What to Do When Your Neighbor's Smoke Contaminates Your Apartment

sardinelly/stock.xchngWhat do you do when you are stuck with second hand smoke from a neighbor addicted to cigarettes? Alternatively, maybe you are a smoker and don’t want to damage your apartment or your relationships with other neighbors. Here are a few suggestions to help you with either dilemma.

Talk With Your Neighbor First

While you may have a fear of confronting your neighbor, talking with him or her is often the easiest solution. Make no mistake; most smokers have very strong feelings about their need to smoke. Also, depending on where you live in the country, some smokers feel frustrated with the growing increases in no-smoking ordinances.

However, because awareness has grown about the dangers and destructive properties of cigarette smoke (both first and second hand smoke), your neighbor may be more polite than you think. It’s possible you might be able to work out a compromise about where smoking takes place and when. 

A solution is to buy your neighbor an air purifier and a window vent fan.  The air purifier will be more effective in his apartment than in yours, and if he is civil he probably won’t mind using it.

When Your Request Falls on Deaf Ears...

Talk to your (or their) landlord or apartment manager about the problem. Find out if their lease or the building policy prohibits or limits smoking. If the lease does not address smoking, there are no real legal options to pursue that would be cheaper than moving to a new apartment.  If you live in a condo or a co-op, you can bring a complaint to your board.  Do not expect miracles, and be prepared to persist.

Seal Up Your Home

If all negotiations fail and you can’t or don’t want to move, the next step is to hire a contractor to seal your home. You must report and document all alterations or repairs you make to your landlord or you run the risk of losing your security deposit. Keep receipts, as some landlords may be willing to reimburse you for your efforts.

The rule of thumb is that anywhere where air can enter, so can second hand smoke.  You must have all entry points sealed up, including:

  • ventilation and heating ducts
  • doors
  • windows
  • floors
  • electrical plates and outlets
  • ceiling-mounted light fixtures.

Bear in mind that air circulates from floor cavities to ceiling cavities (and back to floor cavities), so your challenge in sealing your apartment is sizable, since smoke can enter from all angles.    

Keep air moving in your own apartment with extractive window fans or ceiling fans.

Air purifiers can help, but don’t always solve the problem.

For the Considerate Smoker…

If you want to keep peace with your neighbors and/or minimize the damage to your own home, you will need to work harder than the non-smoker in keeping your home clean. Tar and nicotine affect every surface they come in contact with. Clean all flat surfaces at least twice a week, vacuum often, use deep-cleaning rug shampoos, and occasionally wash your walls with a mild detergent.

Run an air purifying filter in your home, and install a window vent fan.  It is courteous to install HEPA filters in your heating ducts to prevent your smoke from exiting your apartment through your ducts. 

You can also smoke outdoors. In fact, more and more landlords are requiring tenants to smoke outdoors due to the cost of cleaning up cigarette smoke damage as well as fire hazard and insurance issues.

And if you are really considerate – you can quit smoking.

Cris Carl writes for Networx.com.

Updated April 4, 2018.

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