Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


What do you mean I am not going to get my damage deposit back?


If there was ever a damage deposit that went up in smoke it would have to be one for an apartment I inspected the other day.  EVERYTHING was decorated in yellow.  Now I don’t hate yellow---in fact my house is yellow.

However my house is not, “Nicotine Yellow.”  If I was going to name a paint color, I probably would not use “Nico-yellow” as a name---even if it was accurate.  All the walls and every thing in the unit had a slight tinge of nico-yellow and one could only wonder how anyone could live in such conditions.

Take a look at the air circulation patterns at these two baseboard electric heaters.  The odor of re-heated nicotine was impressive.

smoke smoke smoke that cigarette

nicotine on the walls

Of course the ultimate indicator was the marks on the ceiling above the light fixture at the dining room table.  Makes one want to eat something yummy-yellow! 

smoked light fixture 

As the heat from the bulbs rises, it carries the cigarette particulate with it where the nicotine then collects on the ceiling above.  It sort of adds a decorative effect that becomes part of the light fixture---don’t you think?

They may have to smoke something else to think they will ever see their damage deposit back on this rental.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Seattle Home Inspector


The Human Rights Campaign   QR code for Charles Buell Inspections Inc


WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board

Comment balloon 30 commentsCharles Buell • January 23 2013 03:32PM


I can almost taste the reburned nicotine just looking at the photos Charles.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 6 years ago

Now that's some special patterning!  With lights in the right places, they could even write stuff on the walls.  Pass along my suggestion, thanks.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

I always thought the ones on the walls above the baseboard were from dirt and dust collecting and rising with the heat but this makes a lot more sense. I can only imagine how the place smelled!  Was there a no smoking clause in the lease?

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) almost 6 years ago

I see more ghosts :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

That's just nasty. I helped clean a wall at a friends home years ago and the bucket of soap water was coffee colored after about 5 minutes, again and again, all day. Made him stop smoking, honest. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) almost 6 years ago

Wow. like Marc I always thought that was from the dust and dirt  collection and the hot air from the baseboard blowing it upwards.  The place must snell errible.

Posted by Susan Jackson (America's Network Realty Group, Inc) almost 6 years ago


We collect two months rent as a security deposit.  To make the smoking decision easy, the contract states smoking within the house will result in the complete forfeiture of their security deposit.  Problem solved:-)  I do know a few smoke outside, or have guests that do, but this makes it pretty easy. 

Thank goodness, smokers are not a protected class!

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) almost 6 years ago

. . .I hate to see those lungs in a Dr Oz show. .I'm sure the colors match!

I hope they didn't have kids living  in that house. . 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 6 years ago

Charles, I've never seen it this bad before. Must be several chain smokers in this house. Years ago people didn't really pay much attention until they removed picture from the walls. A big turn off!

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 6 years ago

Tom, I had the smell on me for the rest of the day :)

Jay, you should try it :)

Marc, dirt and dust will do that too---just won't be "nico-yellow"

Jim, indeedably

Scott, if these people have to clean up this mess it might make them stop too

Susan, indeed it did

Michelle, that would be enough to make me quit smoking.  It is so expensive to smoke today---and then add a couple of months rent on top of it?

Fernando, the kids---that is all I could think of as well.

Michael, over time it seems to take over the home.  Removing pictures etc can be very remarkable.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Was there a no smoking policy in place that they signed? If not, couldn't that be considered "normal" wear and tear on a home with a smoker? I'm not a smoker so I don't know, but if this ever went to court over the deposit, I'm wondering what a judge would say.

Posted by Andrew Martin (REMAX Accord) almost 6 years ago

Like #3, I had no idea these stains were from cigarette smoke. I had that in the most recent house I bought but there was no smell.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) almost 6 years ago

Did the tenant move out or die? Wow that's intense.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) almost 6 years ago

Andrew, I think this is somewhere beyond normal wear and tear---but I will let the lawyers figure that out :)

Jill, here is a picture that show more "normal" dirt marking of a wall above a heater---likely from candle burning in this case--but many things can cause this kind of dirt above a heater.

dirt marking above heater

Rob, nope---still "living" there :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Charles -- since it is going to take some heavy duty cover paint, to re-prime the walls and ceiling, before the new paint can be put on-- that security deposit is going to go up in smoke too.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 6 years ago

oh wow, yeah, they are smoking something if they think they are gonna get their depsoit back.  Of course it's legal in your state right?

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) almost 6 years ago

Charlie, I can smell and taste the nico-yellow from here. Nice, someone is going to have fun cleaning that.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Steven, this could actually be a case of rip out the drywall and start over :)

Tammy, that is what I hear :)

Don--it was pretty bad for sure

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Charles, I can smell this place from the east coast.  Yuck!!!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Charles-I've never seen such a picture of nicotine residue in a living space. Imagine what those lungs must look like, and I hope no kids were living there.

Posted by Wayne Johnson, San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale (Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS®) almost 6 years ago
How disgusting. Imagine what their lungs look like? Yuck.
Posted by Paula McDonald, Magnolia Realty ~ Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Magnolia Realty ~ Granbury) almost 6 years ago

Yikes, that's some serious smoking. I would have lasted 2 minutes in that unit. Scary

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) almost 6 years ago

Hey Charles, I included this post in Last Week's Favorites.  Enyoy the rest of your weekend.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Pat, just looking at the pictures brings it all back too

Wayne, no signs of kids---but that was one of my first thoughts too

Paula, it seems people just don't get how short life is---even when you behave yourself

Jeff, I had to go back in twice because the tenant was taking a shower the first time.

Pat, thanks so much for including me in your weekly favorites.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Charles, I hope you were wearing a respirator when you went in there. You said there were kids there? Talk about a horrible way to make your kids live! Were there pets there, too? Unbelieveable!!

Posted by Nina Rogoff, Sells Real Estate! (RE/MAX Executive Realty) almost 6 years ago

I have strict no smoking in my rentals, I inspect often enough to know if they are breaking the lease, and I have in the lease that the deposit is automatically and totally forfeited

Posted by Jeanne Kozak, REALTOR and Broker/Owner in WV and VA (RE/MAX In Action) almost 6 years ago

OMG, Charles. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that.  I had been in 2 chain smoker places that were being is possible that happened, but I was so distracted by trying to breathe that I might have missed this.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 6 years ago

Nina, no---there was no sign of kids or pets fortunately

Jeanne, this would be a nightmare for a landlord I should think

Debbie, this was pretty hard to miss :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

We have seen houses that had smoking traces in it but newver this bad.

Posted by Steve Warrene, Pittsburgh Real Estate Investment Specialists (Your Town Realty) almost 6 years ago

I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I certainly love reading everything that is posted on your websiteand it helped me as well.keep it up.

Posted by building inspection nyc almost 6 years ago