S.B. from Fairfield County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have a new neighbor at my condo who is a heavy smoker. I am not a smoker so his smoking is really annoying to me. I find I cannot escape the smell of cigarette smoke from his unit as it seems to seep in through the walls. He also has a habit of sitting on the concrete steps in front of his unit. When he is done smoking, he usually crushes his cigarette on the side of the step and allows the butt to drop to the ground. I am uncomfortable approaching him as I do not know him but I really want this behavior to stop. Do you have any ideas?
Mister Condo replies:
S.B., the battle over smoking in condominiums has heated up across the country but only continues to smolder here in Connecticut. I have plenty of ideas but the reality is that as long as he is not violating any of your condo bylaws, local laws, or state laws, he is well within his right to smoke in and outside of his condo. The first line of attack may be a simple conversation. I wouldn’t lead with the smoking but just get to know your neighbor. Welcome him to the community and politely introduce yourself. When he lights up in front of you, you might excuse yourself and point out that you are allergic or hypersensitive to cigarette smoke. This may be enough for him to think twice before lighting up on the front porch next time. Doubtful, but worth a try.
Your condo bylaws very likely address littering which is what he is doing when he allows his cigarette butts to drop to the ground. You may wish to inform your Property Manager or Board of the behavior and see if they take action. It doesn’t stop the smoke but it may alleviate the litter. You may wish to contact an attorney to see if in fact you can take legal action to stop the smoking. Your bylaws likely allow for peaceable enjoyment of your unit and you may be able to argue that second-hand smoke is preventing you from that right.
Finally, if you and enough other people in the state reach out to lawmakers it is possible that we can see legislation to ban smoking in common interest communities. Such laws already exist in other parts of the country so there is a precedent. Other than that, I am afraid there is little you can do but grin and bear it or move from your unit. It is a sad state of affairs when one unit owner’s right to smoke is in direct conflict with a neighboring unit owner’s right to a safe and clean environment but as more and more people become victim’s of such abuse, it is quite possible that we will see the laws change to protect everyone’s right to healthy air inside their own condo. Good luck!