Certain smells have a way of taking you back. Like the smell of school lunch or that cap gun you had when you were 6 years old. For me, the smell of cigarette smoke takes me back to family vacations and hotels with a musty stench of cigarette smoke, and going out for dinner that included a walk through a hazy mist to sit in the “no-smoking” section. Society today has largely rejected smoking. Smokers are banished to streets, alleys, or designated areas like lepers. But are HOA smoking restrictions a good option, and can or should the HOA prohibit homeowners from smoking in his or her own home?
About 10 years ago I was helping to manage a townhouse community that decided to completely prohibit smoking after having to deal with a steady stream of complaints from neighbors. Like many communities with shared walls this community was anything but airtight and the smoke would often drift in through walls or from neighboring patios.
The decision didn’t happen fast, there was a lot of discussion and debate over the details. As a manager I was anticipating a major backlash from the smokers in the community. To my surprise the response to the change was mostly positive.
For this community, prohibiting smoking was the right move and it went off without a hitch. But this success wasn’t a coincidence. The help of a great attorney and the local health department — who helped us understand an navigate state and federal laws — was instrumental in creating a policy and educating the community.
The point is, HOA smoking restrictions can be scary, but if secondhand smoke is causing a nuisance and health risk to other community members it may be necessary for the association to take action. With the right guidance you can navigate the process and your community will be better for it.
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