In strata complexes all around the nation a battle is going on to make strata buildings smoke free. Stratas are considered private residences, as opposed to public buildings, which house businesses or government services.
Neighbours are not talking to each other. Lines are drawn, the dividing line the tolerance or intolerance for smoke in your private space.
“Oh, just put a fan on your deck if you don’t want any smoke. Live and let live.”
“My deck is my space, and nobody can tell me what to do in my own house.”
“I can’t walk, so I need to smoke on my deck, because I don’t want to smoke inside.”
“Why should I inhale your smoke that you don’t want to inhale inside your home?”
“What makes you so special that trumps my right to clean air in my own home?”
“I have the right to enjoy my place without you polluting it.”
The British Columbia Tobacco Control Act and Regulations has formulated the policies for public building in B.C. for smokers. This act is already in effect and enforced for many years for public buildings. Evidence of it is that we can see smokers huddle at some distance from doors by an ashtray on a stand, or some kind of cement pillar with a dish filled with sand and cigarette butts. Included in the Act is that smokers need to stay away from open doors, air intakes, and entrances, at a distance to prevent smoke from seeping into buildings through those openings. More restrictions make smokers aware of their habit and maybe that they better make an effort to stop smoking.
It so happens that I live in a strata building; my unit is is located adjacent to the breezeway. The dryer and stove hood vents are located in that corridor, as well as the fresh air intakes for the forced air heating/cooling.
Most units in my complex are in a two-unit stacked arrangement in blocks of four units, separated by a breezeway. Most decks are situated in that same line.
Except two decks at two different locations in my block that are built right over the corridor in the breezeway, hanging in space half-way between the ground and the roof. Those decks are only connected at two sides—to the wall of their respective unit and to the wall of their neighbouring unit across the corridor.
In my case I got the bad fortune to have a smoking neighbour. The “floating” deck of that smoking neighbour is completely open to the front and back.The smoke from the 2 smoking occupants of that unit rises to the ceiling of the breezeway, where the intake vents and exhaust outlets are located. The “fresh” air intake is intended to lead outside air into the furnace, so it can burn properly. When the furnace is not blowing heated air, outside air just rises passively, entering the furnace and just sits there.
That is exactly what happens. The passive air intake fills my duct system with the neighbours smoke. I do not use the A/C and when I can’t avoid it anymore (because it gets hot in the Okanagan Valley), the collected smoke gets blown throughout my home. The same happens when I turn on the heating.
My home stinks like a smokers den. The one neighbour who is at home full time, reading on her deck, seems to be a chain smoker and also smokes marijuana in the afternoons. I am so annoyed because I have given up that habit since my late twenties and chose not to smoke—anything. Period.
Strata councils have a duty to address breaches of the Bylaws with the occupants. The Bylaw breached is: Causing a nuisance that prevents another resident from enjoying their unit.
Since the previous summer I have tried to remedy this smoking issue. I sent a message to the strata council. I have approached the neighbours myself personally and made them aware of my problem with smoke; the problem subsided then for a while.
This year the problem was back in full force. The difference is that this year I am retired from my day job in a public building and am no longer protected from unwanted smoke.
I now work from home. The smoke hits my nose starting at 9:30 and doesn’t let up until I go to bed. It doesn’t matter if inside or outside, as my deck is exposed via the outside as well.
At the last two AGMs the council of my strata complex has made motions to make the whole complex non-smoking. The motion was clumsily formulated, put forward inadequately, and ultimately was defeated. I am left to find my own solutions, as the neighbour continues to smoke herself into the grave.
People don’t like change, and certainly not if it would interfere with their freedoms: What other residents do in their own homes is their problem.
Other stratas have successfully initiated new Bylaws that address the nuisance issue from smoking. One strategy could be to introduce the restrictions step by step, rather then make the whole strata complex non smoking.
The simplest strategy would be to get in line with the already existing overall smoking restrictions in the province by the B.C. Tobacco Control Act and Regulations, and adopt that law for the strata residences. It needs to be spelled out in the Bylaw addressing the nuisance use of residence that the balconies and decks are included in that Bylaw.
Use of property and Strata KAS 1424 Bylaw # 3. RE: Balconies and Decks:
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY: Smoking is prohibited within 3 meters of the exterior perimeter of the townhouse building, specifically including all windows, doorways, air intakes and balconies. For the present time smoking continues to be permitted within individual residential units.
In this case smoking on all balconies is prohibited. As it concerns a new Bylaw or an amendment to an existing Bylaw, the owners need to ratify this addition at the AGM.
My strata’s council has been unsuccessful in stopping the neighbours’ nuisance. The neighbours and I have been working on a costly solution that might address most of the nuisance problem. I installed a screen on the side of my deck that is exposed to my neighbours’ smoke, entering my deck from along the gable of the building.
My neighbours are installing a same screen along the back of their deck, to stop the smoke from reaching the air intake.
The manufacturer claims that the screen material stops 95% of all air flow from going through. I sure hope so, as I am paying half of the costs of my neighbours’ screen, as well as my own.
Good fences make good neighbours, they say. That applies to strata complexes as well.
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