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One nuisance that condo buyers may not think about is cigarette (or other) smoke coming from neighbouring units. While it may seem easy to dismiss if you are blessed with a tolerant nature, for most people including myself, it can be an annoyance at best and a health hazard at worst.

The only jurisdiction wide ban on smoking in common and limited common property (such as your own balcony) that I am aware of is Sonoma County, California. Starting May 10 of this year, there will be a ban on smoking in all new multi-family dwellings that will extend to existing condos as of January 2013.

The idea has been recommended for Vancouver – local endocrinologist Dr. Stuart Kreisman proposed it in the October 2011 issue of the BC Medical Journal. Dr. Kreisman noted:

“Given recent and ongoing trends toward urban densification, an increasing fraction of the population is now living in multi-unit dwellings (i.e., apartments and condominiums), and potentially exposed to the secondhand smoke of their neighbors. This occurs both indoor and outdoors.”

A few (too few) stratas are taking the matter into their own hands. The Envy and Verdant condominiums in North Vancouver and Burnaby, respectively, are known to have antismoking strata bylaws. My own strata at 16 Willows in Vancouver also enacted a complete smoking ban last summer on common property, including limited common property.

Even with a ban on common property, smoking within a unit may still be a problem as smoke inevitably travels out of windows and generally upwards into neigbouring units. I have personally experienced this in previous homes I have lived in as well as hotels. It is a very difficult situation to resolve due to the addiction and lifestyle issues that accompany it.

Can you imagine buying a new home only to find that a neighbour’s smoke funnels right into the nursery or your own bedroom at random times? Some things you can do as a home buyer to help avoid this:

• Always ask about anti-smoking bylaws for a strata; • Have your Realtor question whether there is a documented nuisance in any unit you are considering buying; • Be mindful of where smoke may come from and prevailing breezes. Be aware of windows just below yours (at least 1 to 3 stories) and retail areas such as cafes or bus stops; smokers may ‘gather’ just outside the 6m ban zone, preferring covered alcoves or doorways; • Consider ground floor units, as smoke usually travels upwards and dissipates better horizontally.

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