Since 1 July 2007 it has been illegal to smoke or allow smoking in enclosed public areas of properties. The Health Act 2006 which bans smoking imposes obligations to take action to implement the ban and creates a number of criminal offences for those who choose to ignore or break the law.
Tenants of individually let rooms and their guests are only permitted to smoke in bedrooms with the door closed. Smoking is not permitted in the common areas of the building, which are defined as public areas and smoking is not permitted in kitchens/living rooms, corridors or shared toilets or bath/shower rooms. It does not matter if all the tenants and guests agree that smoking in the common areas is acceptable – it is still not legal – because the shared areas are not part of any individual tenant’s dwelling’. The dwelling’ is confined to the room that has been let to them.
Where tenants are renting the entire dwelling – including tenants who are renting on a joint tenancy and jointly renting the entire premises – then there are no ‘public areas’ within their premises. The Health Act ban allows smoking in their shared living space, because it forms part of their dwelling.
Common stairwells and entry lobbies serving flats will be public areas. Where public areas are involved appropriate ‘no smoking’ signs should be clearly displayed at the entrances to and within premises in required areas. Signs must meet a number of minimum requirements. They must:
be at least A5 size
display the ‘no smoking’ symbol contain, in characters that can be easily read by persons using the entrance, the words ‘No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises’.
Inside buildings, for example at an entrance to smoke-free premises from other smoke-free premises, signs can simply show the no-smoking symbol.
Enforcement can be difficult. People smoking tobacco products in prohibited areas should be politely asked to desist. Tenants who refuse to desist from smoking in a public area after being asked politely to do so should be provided with a letter from their landlord advising them that their failure to adhere to this policy is also a criminal offence, and that unless the tenant complies with the law action will be taken against them.
If a tenant continues to smoke then it is recommended that they should be sent a letter by a solicitor. If no positive response is received to the solicitor’s letter and other tenants are complaining then the landlord should take legal advice in considering repossession proceedings. The landlord themselves can face criminal proceedings and a hefty fine if they fail to take action to stop unlawful smoking.