Life in California as a tenant may not be very pleasant at all times, especially if you have neighbors who are smokers and you are not. Second-hand smoking or passive smoking can be very dangerous and if you are facing this problem in your residential complex, you should address it sooner rather than later. Renters in major cities like Los Angeles can face such issues i.e. having to deal with noisy and heavy-smoking neighbors. The situation can get worse if you are suffering from asthma; have kids who should be kept in a safe environment, or simply hate the smell of cigarette smoke.
There are steps to stop your neighbor from smoking partially or completely. There are also laws in certain Californian cities that ban smoking in multi-unit buildings. However, most of the cities have no restrictions when it comes to smoking in a residential complex. You can also consult a landlord-tenant lawyer for the right guidance on second-hand smoke laws. No matter where you stay or what you do, you should take the steps discussed below to protect yourself from passive smoking:
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a) Verify Your Lease or Rent Agreement
Non-smoking laws are readily prevalent in the workplaces of California. Seeing this, an increasing number of property owners have started prohibiting smoking in their housing units and common community areas. In fact, landlords in California have the legal authority to ban or limit smoking in their rental houses. According to the law, prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of a children’s play area is a must.
Ideally, you should check the lease or rent contract thoroughly and look for the policies related to smoking. Since 2012, it is the duty of every landlord to include the smoking policy for their residential places in a lease or a rental agreement. If this policy is missing in the agreement, you should ask the unit owner to add it before you finalize the deal.
b) Look for Local Non-Smoking Laws
There are cities in California where smoking is not banned but restrictions are in place to curb this practice in certain multiple-unit complexes and public areas. You may be spared from second-hand smoke if you are staying in a public housing unit or university accommodation. Interestingly, many big counties like Los Angeles County and San Diego County have smoke-free policies for people staying in public lodgings.
The best thing to do would be visit the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation and get some help and guidance to escape from the menace called second-hand smoke. University students can consider the Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative to check if their university is actually tobacco- or smoke-free.
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c) Contact the Property Owner
Once you find that the local law or your lease doesn’t allow smoking in rented homes, you should speak to your landlord to sort out the issue. You can also complain as a group if the other tenants in your apartment building are also facing the problem of second-hand smoking. Tell your home owner to go through the laws related to passive smoking as mentioned in your rental agreement and ask them to enforce it on the neighbor at fault to limit or stop their smoking altogether.
A written letter or an email to your landlord with details about the issue and the legal provisions for the same would be ideal. Don’t forget to keep copies of your written communication with your landlord. This will act as proof if you eventually decide to take legal action with the help of property lawyers in California. When you talk to your property owner, you should also ask them to provide a few solutions to problems like repairing faulty ventilation and filling window gaps.
d) Final Steps for Addressing Second-Hand Smoking
If finding a solution through your landlord is not possible and if second-hand smoking is affecting your health and personal life, you can think of vacating the property. Compromising with your health is not at all advisable; so, breaking the lease and moving to another residence will be a good solution. If the problem persists and the apartment owner does not heed your complaints, you can consider filing a lawsuit against them. In a legal case, you should clearly mention the reason why you are seeking a legal solution and how second-hand smoking has disrupted your life in your rented home.
Winning a lawsuit for second-hand smoking may not be easy if there are no laws to support you. You may also sue the other party for monetary damages like medical bills and laundry bills in the Small Claims Court of California. For such damages, you can claim up to $10,000 in this court. Legal steps are time-consuming as well as expensive; so, consult a real estate lawyer in Los Angeles before you decide to file a lawsuit. Legal actions can also hurt relationships; so, see if it is worth the trouble.