Korman Residential putting up the ‘no smoking' signs
Philadelphia Business Journal - December 7, 2009
Korman Residential is venturing to where hotels and restaurants have already gone - smoke free.
The apartment company has made 300 apartments in 11 of its 14 communities in the area smoke free and plans to double that number of units next year.
The company's new policy comes after it got the idea when executives were touring a portfolio of properties in Alabama in which 40 percent of the apartment communities were smoke free.
"I thought it was a cool concept but foreign to us up here," said Jim Korman, president of Korman Residential.
The Trevose company decided to test it out at one of its communities beginning in March 2008. Korman Residential made its Village Square property in Bensalem smoke free and, increasingly, renters began requesting smoke-free buildings and apartments. Renters sign agreements that they won't smoke and their guests will also refrain from lighting up.
"Very quickly, we leased out that building," Korman said. The company began adding more buildings and those too leased up. "At that point, I thought we should do this at every property that we can."
By going smoke free, Korman is hoping it will also give the company a competitive edge when someone is choosing an apartment.
While not a huge trend, smoke-free apartment living is gaining traction. Landlords were hesitant to implement such policies fearing it would interfere with fair housing rules, but there's no legal protection for smokers as a class, said Kim Duty of the National Multi Housing Council.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development put public housing authorities on notice in July that it strongly encourages the agencies to put into effect no-smoking policies in public housing. The Philadelphia Housing Authority has a smoke-free policy at its offices but none for its residential communities, according to David Tillman, PHA spokesman.
Local governments have also started to pass ordinances to ban smoking in apartment complexes. One California community implemented a law requiring 80 percent of the apartment buildings to go smoke free by 2012. At the state level, California passed legislation permitting landlords to limit smoking in their properties.
Apartment owners have multiple reasons to go smoke free beyond obvious health benefits to renters, Duty said. A property owner incurs operating costs after a renter who smokes leaves and the owner re-paints and re-carpets the apartment to get rid of lingering third-hand smoke. Smoke also permeates hallways and other common areas, creating a noxious environment for those who don't smoke. There are also sustainable reasons. A new apartment community recently went smoke free to qualify for LEED certification.
Insurance companies and fire departments also like it.
"The fire chief is a huge proponent of it," Korman said about the Bensalem property that first went smoke free. Smokers who fall asleep with lit cigarettes are infamous for igniting fires.
The policy could potentially alienate a whole pool of renters though Korman is careful to note that the buildings that have gone smoke free have been in response to demand.
"It's been wildly popular," he said.
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