Indoor Air Quality & Smoking

Last updated: November 2, 2009 – 12:22 PM

The new Chicago Clean Indoor Air Ordinance was signed into law on Feb. 13, 2008 and supersedes the Smoke Free Illinois Act. The new law is intended to protect patrons and workers against the dangers of secondhand smoke.

As of February 13, 2008 smoking is prohibited in:

  • All enclosed workplaces;
  • All restaurants;
  • All bars;
  • All healthcare facilities;
  • Public places including government buildings, convention facilities, laundromats, public transportation facilities and shopping malls;
  • Public restrooms, lobbies, reception areas, hallways and other common use areas in public buildings, apartment buildings and condominium buildings;
  • Within 15 feet of the entrance to enclosed public places;
  • Recreational areas including enclosed sports arenas, stadiums, swimming pools, ice and roller rinks, arcades and bowling alleys; and
  • City government vehicles.

Regulations, Fines & Fees

The Department of Public Health and the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing will monitor compliance with the ordinance during routine inspections. The City will also respond to complaints made to 311. Individuals who are smoking in areas prohibited by the ordinance are guilty of an infraction punishable by fines of up to $250.

More About the New Ordinance

The updated Chicago Clean Indoor Air Ordinance was passed by the Chicago City Council in January 2008. It replaces current law, passed in December 2005 and supersedes the Smoke Free Illinois Act. The new law is intended to protect the health of patrons and workers against the dangers of tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is known to cause cancer and heart disease, and “safe” levels of secondhand smoke have not been identified.

Full Text of the Chicago Clean Indoor Air Ordinance of 2008

All 18 Comments

  1. I just moved into a unit where; what is now known as my neighbor is a heavy smoker. Upon moving in I didn’t smell a strong cigarette smell but it was a bit of an odor; that I didn’t smell when I viewed the unit. The building has a strict no smoking policy in the lease for units and building The property manager gives a rules handout that states the no smoking policy, as well. I have complained to my property manager about the smoking since I moved in this month January. When I moved in, I found cigarette buds on my balcony, I took pictures of it and thought it was from maintenance. Then I realized that night it was from someone’s unit around me because the odor and smoke are coming through the vents and wall. I haven’t been able to set up my furniture because I don’t want it to smell like smoke. The property manager did an inspection for smoking in the units. He said that he has to give a two day notice before inspections. When he passed out the notices for inspection I started to smell a chemical in the vents that evening. I think it was the smoker trying to clean up the smell. The manager said when entering into the unit it was spotless but it was a lingering of cigarette odor. He said legally he can’t prove it is that person smoking. He said he feels helpless in the situation. He also, found cigarette buds in the stairwell of the building. He placed a camera in the stairwell but that was stolen. I sent him a link to this product called Freshair sensor that he can install and detect when the smoking happens. He said he has to speak with the lawyers to see if he can legally install this in the unit and hallway. The lease clearly states that there is no smoking in the unit nor building and the violator will be evicted. I’m not sure why the property manager is saying their lawyers can’t legally evict them for smoking in the unit. When they are smoking, the smoke comes through the vents and walls. The smoke is also, smelled strongly in one side of the hallway where the smokers unit is. What can the property manager and I do to keep this person from smoking in their unit? Can another agency get involved to detect the actual person smoking to legally evict them? The property manager claims the smoker and their lawyer could claim it wasn’t them smoking.

    1. I am sorry that you are experiencing this. Some people are rude. It is a difficult situation. The landlord could push harder than they are. The landlord could give the tenant a 10 notice to comply with the no smoking policy. If the tenant does not comply the landlord can move to evict the tenant. The landlord can use your complaints as well as any other complaints from tenants that the tenant is smoking in the premises. I would see if other people with abutting units have the same issue. The more documentation you can get the better. I would document every time you smell the smoke. The courts are not that tenant friendly and is the tenant going to want to risk an eviction rather than move. Evictions can harm the chances of renting other units.

  2. If I do go forward he will also say that the basement is not a common area he will say it is his office

    1. The options are not that great. Here is what the Chicago ordinance says

      Chapter 7-32 shall be enforced by the Department, and the Department of
      Business Affairs and Licensing, or their authorized designees.
      b. Notice of the provisions of this Chapter shall be given to all applicants for a
      business license in the City of Chicago.
      c. Any person who desires to register a complaint pursuant to this Chapter may
      initiate enforcement with the Department by calling 3-1-1 or such other method
      as the Department may establish.
      d. The Department or its designees shall, while an establishment is undergoing
      otherwise mandated inspections, inspect for compliance with this Chapter.
      e. An owner, manager, operator or employee of an establishment regulated by
      this Chapter shall inform persons violating any provision of this Chapter of the
      appropriate provisions thereof.
      f. In addition to the remedies provided by this Chapter, the Department or any
      person aggrieved by the failure of the owner, operator, manager or other
      person in control of a public place or a place of employment to comply with the
      provisions of this Chapter may apply for injunctive relief to enforce those
      provisions in any court of competent jurisdiction.

      If the landlord actually has an office in the basement it will be difficult. Are there other tenants in the building who are bothered by the smoking? If there are the best bet may be to get a petition together asking him to stop.

  3. My landlord smokes like crazy in the basement and common areas and hallway behind my door and my apt reeks. Is he violating this ordinance!?

    1. Chicago’s law states smoking is prohibited in any enclosed public spaces. There are a few exceptions, common areas in an rental unit are not one of he listed exemptions. The law also states that they need to 15 feet away from doors and open windows. If the basement is not a common area then the landlord could smoke there. The owner is allowed to smoke in his or her unit.

  4. I live in a coop and the other tenants smoke. The public hallway smells like smoke and now the smoke is in my unit on my clothing and furniture. Do I have any rights as a non smoker? And if so what rights do I have. The building did not smell like this when I came to view the unit before I purchased it. Can management be required to buy a clean air purifier machine or can I purchase the clean air machine and charge it to management?

    1. Are you a partial owner of the building? The laws are much different for condo and coops. In any circumstance, Chicago law is there is no smoking in indoor common areas which would include the hallways. Have you spoken with the smokers to ask them to take it outside? What do your coop agreements state? Are there other coop owners who feel the same way that you do? I would check. Then you can figure out what your next steps are.

  5. I moved into an apartment where the property management didn’t mention that it was a smoke friendly apartment. I also didn’t notice any smoke smell when I first checked out the apartment to rent or when I first moved in but then when the winter came I could smell cigarette smoke in my whole unit and my partner has asthma so it makes her breathing difficult and we are worried will catch second hand smoke from it or my partner will have breathing difficulties or asthma attacks. If me and my partner are under lease. Can we cut the lease short? It’s becoming a problem to live in these conditions and if we were told this from the beginning that the building is a smoke friendly zone or if that was mention on the lease, then we wouldn’t have moved in here in the first place. What can we do? Our lease is over in 5 months but since our health is at risk the longer we stay here, we want to move out the sooner the better. We’re afraid if we offer to cut the lease short that the owners of the company that rented us the unit will tell us to leave immediately without giving us time to find a new place to live.

    1. This is not going to be an easy problem to resolve. There are no rules regarding smoke free building. Tenant are not allowed to smoke in common areas. Unless the landlord states upfront that the unit is smoke free then there is not much that the landlord can do. The landlord cannot enforce a policy that does not exist and is not a part of the lease. Going forward it is up to the tenant to ask about whether the building is smoke free. If it is not then you should assume someone in the building will smoke.

      As for getting out of the lease, you might have more success if you can go to a doctor and get the doctor to write a letter stating that your health is being immediately endangered due to the smoke in the building. Have you asked the landlord about shortening the lease? Maybe the landlord will let you out of the lease at little or no cost.

      Did the landlord attach a summary of the landlord and tenants ordinance to your lease? If not then you can terminate the lease and move out. Otherwise it is best to negotiate something.


  6. Can I call the city on the below neighbors, who happens to be the landlord? Our apartment specifically is a no smoking apartment but the land lady below is obviously smoking and all the smoke is filling up in the stairwell, our bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. I feel odd about it because it’s land lady… or someone in that apartment as 3 people live in there. Any advice? Do I even have a case? Something needs to be done though because I am sick of smelling there nasty habit.

    1. That is odd. Where did it say the unit was no smoking? The best place to start is with a letter stating that when you first moved, you believed that you were moving into a no smoking apartment. There is smoke continually pouring into you unit. You want this fixed. I am not so sure this will be an easy problem to resolve. Do you want to move out? That may be possible.

  7. For apartment buildings the requirement must be 50 feet from windows. The lower floor apartments get all the smoke from all the people that go just outside the door to smoke. It is a huge dosage of smoke into a few apartments. The law says that owners are to protect people from second hand smoke and if to do that they need to keep smokers 50 feet away, that is what they need to do.

    1. What are the rights of residents in small apartment buildings where 1 resident smokes and the smoke gets into another resident’s apartment? When i moved in, I did not know anyone in the building smoked. And didn’t smell any smoke. Now that I am in, I smell it.
      What are my rights?
      Thank you.

      1. In Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois there are few protections for renters in buildings with smokers. In Chicago, it is against the law to smoke in the hallway or any other public area. There are no laws governing smoking in apartments and the fact that it can impact others. In Portland, landlords are required to inform tenants whether the building is smoking or nonsmoking. Landlords have the right to only rent to nonsmokers though few assert that right. It is very difficult to prevent smoke from moving throughout the apartment. Have you tried talking to other tenants to see if they are bothered by the smoke. Maybe if enough tenants are bothered by it then you could get the owner to make the building a nonsmoking building. Though this may be difficult if the smoking tenants have leases.

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