Question: I live in a high-rise condo I purchased a few years ago. A month after I moved in, I learned why the former owner was eager to sell and took my first (low) offer. The neighbor with whom I share a common wall smokes marijuana. Every time he lights up, he fills my unit and the common hallway with the pungent smell.
The first year I lived here it only happened once or twice a month. But about two years ago his use increased to a few times a week. I covered all vents and ducts and purchased two very expensive air purifiers – which had very little effect. At that point I knocked on my neighbor’s door and tried to have a conversation with him about it, explaining that his marijuana stench seeps into my unit, as well as the common hallway. He became irate, called me names, swore at me and told me to mind my own business. To emphasize his point he took a hit from a bong and blew the smoke in my face.
The past year it’s increased to almost daily. Needless to say my condo constantly reeks of marijuana. My childhood asthma returned – I hadn’t had an attack in 20 years, and started having them weekly. I had to get a prescription inhaler. I started getting headaches and eye irritations. I started staying with friends to avoid the health issues. When I wasn’t in my condo, the health issues stopped.
I complained to security, they gave him a written warning and submitted it to the Condo Association. The board issued a nuisance fine. My neighbor paid it and continued to smoke marijuana – usually daily/nightly. I contacted my Condo Association board again, they told me they did all they could, we do not have a non-smoking rule, and since it’s illegal activity I needed to call the police.
Instead I called my real estate agent to put my condo on the market. I knew I’d sell at a loss but I just wanted to get away from the stench. The day my real estate agent came to assess my condo and talk about putting it on the market, the stench in the common hallway and in my unit was so strong (even with air purifiers blasting and windows open) that he said there was no way he would consider bringing prospective buyers to view my condo. He too, suggested that I call the police, thinking a visit from the police and a fine would curtail my neighbor’s marijuana use.
So I decided to call the police. Surprisingly, they showed up quickly, issued a ticket and left. It had zero effect on my neighbor, in fact it seems like he’s smoking even more because the marijuana stench is now almost constant. Occasionally he burns incense or cooks fish or bacon in an attempt to cover the sent, which leaves a smell of incense, fish or bacon mixed with marijuana. Another neighbor finally had enough, too, and called the police. They showed up, again, issued another ticket and left. As long as the guy pays the fine and isn’t selling/dealing drugs, there’s nothing further the police will do.
I am desperate to sell so I contacted two other real estate agents. They both left almost immediately upon entering my condo and refused to list my unit because of the obvious drug use next door. Friends and coworkers occasionally tell me my clothes smell like marijuana (my closet is in the direct line of stench fire) so I starting storing my clothes in airtight tubs in another part of my condo.
My marijuana-smoking neighbor is in his 50’s, he does not work and is the son of the condo owner. The father, who owns the condo, is elderly and lives in another state. I also learned the pot smoking son doesn’t work and doesn’t have any financial assets; he is completely financially dependent on his father. I do not want to drag his innocent elderly father into this.
Do I have any legal recourse? Is my only solution foreclosure? – KC.
: K.C. No, there are avenues you can take and foreclosure is not one of them. I am confident that somewhere in your association’s legal documents (usually the Bylaws) there is a provision that a unit owner cannot create a nuisance. And that’s exactly what your “neighbor” is creating: a clear nuisance. You should go back to the Board and tell them that they have to get an injunction against the owner as well as his son, demanding that he either stop smoking in the apartment or sell and move out.
If the Board is unwilling to do that, I suggest you contact a local real estate attorney who can follow up on my suggestion.
Two other avenues: you can file a lawsuit against that “neighbor” claiming a private nuisance. You have to discuss this with your local counsel, to make sure what the elements of such a claim are in your state.
And if the Board is unwilling to take action, you can sue the Board directly, claiming that by failing to follow the Bylaws there are breaching their fiduciary duty to you. It is helpful that you have another owner who is upset with the situation. The more owners who will support you, the stronger your ability to persuade the Board to take action.
And finally, I don’t know why you are hesitant to contact the father; he is the owner, and should know what is going on. Perhaps if the father feels threatened somehow, he may be able to get his son to move out.
Your question raises yet another issue: as more and more states are allowing marijuana use – whether in general or just for medicinal purposes — I suspect that your problem will be duplicated throughout the nation. Boards of Directors of community associations should start thinking about imposing smoking restrictions – and this should only be done by a bylaw amendment and not merely by rule adopted by the Board.