Dear PoPville – More Smoking Problems

Photo by PoPville flickr user johnmcochran2012

“Dear PoPville,

I’ve been living in a small, 4-unit, apartment building in Mount Pleasant for four years. At times over the last four years, myself and two of the three other units have worked to address the smoking of the 4th resident. This individual is a bit agoraphobic, avoiding all contact with neighbors, no matter the time of day. We are an otherwise friendly and sociable community. But the “other” resident is a heavy indoor smoker, preferring to smoke with the windows closed!

In addition to the utterly foul stench that permeates the hallway, the smoke filters into the other three apartments. It’s really bad. I’m recently recovering from radiation treatment, and the smell of smoke is more than I can stand.

We have all addressed the smoke problem with our landlord, a small private company, over the course of the years to no avail. What recourse do we have, if any, to take action against this individual to get him to stop smoking indoors. It’s a very small building, so it’s very noticeable when he smokes.

Any advice from the PoPville community would be immensely helpful. Thanks!”

Ed. Note: Last week we spoke about a similar situation in a condo.

29 Comment

    • +1. Sounds like this situation isn’t going to change, so take control and move. Inconvenient? Yes. But such is life.

    • Exactly this. Half the problems on this site have the same solution: Deal with it or move.

    • +1. I had much more sympathy with the condo owner last week than this renter who can probably break the lease (probably month-to-month by now) and move to a smoke-free place.

    • +1 into NON-Smoking building!

      • Have you considered it might be a hardship for the OP to move? Maybe they are renting month to month and they are in a rent control situation that is allowing them to rent something affordable.

        • It’s up to the renter to decide which is MORE of a hardship — living in a building with a problem that concerns him/her — or moving to a situation that suits his/her needs better. Renting month to month means that the OP has the flexibility to move without the worry of breaking the lease. If affordability is a concern, and the priority, then the OP should recognize that in making affordability a priority, that is having a priority that limits other options.

          • Wow, people on the blog have shown over and over again how uncompassionate they are when it comes to quality of life issues. If someone’s worried about noise, then the answer is to move out of the city, etc.

  • The resident who smokes is doing something legally permissible in his own apartment that is not in violation of the condo regs. The fact that the rest of you are “friendly and sociable” doesn’t change this. Instead of attempting to change your neighbor’s behavior — perhaps you should change your own. If living in a non-smoking space is that important to you, and I can certainly see why it would be, then perhaps you should seriously consider moving to one.

  • Have a better door installed that doesn’t let smoke slip through.

  • DC has no law addressing smokefree housing – the existing smokefree law pertains only to indoor public spaces. The condo board can pass a rule disallowing smoking in the units and specifying a penalty for violating the rule. This isn’t a slam dunk though. It can take a long time and be costly to enforce a rule like this.

    If someone smokes in your building, you are breathing in their smoke and there is NO safe level of second hand smoke. Best to get the hell out.

    • I am hardly a proponent of smoking — exactly the opposite. But it doesn’t seem fair, and it doesn’t seem like it should be legal for someone to buy into a condo, then have other people move into the building and/or change the rules, and apply penalties for behavior within their unit that was permissible when they bought their property. It also seems horrible that someone in a small condo building could be ganged up on by other unit owners who want to change the rules, forcing them into an uncomfortable situation and legal expenses when they may have moved into the building in part because it was not a smoke-free building when they bought their condo.

      • Considering that most condo buildings don’t currently have smokefree rules, it seems like a specious argument to say that a smoker would’ve sought out a specific building because of its not having a smokefree rule.
        As as far as other people moving in and changing the rules… a condo building is by its nature a community, and it makes sense that majority agreement can change the rules. If you want to be a rugged individualist, best not to buy into a community arrangement.

        • My point was that the smoker moved into his/her building with the right to smoke, rather than one that was smoke-free. I would argue in the other direction — if you have particular needs — such as a smoke-free building, you should only buy into smoke free buildings — rather than move into one that allows smoking, with a plan to change the rules for everyone. It’s not being a “rugged individualist” to assume that the docs under which you bought your property will remain stable for the foreseeable future. What I hadn’t realized, until I read this, was the impact of living in a small condo building, where a majority could be a small number of people that changes pretty quickly as in this 4 unit building. This would be the same for renters — if living in a smoke-free property is a priority — seek that out — rather than insisting that others change their behavior for your benefit.
          As to the “majority rules” bit — my response to that is so outside of the scope of this post that I’ll save it for another rant.

      • I read this too quickly, and it didn’t register that the OP is a renter, and this is not a condo situation. The OP should just move to a nonsmoking building.

  • This dead horse has beaten enough already.

    • Should say:
      This dead horse has been beaten enough already.

      (Seriously, what can be said that wasn’t already said on the past 2 posts about this?)

      • gotryit

        Renter specific info. The last post was about a condo owner, so I lean more towards what can be done to keep out the smoke.
        For a renter, it’s more of a landlord / legal issue of how to get out ASAP.

        • +1. It sounds like the landlord of the building isn’t receptive to the concerns of the nonsmoker residents, so unfortunately I suspect they’ll have to vote with their feet, i.e., move.

  • My sympathy to the poster. I’d refer to last week’s posting that PoP provided at the bottom of your note. There was some good advice and experience there. It is a frustrating situation to be sure and one where your options are likely limited if you don’t have an original no-smoking clause to your lease. If you can afford it, it might be better to just move. Better for your health and better for your mental well-being! You could spend years getting frustrated by this. Such as shame this guy has to smoke like that- we’ve got a similar guy in my building. Nice enough guy, but he stays pent up in his apartment, smoking all day long. His skin is really bad, especially for his age. The smoking is taking its effect, and it’s a sad thing. But, that said, it is even worse for his immediate neighbors, who don’t choose to smoke in the first place!! Best of luck.

  • Threaten a smoke-out*, defined as**:

    Get a tub of parafin, put it on the floor. Create a clay barrier around the parafin. make an indoor bonfire with newspaper and about 300 pounds of moist moss.

    You will smoke the entire building out or burn it down. Either way,y ou’ll have to move somewhere new with non-smoking rules.

    *This will definitely get you kicked out and/or arrested for arson.
    **Make sure your renter’s insurance is up-to-date.

    Seriously, just move. A lot of buildings are going smoke-free, including my own

  • Sorry if this is a dumb question, but I take it your lease doesn’t have a smoking clause? I know everywhere I’ve rented in the city did not allow smoking indoors. Moving is the ideal solution, but probably not a very reasonable option when you’re undergoing or finishing radiation treatment. Have you tried sliding a note under the door? At least the person knows the effect they’re having.

  • And there’s always the option of trying to incentivise him to stop. Maybe try offering to buy him air cleaners or to weatherstrip his door. Heck, you could even offer to buy him an e-cig and some refills. That’s probably the most a neighborly solution. You have a problem, you offer a solution that could work for everyone, and if it doesn’t work then start the process of getting yourself out

    • I second the e-cig idea. Those things give off almost no odor or chemicals like cigarettes. You could get a starter kit for under $75.

  • I’ll just never understand why in this day and age some people still smoke. It’s mind boggling.

  • Move into a non-smoking building if you only want to be around non-smokers.

  • Second hand smoke may be annoying, but you can comfort yourself that it’s not a health risk. The studies are based on correlations and weren’t statistically significant. It’s basic physics – breathing in heated chemicals is bad for you. Second hand smoke isn’t hot and most of what’s in it, you breath every day.

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