One of the most common complaints that HOA boards receive is regarding secondhand smoke from a neighbor. This is also one of the most difficult issues to navigate as there are often strong feelings on both sides and laws surrounding the issue are not clear-cut. Even if the HOA is in agreement that a smoke-free policy should be adopted in the community, resistance to the idea along with the complexities that come with such a decision can seem like an impossible hurdle.
Most HOAs today have policies that keep residents from smoking in common areas such as the pool or clubhouse. However, this policy alone does very little to solve the problem of secondhand smoking complaints. Even smokers who restrict themselves to smoking on the patio or inside their home become a problem when other residents notice the smoke wafting through vents.
- In the event that residents in your community are complaining about smoke, there are several steps that you can take to ensure that everyone can have a peaceful living situation.
- Assess the Situation- It may be necessary to assess the situation in order to determine if the actions of the smoker are considered either harmful to nearby residents, or a nuisance to nearby residents. It may be that the smoker is imposing on their neighbors in a significant way, but it may also be that the heightened sensitivities of the person issuing the complaint may be unreasonable according to the expectations of the average person.
- Try Applying Smoking Rules- It may be necessary to require smokers in your community to follow certain rules and guidelines in order to be allowed to smoke in their residence. These rules could include, but are not limited to, requiring the owner to install an air purifier that prevents smoke from reaching other residents, sealing the home in order to keep the smoke inside the residence, and restricting smoking to sections of the house that are not connected to the home of someone who has complained.
- Restrict Smoking to Certain Buildings- Many HOAs opt for restricting smoking to a certain area of the property or to certain buildings. Oftentimes, smoking will be prohibited in newer buildings but allowed in older buildings. Alternatively, many properties allow long-term residents to continue smoking but require new residents to sign a no smoking agreement. This is available as an interim measure with the possible goal of a smoke-free property.
- Create a Smoke-free Property- It may be necessary to go all the way when dealing with smoking complaints and opt for a smoke-free community. Boards that wish to take the property in this direction must first get support from the owner of the property. The CC&R can then be amended to include the new policy. Establishing the policy can be straightforward, but enforcing the policy can provide obstacles. You will need to develop a plan as to how to handle infractions. These plans usually include written warnings followed by consequences such as fines and, as a last resort, evictions.
The topic of smoking is becoming a much-discussed issue. Complaints about smoking neighbors increase more and more each year as more awareness to the health issues caused by secondhand smoking increase. If you are receiving complaints, now is the time to consider taking steps to help create a peaceful and healthy environment.