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  1. #1
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    Oct 2015
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    Default Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    I live in an apartment complex. Each apartment unit has two doors - one toward a patio and one toward a vestibule that leads to another door outside. The patio-facing doors are in pairs, so they are relatively close to each other. They are all small spaces.

    Recently (within the past month), a new resident moved in next door. She set up some chairs on the patio in between our two doors and regularly sits with friends and smokes. Since she's moved in, I've noticed the distinct smell of smoke within my own unit, and it appears to be coming from outside. She sits with her cohorts in between our two doors against the wall, so the close proximity causes the smoke to infiltrate my unit.

    I posted a letter on the wall stating that - for the first time in two years - I now have the smell of cigarette smoke in my apartment and that I narrowed down the root cause after observing activity outside of my window. I stated that this is a common issue because of the infrastructure of the buildings, but that most other smokers in the community have found that moving away from the wall or to the side of their door - rather than in between the two doors - can help minimize the impact. I hoped that this would be something that could be done without impacting enjoyment of the patio area.

    I received an e-mail from the landlord stating that the resident had come by with the letter I left and clarifying that she's sorry that the smoke bothers me, but residents are allowed to smoke outside of their door and that we cannot require them to smoke away from their apartment. She stated that the resident is a nice lady who did not intend any disrespect or ill will. She also stated that I am a good tenant and that she's happy to have me here, but sometimes in apartment living there will be issues with neighbors. The e-mail ended with a thanks for my cooperation and understanding. (?)

    I responded by thanking her for her feedback and telling her that most other residents seem willing to accommodate similar concerns without an issue, and that I'm sure a "nice lady" would move a few feet away to avoid suffocating me with secondhand smoke; we're not talking about a difficult request. I said that I would have thought that a basic issue like regular access to clean air within one's own home would've been a concern of hers, but that - at the end of the day - I will continue to stand up for myself with or without her support.

    The question is:

    Through the previously mentioned Google searches, I've seen several other discussion board users indicate that this type of issue - even in situations more extreme than mine - are not issues that impact the warranty of habitability or covenant of quiet enjoyment that exists in every lease. So, if someone impacted by a situation like this were to try to withhold rent or break the lease, he would have no case on either basis.

    I guess my question here is: if that's the case... why? It's common knowledge that second hand smoke can have a serious impact on the health of others. I'm sure you don't need me to quote the CDC's studies on its impact to cardiovascular and respiratory health in nonsmokers. Thus, it's not merely an inconvenience, and it's not something that can be corrected by opening a window (god, depending on which one, that'd make the issue worse, LOL) or installing a filter. Frankly, from my point of view, those aren't things I should even have to do since I'm within my own home. What people choose to do with their health on their own time is their business, but I think I have a right to not be subjected to headaches, a higher risk for cancers, and fatigue because of someone else's crappy lifestyle.

    Wouldn't a serious potential hazard that is within the landlord's control and can be easily corrected without an undue hardship (don't freak out, I know that's a legal term used in a different context - I'm using it as an expression here) be deemed to have an impact on the implied covenants within the lease?

    The results seem to be mixed, but there seems to be precedent for courts going in favor of tenants. With the passage of time and increased awareness on the impact of secondhand smoke on our health, why would I - as a tenant - be unable to hold a landlord accountable for this?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    15,624

    Default Re: (Apartment Complex) Secondhand Smoke from Neighbors / Habitability, Etc

    Ok, let me make sure that I fully understand your complaint...

    You are stating that someone is smoking outside, no windows or doors are open, and somehow smoke is getting into your unit? Do you otherwise have a serious problem with drafts and other insulation issues?

    Smoke is going to follow the path of least resistance. The amount of smoke that could possibly enter your unit (unless there are serious drafts) should not be enough to give you headaches, serious fatigue or a higher risk for cancers. Even with serious drafts, the person would have to be literally smoking right next to the draft area.

    What you might want to do is see if you can figure out what the point of entry is. If there is a draft area somewhere that could be rectified it might not only solve that problem, but might reduce your heating and cooling costs as well.

  3. #3
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    Whether a landlord would have any responsibility for this and to what extent depends on the applicable state law, and so far you have not indicated in what state you live. As there are 50 states, DC, and several territories in the U.S., each with their own laws that can differ significantly, knowing the state makes a big difference.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2015
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    2

    Default Re: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    Quote Quoting llworking
    Ok, let me make sure that I fully understand your complaint...

    You are stating that someone is smoking outside, no windows or doors are open, and somehow smoke is getting into your unit? Do you otherwise have a serious problem with drafts and other insulation issues?

    Smoke is going to follow the path of least resistance. The amount of smoke that could possibly enter your unit (unless there are serious drafts) should not be enough to give you headaches, serious fatigue or a higher risk for cancers. Even with serious drafts, the person would have to be literally smoking right next to the draft area.

    What you might want to do is see if you can figure out what the point of entry is. If there is a draft area somewhere that could be rectified it might not only solve that problem, but might reduce your heating and cooling costs as well.
    Your understanding is correct. I appreciate your helpful advice about looking for point(s) of entry where smoke (or any other unwanted odors) are coming in. I get the impression that you're trying to gently tell me that - notwithstanding a maintenance issue - there really is no corrective action a tenant could take in this situation.

    If it makes a difference: there is approximately five feet (or basically, one of me minus eight inches lying on the ground, lol) between our doors, which are side by side within a wall. When the new tenant moved in, she situated two chairs (it's like those fold-up seats you can get from Walmart) to take up all the space between our doors. Both chairs are within three feet of my door, and the one closest to it is less than a foot away.

    Taking a closer look at the area, the walls seem fine; they are stone. However, I do see what look like "cracks" toward the bottom and to the right of the door when shut. It's like an "uneven" part of the wooden surface where a part of it was "shaved" somehow; when the sun is out, light actually shines through that part of the door, but I always thought the "cracks" (or whatever you might call them) were so small that they would not have made a difference on anything.

    Then again, since I live alone in a one bed/one bath, the air conditioner is in the same room as the kitchen and close to the door previously mentioned, and my electric bill during the summer months averages $150, perhaps your suggestions need to be taken seriously. I will have to look into that. Assume for the purposes of this thread, however, that this issue remains unresolved even after addressing the potential maintenance issue.

    Quote Quoting llworking
    Smoke is going to follow the path of least resistance. The amount of smoke that could possibly enter your unit (unless there are serious drafts) should not be enough to give you headaches, serious fatigue or a higher risk for cancers.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Cancer Society cite numerous studies and reliable references (including the US Department of Health and Human Services) that indicate that brief and/or long-term exposure to even "low" amounts of secondhand smoke can have serious impacts to cardiovascular and respiratory health. Thus, there is no "non-serious" level of exposure for secondhand smoke. This is something that is fully-controllable and preventable, as secondhand smoke is generated only by people who make the choice to smoke.

    So, unfortunately, I must disagree here. As stated previously, what others do on their own time is their own business, and they are certainly free to damage their own bodies to the fullest extent possible. Heck, I'll even stop using that entrance and go outside through the vestibule from now on - even though the entrance previously mentioned is supposed to be a part of a shared space. I just don't want something known to claim 40,000 lives per year to be in the same place in which I sleep and prepare food.

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
    Whether a landlord would have any responsibility for this and to what extent depends on the applicable state law, and so far you have not indicated in what state you live. As there are 50 states, DC, and several territories in the U.S., each with their own laws that can differ significantly, knowing the state makes a big difference.
    You're right. I just didn't mention it because the Warranty of Habitability and Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment - both of which I thought were a matter of common law - were the two implied parts of the lease that could potentially be impacted by this issue.

    My state is Florida, where there aren't extensive statutory protections for tenants compared to some of the other states. There's 83.20, but I will have to double check my lease to see if it is "silent" on the matter of maintenance and repair of the rental property. Even if it is, this section would only appear to apply if a lack of maintenance made the property "wholly untenable."

    I'm not sure if secondhand smoke would make the property "wholly untenable," but it is my opinion that a phenomenon known to contain tens upon tens of carcinogens and thousands of toxic chemicals might have an impact on the habitability of the property or my ability to enjoy it in peace.

  5. #5
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    Quote Quoting !Elbereth
    View Post
    Your understanding is correct. I appreciate your helpful advice about looking for point(s) of entry where smoke (or any other unwanted odors) are coming in. I get the impression that you're trying to gently tell me that - notwithstanding a maintenance issue - there really is no corrective action a tenant could take in this situation.

    If it makes a difference: there is approximately five feet (or basically, one of me minus eight inches lying on the ground, lol) between our doors, which are side by side within a wall. When the new tenant moved in, she situated two chairs (it's like those fold-up seats you can get from Walmart) to take up all the space between our doors. Both chairs are within three feet of my door, and the one closest to it is less than a foot away.

    Taking a closer look at the area, the walls seem fine; they are stone. However, I do see what look like "cracks" toward the bottom and to the right of the door when shut. It's like an "uneven" part of the wooden surface where a part of it was "shaved" somehow; when the sun is out, light actually shines through that part of the door, but I always thought the "cracks" (or whatever you might call them) were so small that they would not have made a difference on anything.

    Then again, since I live alone in a one bed/one bath, the air conditioner is in the same room as the kitchen and close to the door previously mentioned, and my electric bill during the summer months averages $150, perhaps your suggestions need to be taken seriously. I will have to look into that. Assume for the purposes of this thread, however, that this issue remains unresolved even after addressing the potential maintenance issue.



    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Cancer Society cite numerous studies and reliable references (including the US Department of Health and Human Services) that indicate that brief and/or long-term exposure to even "low" amounts of secondhand smoke can have serious impacts to cardiovascular and respiratory health. Thus, there is no "non-serious" level of exposure for secondhand smoke. This is something that is fully-controllable and preventable, as secondhand smoke is generated only by people who make the choice to smoke.

    So, unfortunately, I must disagree here. As stated previously, what others do on their own time is their own business, and they are certainly free to damage their own bodies to the fullest extent possible. Heck, I'll even stop using that entrance and go outside through the vestibule from now on - even though the entrance previously mentioned is supposed to be a part of a shared space. I just don't want something known to claim 40,000 lives per year to be in the same place in which I sleep and prepare food.



    You're right. I just didn't mention it because the Warranty of Habitability and Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment - both of which I thought were a matter of common law - were the two implied parts of the lease that could potentially be impacted by this issue.

    My state is Florida, where there aren't extensive statutory protections for tenants compared to some of the other states. There's 83.20, but I will have to double check my lease to see if it is "silent" on the matter of maintenance and repair of the rental property. Even if it is, this section would only appear to apply if a lack of maintenance made the property "wholly untenable."

    I'm not sure if secondhand smoke would make the property "wholly untenable," but it is my opinion that a phenomenon known to contain tens upon tens of carcinogens and thousands of toxic chemicals might have an impact on the habitability of the property or my ability to enjoy it in peace.
    I am going to be a little more blunt. Unless there really is a maintenance issue, then I suspect that the level of second hand smoke in your unit is too small to even be measured, therefore too small to even be low level.

    You do realize that car exhaust is more damaging than the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    I live in the state of NY and am being exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke and marijuana for almost a year now my daughter whose 16 has asthma and I have chronic bronchitis I submitted doctor notes to my landlord and all he did was post signs around the house yes I'm in a private house with 3 families in each apartment and my neighbor on top of me chooses to smoke in her apartment since I made a complaint to the landlord she will maliciously smoke in each room throughout the apartment my choice is to move and in the process of moving as I'm speaking I'm just hoping I don't run into this problem in my next unit.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    6,431

    Default Re: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    I guess you answered your own question if there was one. Good luck.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
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    28

    Default Re: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    I had this issue in Texas. My fresh air intake duct was right next to my neighbor's patio on the 5th floor. Again a small space. The apartment complex was a "no smoking" complex. The neighbor had an ashtray on the table and openly smoked on his patio. I took pictures. My apartment smelled of cigarette smoke and the smoke woke me up at night. I have bad asthma. The landlord did nothing despite numerous complaints.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke from a Neighbor's Apartment

    Quote Quoting Jean5720
    View Post
    I had this issue in Texas. My fresh air intake duct was right next to my neighbor's patio on the 5th floor. Again a small space. The apartment complex was a "no smoking" complex. The neighbor had an ashtray on the table and openly smoked on his patio. I took pictures. My apartment smelled of cigarette smoke and the smoke woke me up at night. I have bad asthma. The landlord did nothing despite numerous complaints.
    You do realize that you responded to a thread that was over 4 years old? Please post your own thread if you want responses.

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