Question: My neighbor in my condo is a heavy cigarette smoker and it is getting into my unit, making it hard for me to breathe. I have an air purifier that helps some but is not perfect. What can I do? – Louise
Answer: Your first step in resolving a neighbor dispute is always communication. Speak with your neighbor nicely and ask him or her to help mitigate the problem, perhaps by investing in smokeless ashtrays or by smoking outdoors.
If that does not work, you can speak with your condo board. Some condos have rules that allow residents to smoke in certain areas, such as on the balcony. The condo may even be able to make the resident find ways to prevent the smoke from bothering neighbors. Weather-stripping or air filtration installed in the smoker’s unit may prevent the smoke from escaping and seeping into neighboring units.
If your community is not able to help you, you may be able to turn to the legal system. Your city or town may have enacted secondhand-smoke ordinances that might help.
If none of those ideas work, you may need to take your neighbor to court. However, this is one of the areas in which even smart attorneys disagree. A secondhand-smoke case can be tough to win, but there is legal precedent. There was a case in Broward County, Fla., in 2005 in which the judge ruled that secondhand smoke was a nuisance and ordered the smoker to stop. I have even seen smaller lawsuits such as one in which a neighbor sued in small-claims court to get their dry-cleaning bills paid because of the smell left on their closet full of clothes.
About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.
© 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.