How to Get Rid of the Smoke Smell in a Rental Property


The common belief, especially amongst tenants, is that you can simply spray air freshener, and shampoo the carpets, to get rid of the smell in a rental property.

The flaw to this thought process is two fold.

First, the smoker is desensitized to the smell of smoke. While they may be able to detect some smells, they have become accustomed to the smell, where they hardly notice it. 

For the non-smoker, you can usually detect the smell of smoke rather easily. 

This is especially true with the stale smell of smoke that often permeates living spaces of smokers. 

Second, it doesn’t take into account that the smell of smoke gets into everything, and everywhere. Especially in a closed in location like a house or an apartment. 

So what do you do about the smell of smoke in the rental property? 

Here are some tips on how to get rid of the smell.




Getting Rid of Smoke in a Rental Property Tip 1: The Lease


Your best defense, and offense when you have to enforce it, is your lease agreement. 

Your lease should state, with specificity, if the tenant is allowed to smoke on the property. Equally as important is, if they are allowed to smoke, where they are allowed to smoke. 

We recommend, at the very least, that you prohibit smoking inside of any enclosed space, including any garages and storage areas. You may also want to include areas within close proximity to the house, as the smell of smoke can drift back in, defeating the purpose of your smoking addendum. 

Additionally, we recommend putting specific language into the smoking addendum identifying some remedial measures that might be used. Remedial measures can include, but are not limited to, some of those identified in the points below. 

The point is to make the tenant aware of your smoking policy, as well as the financial ramifications if they decide to break it.




Getting Rid of Smoke in a Rental Property Tip 2: Give the Place Some Fresh Air


It is probably common sense that you need to open up the rental property to let it air out. This means you will have to open up all of the doors and windows, turn on the ceiling fans and the air conditioning, and possibly rent an industrial sized fan to increase the movement of air. 

Additionally, we suggest renting an ozone cleaning machine. The ozone machine is by far the best method to reduce the smell of smoke in the rental property. 

Of course, all of these expenses should be charged back to the tenant.




Getting Rid of Smoke in a Rental Property Tip 3: Wash and Wipe Down Every Surface.


As we stated earlier, the smell of smoke gets into everything. What you are going to have to do is essentially decontaminate the entire rental property. 

This includes ceilings, walls, cabinets, drawers, and windows.  EVERYTHING!!! 

It doesn’t stop with just a once over.  You have to really put in some elbow grease. 

Use a detergent and or vinegar. Be cognizant of the fact that you will probably have to wash the surfaces more than once. 

If necessary, you may have to end up replacing some of the surfaces that still hold the smell, or paint the rental property afterwards.

Kilz works pretty well for painting, but just be sure you wash down the surface to be painted completely, perhaps multiple times, and allow the surface to dry before applying.

An important point to note is that you may have to replace the drywall depending on how much the smoke has penetrated the surface.  This can be very. . . . very. . . . costly. 




Getting Rid of Smoke in a Rental Property Tip 4: Make it Smell Good


The next thing you can do to get rid of smoke in your rental property, and it goes along with cleaning is to deodorize all surfaces. 

The carpet needs to be cleaning, preferably professionally. Again, this may take multiple attempts to get rid of the smoke. Additionally, you are going to want to use baking soda on the carpet to hopefully neutralize any smells. 

As a last resort, depending on if the smell of smoke is still lingering, you may have to end up replacing the carpet.




Getting Rid of Smoke in a Rental Property Tip 5: Vinegar Air Freshener


Another method to get rid of smoke in a rental property is to use vinegar as an air freshener. What you can do is place open bowls (or perhaps an entire swimming pool) of vinegar around the rental. 

This will assist in removing some of the smoke in the air. We recommend doing this for at least 24 hours. 

As you can see, remediating the smell of smoke can be a time consuming, and expensive process. 

As a landlord, the smell of smoke has the serious potential to reduce the rental value of your property, and correcting the problem is necessary before you show your property to a future tenant.


The Team at Linchpin Property Management


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