As every New York resident knows, apartment living can present a lot of challenges. Especially when your neighbor’s actions affect you in negative ways. Secondhand smoke is one of the worst because it presents peculiar difficulties in resolving the issue. If you have respiratory problems such as asthma, are concerned about the health effects or just don’t like the smell, there are some things you can do.
What does the law say?
There is no law that specifically prohibits a tenant from smoking in his or her home. However, in recent years some owners have implemented a strict no smoking policy in their buildings. Violation of which could be cause for termination of a lease or rental agreement.
Under NYC’s Smoke-Free Air Act, smoking is prohibited in common areas of buildings with 10 apartments or more. One such restriction that applies to all multiplex buildings prohibits smoking in a playground area whenever any child under the age of 12 is present. For more information and recourses, Smoke-Free Housing NY has a wealth of information for tenants throughout the state. So, what should you do when facing this problem.
Check your lease or rental agreement
If you thought ahead and carefully read your lease agreement before signing you should find a smoking policy in it. For those who live in condos, you should go to your Home Owners Association (HOA) to see what restrictions they have on smoking in the building. If you live in a co-op, the board can provide you will all the information you need.
Document the problem
The more documents you can gather on the problem the better your chances of getting it dealt with. Write down specific details each time smoke enters your apartment. Make a note of the date, time of day, location and any health effects to you and other household members (coughing, asthma, breathing problems etc.). Keep a detailed record of all this and do not delay in recording them as you may not remember all the details.
Raise the issue and find a solution
Once you’ve documented things thoroughly enough, talk with both your owner/managing agent and neighbor. Keep things friendly and look for a constructive solution. It’s also a good idea to document each of these conversations. Perhaps your neighbor could agree to only smoke by the window and use a fan to keep smoke out. Or the owner/managing agent could take steps to solve the problem. For instance, sealing any cracks or gaps between the apartments and/or investigating the ventilation system.
If your building owner refuses to help or try’s to and fails, you might consider consulting an attorney on your legal rights. Depending on the situation, you might have the right to break your lease because of the health effects. If the issue is particularly severe you could consider bringing a lawsuit against the property owner. Second-hand smoke may constitute a nuisance and disrupt your right to the free enjoyment of the apartment. Although some courts have ruled in favor of the tenant, keep in mind that these cases are difficult to win, costly and time-consuming. Always consult your attorney before making any decision like this.