Residents living in apartment buildings are at a higher risk of experiencing second-hand smoke exposure, due to living in closer proximity to their neighbours. Second-hand smoke can easily drift to nearby apartments through open windows, balconies and doors as well as through hallways and stairwells. Not only is second-hand smoke drift a nuisance, but it can also cause a variety of adverse health conditions including cancer.
What are the benefits of smoke-free apartment living?
As well as the health benefits of not breathing in smoke, there are many other benefits that can make your strata apartment building much more attractive. These include both financial and legal benefits:
- Reduced cleaning costs
- Reduced fire risk
- Reduced cigarette related damage such as burn marks on floors, walls and furniture
- Reduced cigarette litter
- Higher resale value of apartments
- Reduced risk of fines to landlords for not providing a healthy living environment for tenants
- Protects landlords from legal claims from tenants exposed to second-hand smoke
- Reduced complaints from neighbours about smoke-drift and smell
What can be done to stop smoke drift in apartment buildings?
One of the easiest things to do to stop smoke-drift in strata apartments is for the owners corporation to introduce a 100% smoke-free by-law. When a by-law is introduced, all residents and visitors within the apartment building must adhere to the by-law conditions or face consequences. Introducing a smoke-free by-law can ensure that all residents can live in a clean and healthy environment, both within their unit and throughout the shared communal spaces.
Before this though, residents can address second-hand smoke from neighbouring apartments by following the below steps:
- Check the by-laws
Residents and owners should firstly check what by-laws are currently in place within the strata scheme when dealing with second-hand smoke. If there is already a by-law in place that bans smoking, then the resident causing the smoke-drift can be issued with a Notice to Comply from the strata manager or owners corporation.
- Speak to the person smoking
If the continued smoking is causing a nuisance or health issues, then it’s best to contact the smoker directly, either in person or by writing a letter. You can outline the reasons why second-hand smoke is affecting your health and what can be done. The smoker simply may not have realised they are causing an issue and rectifies the situation by smoking away from nearby apartments.
- Raise the issue to your strata manager
If the smoker ignores you and continues to smoke, you can report this second-hand smoke drift to your strata manager (or real estate agent if you are a tenant) to outline what affect this second-hand smoke is having on your health and wellbeing and apartment. If there is a smoke-free by-law already in place, a Notice to Comply can be issued to the resident who is smoking by the strata manager or owners corporation. If no by-law is in place, you might want to introduce a smoke-free by-law.
- Speak to Fair Trading
If you are unable to introduce a smoke-free by-law, you can approach Fair Trading. They can offer a free mediation service to try to resolve the matter. It’s best to be prepared and bring documents with you that detail the time and days of the smoke drift and what harm or damage it has caused. If an agreement is reached, the mediator can help to draft a written agreement that both parties must sign to become enforceable.
- Apply to NCAT
If no agreement is reached with Fair Trading, then tenants and owners can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to seek orders to stop a resident conducting nuisance behaviour, such as smoking. Note, NCAT should be the last resort.
There are two laws in NSW that outline smoking as a nuisance in strata apartments. These are:
- Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (NSW) - residents cannot cause a nuisance or hazard that can interfere with another person enjoying their apartment or common property. If cigarette smoke penetrates your apartment from other parts of your strata building it can become a nuisance and, as a result, potentially be subject to legal redress.
- Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) – your landlord or landlord’s agent must ensure that neighbouring tenants do not interfere with your reasonable peace, comfort or privacy.
How to introduce a smoke-free by-law?
If you’re looking to protect the health of your residents and benefit from reduced costs associated with smoking, then it’s best to implement a by-law. The steps for this are as follows:
- Firstly, speak to other residents and owners within your strata building for their views on smoking in strata and highlight the benefits of introducing a by-law. This could be added as an agenda item at your next owners corporate meeting or AGM.
- At the owners corporate meeting, submit a motion which details the by-law change and reasons behind this.
- You can then raise the smoke-free by-law through a special resolution at the next owners corporation meeting. If 75% or more of owners agree to this, then the by-law is passed.
- Register the new by-law with NSW Land Registry Services within six months of the change being approved.
Find out more
To learn more about making your strata scheme smoke-free, why not speak to one of our friendly consultants at The Strata Collective today.