Board Condominium Governance Legal Neighbor Issues Rules Enforcement Smoking

Condo Living With Marijuana Smoking Neighbors


D.B. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Greetings from western Massachusetts!

We are a self managed Property with over 300 Units, with approximately 10 Units per Building. Our Rules & Regulations prohibit smoking in any interior Common Area (hallways, Laundry Rooms, Clubhouse, etc.) We are not a completely smoke-free property. Lately a couple has been complaining about the smell of marijuana smoke that they detect at certain hours of the night. They claim this smoke has infiltrated their Unit and has caused adverse health effects.  Maintenance sealed their Unit door, and around holes for the Common Area heating.

The Property Manager sent out a memo stating that while Management made no judgments about the use of marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use, the smell WAS offensive to some residents, and they were asked that they stop. This was followed up by a phone call to many of the residents in that Building. Two of these admitted to smoking pot, one said he would stop smoking indoors, the other swears he does NOT smoke indoors. The weekend passed and yet again, the original complainant went back to Management stating that they continued to smell marijuana. They seem sure that they know who the offender is, however there really is no proof WHO is smoking pot.

What else can management realistically do to resolve this issue? Thank you in advance for your friendly advice.

Mister Condo replies:

D.B., secondhand smoke of any sort is a common complaint among residents of any high density housing complex. Shared hallways, HVAC systems that allow for seepage of odors and just plain proximity to the smell drives many owners to consider lawsuits and more to seek relief. Most condominium associations cite nuisance clauses in their documents to thwart the activity. But, as you have seen firsthand, that doesn’t always work.

I am not an attorney but I seriously suggest you consider speaking with your association’s counsel about taking proactive measures to ban smoking altogether within your association. I say this for two reasons. You have already tried the nice way to put an end to this problem. The results would indicate that wasn’t enough. The affected unit owners are going to continue to seek relief (wouldn’t you?) and are very likely to speak to their own attorney who will likely file a suit against the association for not doing enough to curb the problem and protect the rights of the nonsmokers. Changing your association from smoking to non-smoking is no easy task. It requires an amendment to the Master Deed and, depending on your bylaws, a 2/3rds or more vote in favor of the ban by the unit owners. The ban may very well not pass but the act of trying to get it to pass may be enough to help the association defend itself in a lawsuit.

In a perfect world, smokers and nonsmokers would coexist with each getting the fresh air or smoke that they desired. In such close quarters smells and noises from your neighbors are just a part of day to day living. A smoking ban is very likely the only real solution to this problem and, depending on the make-up of the community, may not be possible to pass. It is possible that we will see local, state, or even federal law on this issue at some point but until then it is up to the individual community association to do its best to protect the rights of all unit owners. Good luck!

24 thoughts on “Condo Living With Marijuana Smoking Neighbors”

  1. Re the smell of marijuana emanating in a common area.
    I have always wondered, what happens when it can not be determined the smell, odor, stench is not being caused directly as a result of ‘second hand smoke’? A marijuana scented aerosol or a popuri for instance
    I can see some establishments determining their authority to prevent said redolent condition would be created in determination of it being a ‘nuisance’ and therefore their responsibility to investigate and prevent furtherance, but one person’s odor is quite possibly another’s fragrance.

  2. I have this exact problem in my condo. My association board won’t do anything except tell me to call the police. It pains me to admit that I did this a few times – I never thought I was the type of person to call the police over pot smoking but thought I should have some record of doing what the board suggested I do – the police came, gave my neighbor a ticket and that was it. Two days later he was smoking more and more potent weed.

    I can’t keep any clothes in my hall closets because they end up smelling like pot. One of my coworkers pulled me aside one morning and said, “Just a friendly warning, your coat smells like weed. That’s not cool here, you could get fired for that, we have a zero tolerance policy regarding drug use.” A week later I was tapped for a “random” drug test. Thank God I passed it, I was honestly worried I might have traces in my system or hair. I told my boss the situation I have with my neighbor. She was sympathetic but said if I fail the drug test or if my clothes/hair habitually smell like pot they will fire me.

    And here’s where it gets even worse: After the incident at work, I tried to sell my condo to move away from the problem, and I could not get a real estate agent to list it. Why? Because every time an agent came to assess my condo the common hallways and my unit smelled so strongly of marijuana that they said it was unsellable, or, that they don’t work with “that” type of home buyers, meaning they don’t associate with potheads looking to buy a condo. I tried selling it myself but only had a few people interested in looking at it, and, the second they stepped off the elevator into the pot-smelling common hallway they were immediately not interested.

    So there is more to this issue than second-hand smoke health issues and nuisance issues. It devalues the units in the building to the point of making them unsellable.

    I’m working with a lawyer to sue both my neighbor and the condo association because I have no other recourse at this point. Again, something I never in a million years thought I would do. But I have no other option unless I want to live in a marijuana smoke filled condo. (I do not.) This whole thing has cost me a huge amount of money. The legal fees are wiping out my retirement savings, and if I’m ever able to sell my condo it will be at a huge loss. (Which is what I’m trying to recoup in the law suit.)

    1. Chicago Condo Owner,

      You are clearly doing the right thing by contacting the police and following up with a lawsuit. Your primary method of remedy will be to sue your neighbor as well as your association and seek relief. This is a new area of legality for many states and until there are clear laws about where and when smoking marijuana is legal, I expect there will be numerous issues between marijuana smokers and neighboring unit owners who would just like to enjoy their units in a nuisance-free environment. I expect that you will prevail. Your case may even be the one that sets the precedent in your region. Good luck!

    2. I think its ridiculous to complain to ppl for smoking pot in their homes; If your paying $$ and own property guess what guys than you have no damn right at all to tell someone what to do in their own private home and vice versa to you…! Now if the smell is a problem than sell your home ppl use scentsy ozium spray whatever you must but clearly you have your own space just like the other person does..

      1. Well, that is certainly one way to look at this issue. However, “nuisance” is being decided in the courts in many states and the odor of marijuana is commonly classified as a nuisance. If a marijuana smoker can figure out a way to smoke marijuana without creating a nuisance, I don’t think a neighboring unit owner would mind. That being said, I don’t think that technology currently exists so the battle over the right for fresh air continues. The right to live in a nuisance-free environment is common in most condominium documents. All the best!

      2. My comment is directed towards the OTHER anonymous poster. To the Chicago condo owner I feel your pain I am going through the exact same hell

      3. If you owned a single resident home in rural america, smoke away. When you live in a high occupancy condo with shared walls, heating vents and hallways, it is both a violation of association rules and a nuisance to make other residents smell and inhale your second hand MJ stench. We have a tenant across the hall who smokes so much that I have videos of huge clouds of smoke bellowing out the bottom of his door into the hallway. I had to go to the ER at 3am on New Years because his “celebration” smoke entered my unit while I was sleeping and caused me an asthma attack. The landlord refuses to evict because the tenant pays. He will be singing a new tune when our condo association sues him and his tenant in civil court for nuisance and violation of our bylaws.

      4. I have asthma and allergies no matter how harmless some may think marijuana odors and the smoke is, I have had to be rushed to the hospital to have nebulizer treatments. I hadn’t been needing any inhalers and within a few days of this neighbor moving in, I had to get an emergency Albuterol inhaler and also a Flovent Discus inhaler. I would agree in theory that they should be free to do whatever but honestly it’s left me gasping for air. It’s terrible when you feel as if you’re drowning. Worst thing ever.

        1. Mick, regardless of the source of the foul odor, you should complain to the Board so they can take action. Good luck!

      5. If you want to party, go right ahead. But that doesn’t give you the right to contaminate someone else’s unit. Do the responsible thing and make ensure that it remains in YOUR UNIT–not your neighbours

    3. Hello,

      A major pot smoker just moved into the condo next to me. I’m an owner and he’s a renter. The smoke has already started to enter my unit and it looks like I’ll be headed down a similar road as you. I’ve initiated contact with the HOA but it’s the weekend and they are pretty unresponsive to regular requests so I’m afraid this is going to be a nightmare. I have severe allergies and asthma and carry an Epipen so this is a serious health issue for me. I will be contacting and attorney for advice on Monday. Any advice you might have given your experience would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

      1. Shereen, be diligent in your approach to combat this problem. The Board should not be unresponsive to your complaint. If they are, it may be time for new Board members. You have a right to a smoke-free enjoyment of your unit. Good luck!

  3. In a perfect world smokers would do everyone a favor and die much faster than they already are. Say, three days. I’m dead serious. Smokers are choosing to kill them selves, why should non-smokers have to live so long with the negative effects of someone else’s stupid choice?

  4. I live in a small 4 unit condo association. What can I do when it’s the trustees who are smoking weed that fills the common hallways with a noxious odor?

    1. K., you can follow the same guidelines as detailed in this original post. There is no “right to smoke”. If the weed smoking by the Trustees is how they intend to run the association, elect new trustees. Take steps to assert your right to a “nuisance free” environment as outlined in your condo docs. Sue your association if you have to. Seek legal help if you need it. All the best!

  5. Everyone’s comments are very helpful to me. We are dealing with a heavy marijuana smoker in our condo complex. The offending owner (whose son lives in the condo) is receiving violations and fines. Fines are being paid while at the same time denying that any such smoking is going on. How does that work? Why pay the fine? Police are called, a civil complaint was filed, it is brought up at our HOA meetings, letters written to the owner, etc. I’m interested in the comments of shared vents/duct work. Is this common in condominiums? Ours are 20 year old converted apartments. Each unit has their own AC/Heating , receiving their own separate billing. Has anyone had good results from board members. Any comments will be appreciated. Thank You.

  6. The Only way to stop Odors from Cannabis is to use a Doorfilter , Door filter is a god sent for my family , we had so much dust and odors from the hallway !!!! we were prepared to sell and move but this simple 50 dollar product saved us all the greiff!! its awesome . Home depot sell it online or the web site will deliver straight to you //

  7. What if the person in the next unit, when smoking pot, would just put a fan in the window, and smoke by the fan? Would that help in any of the cases?

    1. C., it might but the issue of smoke as nuisance in condo associations and HOA isn’t going away any time soon. The closeness of neighbors is what causes the problem. Shared walls, shared halls, shared common areas, shared air. The courts in several states have already heard cases. The result is either banning of smoking (all substances) or no action being taken. I think we will continue to see the legal battle unwind over the next few years. Stay tuned!

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