Aug 25, 2010

Condo Owners' Rights When the Neighbors Smoke?

This is one of those issues you'd think would have been settled by now: Does a condo owner have a right to expect that his or her unit will be free of secondhand smoke from nearby units? And if so, can the owner demand a remedy, perhaps that the condo association pay to seal off their unit (which may be impossible) or that the neighbors simply stop smoking in their home?

Given the wide range of other things that condo associations typically govern, from the size of owners' dogs to the color of their house paint, you might even expect that smoking rules would be written into the typical Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs; the government document for homeowner associations).

Apparently not. In fact, as described in the article, "Battle Over Smoking in Condos Catches Fire in Florida," by I.M. Stackel of the Daily Business Review , the issue is just making its way to the forefront of public attention -- mostly via the court system.

Until it's resolved, both condo buyers and sellers need to put it high on their list of issues to address before the sale is finalized. Buyers who want to either avoid neighbors' smoke or have the right to smoke themselves should carefully read the CC&Rs, ask questions of the sellers, and talk to the neighbors' about others' experiences there.

Sellers who know that their unit is subject to the entry of secondhand smoke will want to disclose this to buyers. Yes, it might turn some buyers off, but as we explain in detail in Selling Your House in a Tough Market, that's better than facing a lawsuit later.