According to the Centers for Disease Control, Massachusetts ranks 9th among the states in the prevalence of smoking. Their recent statistics show over 18% of adults over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes. This number is down from past years and is expected to continue to decline. However, if you are a resident of a co-op or homeowners association and you are dealing with the nuisance of secondhand smoke from a neighbor or fellow resident, then these seemingly low numbers will not mean much to you. Ridding your family and home of the odor and hazard of the smoke wafting into your living areas will be your main concern. What, then, can homeowners within an association do to address smoking issues? Read on and find out more.
Massachusetts has a “Smoke-Free Workplace Law,” which states that any workplace with one or more employees or a common area that is open to the public must be smoke-free. Common areas of a condominium may constitute a workplace if contract employees or independent contractors – including maintenance personnel or building supervisors – work in the area. Local boards of health and municipal governments may issue fines of up to $300 if a violation of the law occurs.
Condominium Associations and Smoking
Many condo associations and co-ops are responding to complaints of secondhand smoke by going completely smoke-free. Condominium trustees and boards typically already have authority to establish common area rules and, therefore, can make common areas smoke-free right away. This could include areas such as laundry facilities, pools, gardens, tennis courts, meeting areas, clubhouse common areas, and common hallways. Establishing a smoke-free rule for individual units takes a little more work. Condo boards and trustees can put the issue to a vote with the entire association. Typically, 75% to 85% of unit owners must vote in support of the rule for it to be binding on all units, which would include outside private-use balconies and patios.
Enforcing this rule, whether it encompasses only the common areas or the individual units, should incorporate actions such as: posting “No-Smoking” signs, clean up cigarette butts and remove ashtrays from common areas, responding quickly and consistently to potential violations, and informing unit owners that they will be held financially responsible for violations, even if the smoking is done by their guests or tenants.
Just like other nuisance issues such as loud dogs, boisterous children, and a renter’s bad behavior, violations can be addressed case-by-case in order to ensure the health and safety of all the residents living in your association. If you have questions, concerns, or if you need assistance with your property management, consider Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO at 617.354.6480 or visit our website.