A little-known fact is that vaping as an alternative to smoking was conceived as far back as 1963 when American inventor Herbert A Gilbert invented the first e-cigarette prototype, which he called the "Smokeless". Unfortunately, smoking was still big business back then, and his creative idea quickly went up in smoke.
Nowadays, vaping has become more than a way to give up smoking, having become its own illustrious industry. According to recent statistics, 2.3 million adults in the UK vape. When it comes to the rental industry, that figure makes up a large number of renters who have made the switch from smoking to vaping. But with most landlords preferring non-smoking tenants, and only 7% of landlords nationwide allowing their tenants to smoke, where does this leave the vapers?
So far, landlords have been left in the dark with no fixed regulations surrounding tenants and vaping as there are for smokers. What makes vaping such an enigmatic topic for the rental sector? Let's look at some of the points that landlords raise about banning smoking in their properties to see if they could also apply to vape tenants.
Let's be honest, we all know a smoker's house by its smell. While a smoker themselves may not be aware of it, letting agents and landlords coming to inspect will certainly know by the distinctive odour that cigarettes leave on furniture and curtains. Sometimes the lingering smell of tobacco would put off new renters, and landlords cannot take that chance.
Vaping can often leave a temporary odour due to the myriad of flavours of e-liquids available, but the smell is short-lived and leaves no trace.
Another issue that landlords have had to contend with resulting in smoking bans in rental properties is the build-up of tar and nicotine within the building. Although not immediately obvious, over time nicotine and tar can build up on walls and ceilings, and the yellow-grey stains are extremely hard to get rid of, even with bleach. Discolouration of wallpaper and furnishings have previously resulted in the landlord keeping the rental deposit in order to get professional cleaners and decorators to remedy the issues.
Vapes also contain nicotine, but the distinct difference here is how the nicotine is vapourised, rather than combusted, allowing more of the nicotine to be absorbed by the vaper. Over time, of course, the much smaller amount of nicotine released by the vape could potentially stain walls, but at present, the mist released leaves no immediate trace.
The statistics really say it all here: 6.3% of all fires dealt with by the Fire Services are smoking-related. Of fire-related deaths, nearly 27% are due to smoking. Conversely, no fires or fire-related deaths have been recorded in the UK due to vaping so far.
We've all seen the sock-over-the-fire-alarm approach smokers used to take in order to smoke without setting off alarm bells. Is this also a problem with vaping? Well actually, yes it is - as e-cigarettes allow for larger volumes of vapour to be released into the air, they most certainly trigger fire alarms despite there being no fire (in the same way that some carpet cleaners release chemicals into the air which also set off alarms). The way to combat this is to change your detector head type from ionisation to optical or bi-element detector heads so that the "mist" isn't confused for smoke.
What can landlords do?
Honestly? At the moment, very little. While vaping may not sit well with a landlord's moral obligations, there are currently no government regulations that landlords can enforce to stop tenants from vaping in their properties. Public Health England state that there is no health risk to bystanders or damage to property by vaping. Despite the seemingly small risk to landlords and their property, 64% are in favour of banning vaping.
So, what can be done? If you're a landlord and you're unhappy with the idea of vaping in your property, then you could include a clause in the tenancy agreement that prohibits smoking and vaping in your property.
At Preseli Lettings, we have a blanket ban in all of our tenancy agreements which discloses that there is to be no smoking in any of our properties. It’s also important to note that there are fines for both tenants and managing agents if tenants are found to be smoking in communal areas of flats and signs must be displayed by law. It would be a landlord’s choice if they were to include vaping in their signage.
The main issue is that due to vape mist being almost undetectable, it's very difficult for the letting agent to detect vapers during inspections, and due to the minimal risk to the property, a clause in a tenancy agreement would be very difficult to enforce if the tenant was to breach the agreement.
The Independent Network of Estate Agents (INEA) suggests that "many tenants believe that e-cigarettes are not included in a smoking ban", meaning that, at present, it's up to the landlord to state a preference rather than to enforce a clause. If a tenant is caught vaping in your property, then you have a right to evict them if you have previously stated so in your tenancy agreement. For the time being, vaping is still very much a rental conundrum.