, pipe or any other smoking in the property’s common areas and individual residences.

Smoke-free apartment and condominium buildings are becoming the wave of the future as the serious health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), or secondhand smoke, have become better understood, real estate experts say.

“Along with offering a healthier living environment for residents and their guests, the vote to prohibit smoking at 1418 N. Lake Shore Dr. also complies with the Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control (ETSC), a pre-requisite for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the United States Green Building Council,” noted Brian Lozell, assistant vice president of DK Condo, the condo association’s management firm.

Appraisers say the resale value of individual units smoke-free condominium buildings nationwide typically is higher than buildings that allow smoking. Smoke-free policies also cut condo associations’ maintenance costs by reducing cleaning and painting costs and lowering the risk of fire.

A recent citywide survey commissioned by the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project shows that nearly a third of all renters in Chicago would be willing to pay more rent to live in smoke-free buildings.

These findings coincide with an emerging trend in the Chicago rental market whereby landlords and property managers are converting their rental properties to “non-smoking,” said Maurice Ortiz, marketing director of the Apartment People, a major apartment-finding service.

Studies have revealed that the cost of turning over an apartment at the end of the lease can be as much as 90-percent higher when the unit has been occupied by a smoking tenant. But it’s not just the cost savings that have property managers’ attention. “Environmentally-friendly and health conscious properties are simply easier to rent,” said Ortiz.

The Chicago study reflects a growing awareness among prospective renters of the dangers of secondhand smoke, with 88 percent of those surveyed ranking secondhand smoke as a serious health hazard.

“That awareness is shaping attitudes towards healthier lifestyles relative to tobacco exposure and a strong desire to live, work and play in smoke-free environments,” said Dave Fako, whose firm has conducted the survey involving a random sample of 400 adult renters.

“These poll results represent a call to action for landlords and tenants alike,” declared Joel J. Africk, president and chief executive officer, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. “Property owners should be proud to advertise their units’ smoke-free status; and health-conscious renters should demand smoke-free living options.”

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