Smoking In Strata Units Getting Tougher
It’s getting tougher to smoke in your own home – if you live in a strata title apartment – and lighting a barbecue on your balcony could be next on the chopping block.
A recent decision by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal should make landlords sit up and take notice that they face severe penalties if they don’t provide healthy living environments for people who live in strata arrangements.
It all began when a woman was upset about a chain-smoking elderly neighbor in the apartment beneath her. The smoke drifted right into her apartment and she was feared it was affecting the health of her young son and herself.
She complained to the strata building’s managing agent, the building manager and the owners’ corporation but nothing was done. They argued smoking was allowed in the building and the woman below had the right to smoke in her own home.
The upset tenant went to the tribunal. It found her landlord had a “responsibility to provide premises that are fit for habitation”. The landlord was ordered to pay damages of $11,681, $2,800 towards the cost of her moving out, and $900 for blinds she had installed.
“It is unacceptable for a tenant and a child to live in an environment which smells of tobacco smoke, and particularly where the smoke is so strong it is causing the tenant and her child to feel unwell,” the tribunal ruled.
Stacks Law Firm solicitor Anneka Frayne said this was a highly significant ruling. Although the tribunal has ruled several times in favour of residents exposed to second-hand smoke, it was the first time the tribunal had fined a landlord for not taking action over a smoking neighbour.
“It is a clear message to landlords they need to take active steps to provide a healthy and safe environment for their tenants. The landlord should have tried to move a motion at a meeting of owners to limit or ban smoking so that it did not impinge on the rights of non-smokers,” Ms Frayne said.
Strata schemes have long had the power to limit or ban smoking on the premises, and it is even easier to do so under the new Strata Management Act 2015.
Ms Frayne warned similar action could be taken against people who constantly cook meat on their balconies.
“The smoke, smell and potentially cancer-causing toxic fumes from balcony barbecues drifting into other apartments is a potential legal battleground.
“Strata laws have been changed and it would be wise to consult a legal expert if you need help.”