HOA smoking problems have the potential to be a divisive issue in a managed community. On one hand, residents smoking in community associations can easily lead to complaints from non-smokers. On the other hand, putting HOA smoking restrictions in place can limit will leave the smokers in your community feeling like their freedom is being limited. In general, your HOA rules on smoking need to strike a delicate balance or your association could be placed in a difficult situation later on.
How to Deal with Potential HOA Smoking Problems
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. It does not help that the current laws and many existing HOA rules on smoking surrounding the issue are not that clear-cut.
Managed communities catering to single-family homeowners can find it a challenge when it comes to the issues with smoking neighbors and complaints about second-hand smoke. The problem gets magnified, however, in an HOA that caters to townhouse developments and condominiums.
Smoking in condos, especially indoors within the condo units themselves, sends second-hand smoke circulating to the rest of the building via airway ducts and heating vents. The smell of smoke can penetrate into carpet and walls.
Even if the smoking neighbors lit outside, the smoke can still make its way into other units by going under doors and any open windows.
In too many cases, the neighbors may not come to an agreement among themselves on how to deal with smoking neighbors. All too often, the HOA needs to mediate between smokers and non-smokers, and place HOA smoking restrictions as needed.
Smoking in Community Associations: Is It Legally Allowed?
An HOA smoking problem can place the HOA in a tricky spot, and usually, the right first response is to check the smoking regulations in your state.
For the most part, smoking tobacco is legal, even with the health risks associated with it. That does not mean that smokers are guaranteed their right to smoke.
Many states have started placing stricter restrictions on when and where smokers can light up. Landlords, businesses, and workplaces are also allowed to prohibit smoking within their premises as well.
For example, California currently prohibits smoking in offices and workplaces. Smoking in bars and restaurants are restricted, as well. Some cities have also put up additional restrictions on top of state regulations, with some going so far as to disallow smoking in public outdoor places.
Can a Condo Association Ban Smoking?
Some HOAs follow the general direction that state and city regulations have taken when it comes to dealing with HOA smoking problems. As a general rule, the governing documents of an HOA determines whether or not an association can ban smoking.
As a general principle, HOAs are responsible for keeping the common areas well maintained and safe. Can a condo association ban smoking based on these responsibilities?
The answer has increasingly leaned towards yes. Recent rulings suggest that the state courts view second-hand smoke as a safety hazard that community managers have to protect residents against.
For now, most associations address the issue by putting up HOA smoking restrictions for common areas. How about residents finding ways on how to deal with smoking neighbors? These complaints are looked at on a case by case basis, in the current situation.
HOA Smoking Restrictions
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 HOA smoking problems, 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 HOA smoking problems at hand. Take some time 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 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. You also allow residents to use their vape and vaporizer pens for smoking.
- 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 Policy – It may be necessary to go all the way when dealing with HOA smoking problems and just establish a smoke-free community policy. 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 HOA smoking problems has become an issue related to health and safety. Complaints about smoking neighbors increase more and more each year as more awareness of the health issues caused by secondhand smoking increases. If you are receiving complaints, now is the time to consider taking steps to help create a peaceful and healthy environment. Need help with your HOA smoking policy? We can help.
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