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Smoke-free housing: What you can do

Questions about smoking and housing

1. Does the law protect me from smoke coming in my unit from other residents in the building?

The Smoking in Public Places law does not prohibit smoking in homes or on attached decks and there are no local or state laws that protect a resident from the smoke of their neighbors. However, apartment management and condo boards can adopt a smoke-free policy for any part of or all of the property and we can help!

What you can do:

  • Examine your lease. If your lease has a smoke-free section or a clause that prohibits nuisances that harm or limit the peaceful enjoyment in your dwelling, bringing it to the attention to the management may help resolve the problem.
  • Seek support from your other neighbors. A complaint coming from many people may be taken more seriously than a complaint from one person. Other people in your building may also be experiencing problems with tobacco smoke coming into their units and can join you in advocating for changes.
  • Try the "good neighbor" approach. Talk to or write a note to the neighbor who is smoking. Explain the situation and ask them to smoke away from your unit. Many times the person smoking doesn't have any idea where their smoke is drifting, so may not be aware of the problem.
  • Ask for help. Contact management and ask them to talk to the tenant. And if they don't already have a smoke-free policy, ask if they would consider implementing one. We would be happy to help – they can contact us for information.
  • Contact usIf you don't feel comfortable going directly to management, feel free to get in touch with us. We can contact your landlord directly and offer support. We can keep you anonymous if you'd like.

2. What can be done about neighbors violating my building's smoke-free policy?

Building management has enforcement authority in this situation. We can contact the management to provide resources on enforcement, but we cannot force them to comply. If you are in this situation, feel free to contact us for help or talk to your landlord directly.

3. I spoke to my landlord and they won't do anything. What do I do?

You may want to speak to a civil attorney. The Tenants Union of Washington State has some resources about resolving conflict with neighbors and resolving smoking disputes. See the Washington Bar Association for information on how to find legal help.

4. Someone is smoking in a public area of my building. Isn't this against the law?

Likely yes. The Smoking in Public Places law prohibits smoking in indoor common areas—this could include: hallway, staircase, elevator, laundry room and within 25 feet of the main building entrance. Contact us to report a potential violation. We will investigate your claim and if a violation is found, work with management to rectify the situation.

5. When people smoke on the sidewalk, it drifts through my windows. Isn't that against the law?

No, this is not a violation of the Smoking in Public Places law. Current law states that smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of any public entrance; however a private window or doorway does not constitute a public place.

6. What can I do? The secondhand smoke is driving me crazy!

This is a common problem and we understand that it's frustrating. Oftentimes people smoking in those areas don't know where their smoke is drifting, so they may not be aware that it's causing a problem for you.

What you can do:

  • Seek support from your neighbors. A complaint coming from many people may be taken more seriously than a complaint from one person. Other people in your building may also be experiencing problems with tobacco smoke coming into their units and can help advocate.

  • Talk to management. If you're in a multi-unit building, speak with your landlord or owner and ask if they can put up no-smoking signs. Free printable signs are available. If the smoking is happening outside of a local business, then ask your management office to speak with that business about your complaint. Or speak to that business yourself. They may not even know there's a problem, so bringing it to their attention – in a calm manner – may help.

  • Contact usWe can contact your management office or adjacent business and offer support.

7. My neighbor is smoking marijuana. What can I do?

It is illegal to smoke marijuana in the view of the public, which means that smoking marijuana in most private homes is legal. However, smoking marijuana may be against your landlord’s lease policy. We encourage landlords to include marijuana in their smoke-free policy. You can check your lease and talk to your landlord or contact us if you would like help.

8. I live in a condo and am interested in making my building smoke-free. How do I go about this?

Passing a smoke-free rule for your condo building is a great way to protect your health and investment. We recommend a full ban on smoking inside and out (so balconies and patios are included as well). To get started, look through your HOA’s governing documents and/or talk with the board. An attorney can be helpful, too. Most boards have an identified attorney for these matters, but you can also speak to one yourself if you want an outside opinion. Your workplace may have an employee assistance program that offers free legal advice, so that may also be one avenue to try.

Here are some resources to get you started: Tobacco Control Legal Consortium's guide

If you have questions or need assistance, contact us.