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Secondhand smoke sparking lawsuits over condo rules

Tenants and homeowners in California and across the United States are grappling with lawsuits over smoking in buildings and secondhand smoke. Some condo owners or tenants who are sick or particularly sensitive to secondhand cigarette smoke are pursuing lawsuits against management companies and other homeowners or tenants in an effort to enforce no-smoking orders on the entire building.

The buildings in question have no specific non-smoking condo association or HOA rules in place, and because the smoking is taking place inside a private home, laws related to public smoking like in restaurants, bars or communal buildings do not apply. However, in many apartment buildings and condo towers, residents share walls and a ventilation system, which can make it easier for secondhand smoke to circulate from one place to another.

In one case in Michigan, a person is suing a management company in an attempt to impose a smoking ban on the property. The plaintiff in the case reports having asthma, environmental illness and chemical sensitivity and is a breast cancer survivor. She is claiming that allowing smoking within the building violates the Fair Housing Act as well as state law on the rights of people with disabilities. She also alleges that others smoking inside their homes is a nuisance impacting her.

In many disputes between neighbors or with a management company, the bylaws of a condo complex or a homeowners association can be one of the most important documents at issue.In matters involving a conflict over the meaning or implementation of HOA rules, a real estate attorney can help homeowners or tenants defend their rights or seek the enforcement of existing guidelines.

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