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ORLANDO-Property owners say they are in a typical Catch-22 scenario with tenants who condone smoking by employees, either in the office or in the hallways. If they are too strict, tenants could leave them for a rival’s building. If they are too lenient, owners themselves risk breaking local ordinances.

“Within a building, it’s the responsibility of the tenant to enforce the non-smoking regulations with its staff,” Robert C. DiChiara, VP of business development of the New York-based World Trade Centers Association, tells GlobeSt.com’s Northeast bureau chief Amy Vaughn. “If a problem persists, there are measures the owner or manager can take, but they are generally costly.”

For example, at Four World Trade Center, where commodity exchange tenants dominate, providing in-building smoking areas would necessitate installing special ventilation equipment for every 32 floors. “An extremely costly endeavor,” DiChiara says.

“Even the automatic window washers have to be considered” as an additional cost factor if special non-smoking locations are created inside the building, he says. “When all of the complications are considered and the expenses that would result, if a tenant asked for a smoking space to be built, I’d say no.

“If you just do the basic, routine maintenance, I wouldn’t say it’s too costly an issue,” DiChiara adds, but “the bottom line is that I would discourage smoking anywhere in the building. Personally, as a former smoker–and we’re the worst non-smokers–I would make the buildings completely smoke-free for health, as well as cost reasons.”

In the Dallas/Ft. Worth and Austin areas, property owners face the same dilemma. Plano, TX, for instance, fines violators $2,000 per incident.

Executives of Billingsley Co., whose International Business Park covers Plano and neighboring Carrollton, TX, makes sure every tenant gets a copy of the local ordinances but isn’t convinced that measure resolves the issue or even confines smoking employees.

“As an owner, we walk a very fine line so you don’t upset your tenants, as well as being responsive to the community,” Feliz Jarvis, Billingsley’s vice president, tells GlobeSt.com Southwest bureau chief Connie Gore.

Although Billingsley officials feel the non-smoking onus is on the tenant and not directly on the property owner, Becky Rowland, the company’s vice president of property services, tells Gore: “If we lease to only non-smoking companies, we’ll have empty buildings.”

In Austin, the state’s capital, smoking is restricted to 15 feet of public entrances; and smoking is not permitted in office buildings, malls or inside the airport terminals.

“For most commercial office buildings, city code dictates, so we really don’t have to brave company rules,” Tracy Dahl, property manager at Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group’s 133,000-sf Park North and 120,000-sf Reunion Park, tells Gore.

Still, tenants have been caught breaking the rules. In all likelihood, they will continue to be caught with their butts hanging out. “It’s a never-ending battle,” Dahl concludes.

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