Unhappy neighbor / smoking in duplex

Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 06:08 pm

I have a neighbor who is unhappy that we smoke on our side of the duplex. We are allowed to do so. She claims that when she moved in (before us) that the Realtor said there was to be no smoking. When we signed our lease, we advised the Realtor that we do smoke and don't want any issues with that.

We have tried to accommodate the neighbor by leaving our doors open often, but there are so many flies. She does not keep her yard free of dog mess from her two dogs. I am very careful to clean up after mine and have had to lace my front yard with garlic and cayenne pepper regularly to keep her dogs out of my yard.

The neighbor says one of her children has asthma.

Last night her husband came over threatening legal action. Poor thing. I really felt bad for him. He's not confrontational at all. Other than this, we really do like them as neighbors. We would win the case, I'm sure, in this situation and at this location. We have no ordinances against smoking cigarettes in multi-unit housing here.

The neighbor has also reached out to the Realtor who has refused to immediately make this a non smoking unit, which she could do if she wanted to, but she seems to have taken a step back on this one or she has taken my side. I don't know.

So, upon further consideration and since the other attempts to mitigate their discomfort have failed, my boyfriend and I have decided to smoke outside.

When I told neighbor about this, she was appreciative, but still a bit sanctimonious about it.

I should have bit my tongue.

But I couldn't resist giving her a different way to interpret the situation.

And then she said that my boyfriend and I should move to a house so our smoking wouldn't impact anyone else.

Okay, other than that, our yard is cared for and we do not break any laws and keep it quiet about 10 pm, and are as neighborly and helpful as we can be.

I need to take a break now, but have more I can say.

Any takers?

I guess ultimately I'm wanting the peace around here to return with some neighborly kindness, but also I need to vent, too.

I'm looking for both opportunities here with you guys.



Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 06:28 pm
I live in a duplex too, and nobody gets to tell me not to smoke in my house, unless it was on the purchase papers, and it wasn't. I gather you're dealing with a lease. On the other hand, I haven't smoked since '82, so no problem for me, but I understand your feelings on it.

I'm trying to figure out how the smoke gets in their place; the wall between our spaces is a moderately thick barrier as I understand. I am assuming our wall is well insulated, possibly a stupid assumption as this tract has had many issues, but I rarely if ever hear sounds from her side. I have insulated walls myself in my remodeling life. Just wondering if yours is. Even if not, the wall would have drywall (etc.) covering it on both sides.

I figure smoke can travel to vents that go to the air, but, so?

Probably others here know more about this type of transmission of smoke - I'm just mulling the question.

Also, I've had long time asthma, gone, knock on wood, but my allergies were to cats (alas), and 63 other things. So I'm wondering if they smell smoke actually coming through..

Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 06:44 pm
Thanks, ossobucotemp, for replying.

I did a little research and yes, it's a thing, that in multi-unit housing smoke can and does travel to other units. Some cities have a city-wide ban against smoking in those types of units.

We do not.

I feel that if it were me, I would not ask a neighbor to change their legal behavior to accommodate myself. I mean really. Maybe family would, but I am a neighbor with rights of my own.

For example, her dogs poop in my yard. And, in that case, it is illegal and there is a city ordinance regarding such behavior. I did mention it. They didn't comply. So now, I can only change my reaction to it. Well, I could escalate it, but really it's not worth it.

If the situation were reversed, I would move, or I would insulate my child in a plastic bubble at night. Cheap to do, really. If I were really concerned about my child's asthma, I wouldn't have two dogs with the pet dander. Neighbor also says her husband's work clothes get the smell in them. If that were me, and I could not move, I would wrap them in plastic bags and suspend them in the closet or get one of those Walmart closets where no dust can get in.

I don't go around asking people to adjust to what I need. I discovered a long time ago, you cannot expect people to change for you, whether their behavior is legal or not.

Or even if you can, it's often easier to remove yourself from the situation or try to minimize the impact their behavior is having on you.

I have a right to live.

I am not breaking any laws. Not one! I am a very law-abiding person. And I have a right to live.

I guess, if it were an emergency, I might ask someone to temporarily modify their behavior and then implement some other strategy. I can't think of an example, but say, if I were bleeding profusely and need someone to do something.

Anyway, I have considered having a maintenance man--I actually have one, but that's another story--give me his opinion on sealing the two areas up. I don't know what the cost is, or what the effectiveness would be. I may call him, but after the "talk" last night with neighbor's spouse, I felt an immediate change was necessary to provide them with some relief from their discomfort, which I don't doubt is genuine.
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 07:05 pm
Also, I felt the child is in a situation that she cannot control. And that is the higher truth here, not who is in the right.

Still, I would think the neighbor would have really appreciated our response and not have acted like this was our issue. It's not. It's their issue, in my opinion.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 07:06 pm
Dupre, I know you from before, you can just call me osso if you want.

I'll do some googling for myself to learn how the smoke travels. I can get that if there is a shared hallway, but it sounds like there are other ways.

I remember that a few years ago, in Santa Monica (CA), there was a lot of anger going on about neighbors and smoke. I might look that up again. I think there were local articles and a thread.

Just read your reply, nodding, that's a good idea - and it's good you actually rather like them. The dog poop is not nothing, not at all, but if the smoke is part of the asthma, I get it.

The only time I remember being wildly allergic to smoke was in a restaurant with bar back in west Los Angeles. Ca choo, ca choo, and so on; had to leave. I assumed it was the smoke - hmm. Me, a long time smoker.. at the time, or maybe I had recently quit.

Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 07:27 pm
Thank you! I did read there was a city in California that was the first to enact a city-wide ban on smoking in multi-unit housing.

I'm sorry I didn't let her sanctimonious response stand without reacting to it. She acted like WE are in the wrong, and that made me mad.

And now, she's unhappy and living next to her might be uncomfortable if she cannot get over it.

So, I put my foot in my mouth when I told her that there are two sides to this situation. She had referred to her child's asthma so many times, when we were trying other solutions. So, I had to say, that if she has a child with special needs she might have considered that before and been extra careful to move into a single house instead of a duplex, where she might be able to better control the child's environment.

Well, it went over like lead. I challenged her opinion of herself as an extraordinary mother. And I said her child had "special needs."


I failed. I'm older and wiser and should have let it go, but I couldn't because she acted so entirely superior to my enormous sacrifice.

Now, I must take leave of my big-screen TV, to watch Netflix on my phone on the porch to smoke.

Before, I had to stay dressed to have my doors wide open all day and chase down flies while I ate, studied, and relaxed. The flie traps I got were worthless.

Now, my boyfriend and I cannot watch the Sunday game and eat and smoke like we used to, and must run downstairs this upcoming Sunday, on a quick commercial break.

Now, I must walk away from my computer while studying and go outside, with long john's on and face mask and coat and outside heater on the porch.

I mean, it's a huge lifestyle change all of a sudden and entirely for them.

She didn't like it when I said that I see this as their problem--even though I agreed to accommodate them.

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Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 07:39 pm
They build apartments to share back to back A/C return air. The ones I am familiar with are not airtight against each other. We spent lots of time where I worked trying to seal these spaces off, with varying success. Non smokers always had issues when smokers moved in next door. I don't know if these duplexes are like that, but builders like to cram as much stuff together as possible in most layouts with which I am
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 07:48 pm
Shared vents and ducts could have additional filters added to them. There are even scented ones available.

Also, change filters on heating/cooling units. You can also get a room air filter - or she could.

I would not want a smoker living next to me in a duplex, for sure. Somehow your smoke fumes are getting into her unit. Try to track it down.

What is your climate? Can you smoke outside all year round?
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Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 07:53 pm
I've dealt with lawyers a few times, mostly for the semi better, but think this may be early to go there. Still, I think you could use some advice from people in the know on this kind of stuff.
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 07:58 pm
Thank you, edgarblythe and Punkey.

All very interesting and saves me additional research time. Thank you. I believe such an attempt would not work here and then there's the cost.
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 08:01 pm
Ah, now I get it.
I've never lived with air conditioning, including in NY and Chicago decades ago.
Now I do have a swamp cooler, but that seems like a sure no re affecting neighbor.
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Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 08:02 pm
dupre wrote:

She claims that when she moved in (before us) that the Realtor said there was to be no smoking.

Does she have this in writing?

Do you have it in writing that you can smoke?

Do you think a compromise might be that you two split the cost of a high quality smoke eliminator/air purifier?

I know I would.

I will admit, emotionally I side with your neighbor. There's no way I could live with this situation.

I'm not saying you don't have the right to smoke dupre. However, that's as long as no aspect of your habit affects others negatively.

I guess this wouldn't hold water legally, but a substance that you set on fire and burn is moving over to their space. A person has the right to stop sound waves from coming over into their area, why not smoke?

Have you considered vaping? It's cheaper than cigarettes.

Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 08:02 pm
I'm certain I would be within my legal rights were this to go to court. It will not. Even though I can well afford to fight it, should they take that step. They will not win and the young family cannot afford such a loss.

She doesn't work. She might be on disability. She took an online massage therapy program.

And she is youngish, compared to me. I think her main social outlets are family. She might think we are all family and are more than willing to do whatever she needs and wants without question. Unfortunately, we share the world with a lot of different types of persons and there are laws and rights and privileges that we all have.

To smoke in one's home is still a right here where I have chosen to live.
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Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 08:06 pm
What makes the holes problematic in the A/C cabinets I wrote about are the drain pipes. The condensation pipes drain for both units. There are holes around the wires. In their haste to get the buildings built and rented, none got sealed.
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 08:07 pm
She does not have that in writing, and says she is kicking herself for not reviewing her lease at the time.

My lease does not prohibit smoking in my home.

I will say, I read every word of my lease. At the time, I was already in the process of moving things in and I was in the middle of a three car small accident, so I got it from both ends and pulled off the highway. The Realtor, my boyfriend (who both drove to my location), the other two drivers, and the police were all swarming around and before I signed it, I read every word.

One learns the hard way not to ever take any chances.
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Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 08:32 pm
I appreciate your honesty in saying that I do not have your sympathy.

And I have acquiesced and relinquished my rights, voluntarily, since other solutions were ineffective.

Neighbor told me today that she regrets all the flies I was getting and promptly cleaned up her back yard from all the dog droppings. I guess her back yard is worse than her front and she felt guilty about it. I bet she hasn't touched that yard since she moved in.

Anyway, I'm thinking some nicotine gum might be in order, for when it is extremely inconvenient to go outside.

If the situation were reversed, I would move. I guess that's not an option for them.

We just moved in a few months ago, and so another move for me would be more than I would want to take on, and I am still on a lease which does go month to month in April.

Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 09:20 pm
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Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 09:39 pm
What a thoughtful and considerate person you are Dupre, thanks for returning to able2know to share your stories and understanding.

As ridiculous as this advice may seem, you and your partner should obtain prescriptions from a doctor to help with giving up smoking.

Oh, and good luck with the job hunt.
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 10:00 pm
Thank you.

My boyfriend was very disappointed with our neighbor's response to our sacrifice.

I did tell him truthfully what I had said to her. I wasn't going to bring it up, but he asked, and I blabbed on neighbor and on me, both.

Yes, I think some gum is definitely in order.

Also, after I get my grand piano polished, I will never again have to remove any nicotine residue from it, so that's a good thing.
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Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2016 10:01 pm
It's not that I don't have sympathy for you. I do, and empathy also. Addiction to anything is a tough row to hoe.

It's because I have such sympathy and empathy I suggested splitting the cost of a good air purifier, or vaping.

Do you really think you will quit smoking because of this? What about your boyfriend?

Like a lot of people, I used to smoke. I'm not a self righteous former smoker. It's just so long ago, it feels like a different life.

One thing I truly believe is that it is the one in a million smoker who really, I mean really gets how it is for non-smokers to be around them. I sure didn't get it. I understand that smokers really do feel they are being considerate by leaving the room/house to smoke, and they are....as far as they are able to conceive it, and I appreciate that. I have friends who smoke, I love spending time with them. But when I go home the first thing I do is wash my hair and clothes. I don't expect them to understand, as with you. But there it is.

What the smoker doesn't realize is the smoke, or smell of it gets caught in the non-smokers clothes, hair, furniture, drapes, coats the paint on the wall, car and if it happens often enough, gets in there permanently. Honestly? It's not so pleasant even being near you, because you, your breath, your skin, clothes all stink, all the time. It's not (in my case) worrying about 2nd hand smoke, I'm not near it often enough. It is that memories of that smoker linger on for days/weeks/forever. For a non-smoker, the smell of a room that a smoker has used literally smells like there might as well be a 10 pound steaming pile of **** 2 feet from wherever you are.....and I totally get that you can't get that, with no animosity. I'm not going to sugar coat it though. The word "bad" doesn't come near to describing it. That is what your neighbors apartment smell like now. All the time.

That's why I feel so strongly that if your lifestyle creeps into where I live, I really can't "get used to it", especially if I'm paying a big portion of my income to live somewhere and something invades everything I try to do in my home. That leads to the two parties working together somehow.

I also see how she isn't making life optimum for you. She isn't cleaning up after her dog, and that's invading your living space. She needs to get her act together too. She doesn't need to be sanctimonious about it, she's got her part in this too. I sure wouldn't want to have to clean up after her dog.

It's funny how you said if you were in her position, you'd move. However, you also said you couldn't move yourself. She's probably thinking the same about you. Just sayin'.

What about your boyfriend? I mean you may say you'll quit (maybe this was the chance you were looking for), but that doesn't apply to him.

I really don't say any of this to pile on you dupre, but sometimes it just gets all bottled up, and you were my opportunity to let it out. Thanks for that.

Because the bottles open, I'll say two other things I really do resent about smokers, then I'll shut up.

Smoke breaks at work. Just WTF is that all about? I don't care that somene needs to go out in the cold or heat or rain or whatever every hour or 2 for 5 to 10 minutes to smoke. No. What I want is to able to do (if I wanted) is to go outside in the same weather conditions every hour or 2 and for 5 or 10 minutes just stare blankly into space. I can't imagine after awhile I would be called out on it and basically be told I can't just stop working 5 or 6 or 7 times a day, in addition to lunch and just, well, not work.

Insurance. My premiums reflect the additional care that smokers either need or will eventually need. That just bothers me.


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