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

Survey says: Complain, then seal up your apartment.

Posted by Cris Carl | Apr 13, 2011
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sardinelly/stock.xchngWhat do you do when you are stuck with a neighbor who smokes? 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 both dilemmas.

Talk With Your Neighbor First

While you may have a fear of confronting your neighbor, talking with them 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, awareness has grown about the dangers and destructive properties of cigarette smoke and your neighbor may be more polite than you think. It’s possible you may 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 to Alter Smoking Habits Falls on Deaf Ears...

Talk to your (or their) landlord or apartment manager about the problem. Find out if their lease addresses smoking. If the lease does not address smoking there are no real legal options to pursue that would be cheaper than you moving to a new apartment.  If you live in a condo or in 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 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 smoke.  This includes ventilation and heating ducts, doors, windows, floors, electrical plates and outlets, and 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 sizeable, 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 want to minimize the damage to your own home, here are a few suggestions: 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. Read more articles or get help with your home project on Networx.com.

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