The momentum to ban smoking at multifamily properties is growing, with more cites and counties passing legislation that prohibits or discourages lighting up in units, common areas, or both.

The bleeding edge West Coast is leading the charge. To date, smoke-free multifamily housing policies have been adopted in King County, Wash., as well as more than 20 California locales, including Glendale, Sacramento County, Thousand Oaks, Oakland, and Santa Monica.

In early January, Belmont, Calif., 20 miles south of San Francisco, implemented one of the country’s most restrictive bans: No smoking at all inside apartments or condo buildings. The law was enacted thanks to a grassroots campaign led by residents of a federally-subsidized retirement community.

Property owners and managers recognize the dangers associated with smoking, but many prefer to implement policies on their own accord. “We would prefer to see market forces and general awareness dictate establishment of policies rather than formal city or county mandates,” says Jim Wiard, vice president of property management at Portland, Ore.-based Guardian Management, which, for more than a year, has enforced a no-smoking ban across its entire portfolio of 12,000 units.

“We wanted to provide an amenity for our residents by eliminating the threat of second hand smoke and reducing the risk of fire,” Wiard says.

For similar reasons, Legacy Partners Residential, a Foster City, Calif.-based apartment developer and manager, plans to move toward smoke-free living at its Denver properties. “More and more, smoking is becoming problematic in multi-family housing with tenants complaining about other tenants impacting their health,” says Patricia Hutchison, the firm’s vice president.

However, Hutchison, like Wiard, feels that the decision should be up to the company and not mandated by a city or county.