C.C. from Hartford County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I’ve been dealing with a marijuana-smoking neighbor for 6 years. The smell permeates our shared wall and comes through the air vents. I spent a ton of money on air purifiers, fans and odor neutralizers – all to no avail. Another neighbor tried similar methods without success. We complained weekly to my condo board, they sent a letter to the tenant (who is the son of the unit owner) and to the father (the owner). The only thing that happened was retaliation in the form of the tenant standing in front of our doors (in the common hallway) with a bong and a small battery operated fan, blowing smoke under our doors (he was caught doing this on three occasions). The board did nothing. They told us they did all they could (sent the letter), and because it’s narcotics we should call the police. So we called the police. The police came three times, smelled the obvious smell and tracked it to its source (my neighbor), searched the unit and said they only found trace amounts and therefore they couldn’t do anything. (In our state the only thing the user would get is a fine.)
Here’s where it gets really personal: I am so fed up with the pot smell that I am attempting to sell my condo in a short sale (because I’m under water and can’t afford to roll my mortgage into a new mortgage on another condo). The smell of marijuana is so strong in the hallway that several would-be buyers didn’t even look at my unit. When the elevator door opened and they smelled the pot, they told my real estate agent they didn’t even want to get off the elevator. The few intrepid would-be buyers who looked at my unit cited the pot smell as the reason they won’t bid on it. The short sale value is already dropping to ridiculous pricing, but I’m now facing the bizarre situation of not even being able to unload my condo in a short sale thanks to my pot smoking neighbor. My real estate agent suggested legal action against my condo board and the tenant, but I know the tenant (and his father) don’t have much in the way of money – the pothead tenant doesn’t work, he claims he’s agoraphobic and therefore can’t work. He doesn’t collect disability and it is not medical marijuana. His father supports him financially. (The pot smoker is in his mid-50s and hasn’t held a job in 28 years – he bragged about this to another neighbor.) I don’t want to sue the elderly father just because he has a pothead loser for a son. As for my board, what would be the grounds for a law suit? Failure to uphold condo bylaws? The problem with that is that our bylaws do not specifically address narcotics. It falls under the nuisance clause, which is vague and IMO leaves a lot of wiggle room for the board to get out of responsibility for situations like this.
Mister Condo replies:
C.C., you hit the nail on the head early on in this question. The police need to intervene each and every time there is an issue with your neighbor’s marijuana smoking causing problems for you and your neighbors. Your Board has no legal authority to make the condo resident stop smoking marijuana. That is why they told you to call the police. This is a matter of law enforcement, plain and simple. As for who you can sue, I think that when you consult with an attorney you will find there are lots of culprits here who may or may not have legal liability. I appreciate your sympathy for not suing the owner of the unit as he may not have much money but where is his sympathy for you when it comes to protecting your rights to peaceably enjoy your unit. He and his pot-smoking son would be at the top of my list! You may have a case against your Board for not upholding the nuisance clause but I doubt you would prevail. I’d have the local police on my speed dial and I would be vigilant until I saw a change in behavior and a removal of the nuisance. As for your short sale woes, I suspect they will take care of themselves over time. Either a fellow smoker may care for your unit or a thorough cleaning of your unit may help alleviate the smell enough for you to make a sale. Good luck!