Are Smokers Covered Under Fair-Housing Laws?

A couple is moving to England next year so he can teach at the University of Cambridge. Their plan is to return to Arizona after one year so they want to rent their Chandler home while they are gone. They do not want to rent to smokers because they do not want the smell of smoke in their home upon returning home. A potential renter, whose brother is an attorney, says that they must rent to her even though she is a smoker because smokers have equal housing rights. Is this true? What are the Arizona landlord tenant laws regarding smoker’s rights?

The answer is no. When I’m asked about the rights of smokers, I am reminded of Ted Danson’s line in the movie Body Heat when, after everyone else in a conference room lights up a cigarette and he is offered one, he says, “No, thanks. I’ll just breathe the air!” Smokers are not a protected class such as race, sex, or familial status under the Fair Housing laws, and the couple is entitled to refuse to rent to smokers. Likewise, landlords can discriminate against college students, unrelated single adults, and illegal aliens, provided that the real reason for the discrimination is not based on the prospective tenant being a member of a protected class such as race or religion.

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