J.M. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a rule at our condo that states “no noxious or offensive activity shall be carried on in any unit or in the common areas; nor shall anything be done willfully or negligently which may be or become an annoyance or nuisance to the other unit owners or occupants. No unit owner or occupant shall do or permit anything by such persons that will interfere with the rights, comforts or convenience of other unit owners or occupants.” The tenants in the unit next to mine are chain smokers. We asked the management company to start the process to call the owner of the other unit to a hearing but she said that she checked with the lawyer and he doesn’t think the board can do anything about smoke so she advised the board to wait until she asked him a second time. She is stalling and the board follows everything she says to do. How do you force a board and management co. to follow their own rules of enforcement? We just don’t want their smoke in our unit, we don’t care if they smoke outside. If a rule is enforced the board can fine the owner $25 a day but of the 5 board members, one board member is a relative of that unit’s owner and 2 smoke. We are stuck because the infraction rules state that the board has the right to fine not that it’s mandatory. Just today after a month we got the management company to send out a letter requesting a hearing but some of the board members don’t want to enforce this. We have to wait two months because they meet every other month. At that point they can vote to wait or do nothing again. Any ideas?
Mister Condo replies:
J.M., smoking at condominiums is a hot button issue for many associations. Some have gone as far to ban smoking completely, including common areas and unit interiors. However, it does take Board action to implement such measures and it would appear that you do not have Board members that are going to agree with your position and are likely to obstruct any corrective actions you seek to have them apply. Unless you can get these Board members to take action, you will very likely have to bring suit against the Board for not enforcing the rules on nuisance. This is not simple or inexpensive and you will likely have to hire an attorney to help you draft the lawsuit. However, this will keep the conversation going and bring the issue to a close. If you prevail, you will get your smoke-free environment to which, in my opinion, you are entitled. If you do not prevail, you may need to look at other ways opf protecting yourself, up to and including selling your condo to live someplace else.
I strongly urge you to review the State of Connecticut document entitled “Smoke Free Housing for Condominium Owners and Homeowner Associations at http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?A=3137&Q=486714. It details what steps need to be taken to eliminate smoking, which is NOT a right, in your association. Of course, I wish you clean air and the best of luck.