The smell of cigarette or marijuana smoke in a condo is an unpleasant, but all too familiar scent for many homeowners in the city. With the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, the problem is becoming increasingly frequent. Smoke emanating from within a neighbors condo can enter yours through the front door, windows and shared electrical sockets. In older buildings which typically aren’t sealed perfectly, the issue can be particularly severe and unpleasant. Much of the problem is caused by air currents and pressure which cause the smoke to drift into your home rather than staying in your neighbors condo.
It’s often the case that your neighbor may smoke in their living room and open their window to let some of the smell out, perhaps even to prevent others from smelling it. But the result is a change in air pressure, causing air to rush from outside into their apartment. According to Jack Prenter, the founder of ChoreBliss Toronto, “this pressure pushes the smoke into the hallway” of the building, where it can enter others homes. For this reason, it’s often necessary to talk to the smoker directly and to ask them to work with you to minimize the smell. Ideally, they will smoke on their balcony and as long as your windows are shut, you will experience little to none of the smoke. The primary issue is when neighbors smoke inside their condo, which often happens during the bitter months of the year when Toronto balconies are covered in snow.
What does the law say?
According to the Smoke Free Ontario Act, tenants and owners are prevented from smoking in the common areas of multi-unit buildings. However, there is no law in Ontario that prevents people from smoking in their private residences. Although there is no law preventing it, condo’s, property owners and landlords are entitled to demand that their building is 100% smoke-free. Therefore, one measure you can take is to encourage the building to become entirely smoke-free by enacting a building ruling. Be aware, this can be hard to pass and make take a long time. Likewise, a lot of people smoke and therefore getting a board to pass such a rule might be challenging. Currently, there are a limited number of condos in the city which have banned smoking.
It’s worth noting that Section 117 of the Condominium Act states that the building must prohibit any activity in common areas or units that are likely to cause injury to others. Countless studies show that second hand smoke can be dangerous to your health and therefore a neighbors smoke being allowed to enter your unit would be in contradiction to the ruling. Subsection 17(3) of the Act clearly states that the Corporation has a duty to take all reasonable measures to be in accordance with the Act. Therefore, if you wish to lobby your building to enact a non-smoking policy, or at least to take steps to prevent all smoke from entering your unit, you might wish to use this Act as justification.
Preventing the smell from entering
If your neighbor is unwilling to change their behavior, you will need to take measures to prevent the smoke coming into your home. The key is to alter the air flows so that the smoke isn’t sucked into your residence. To start, you should try to identify the key points of entry. If your neighbor is across the corridor, it’s almost certainly only entering through the front door. While next-door neighbors on either side might have shared sockets and neighboring windows where smells can creep through. Use your nose and a damp finger to sense where the smell and air are flowing through most intensely. By doing so you’ll be able to find out what you need to do to create positive air pressure which will prevent smoke from being sucked in from the hallway or neighboring condo.
Often the most obvious cause is the gaps on the side and bottom of your front door. In which case, contacting your building manager can resolve this. They will often be willing to provide rubber insulating strips which can form a tight seal when the door is closed, preventing air from coming into your home. Likewise, you can seal electrical sockets easily with foam inserts which block any small cracks or gaps. Very rarely smoke can also come in through your windows. However, in almost all of the city there is double or triple glazing to prevent the cold from getting to you and therefore the chance of cigarette smoke entering a closed window is low. If none of these methods work, you can take a large fan and point it towards the most common entry point. The fan will create positive air pressure and prevent smoke from entering. Alternatively, if you know that it’s only coming through the front door, opening a window will also create a pressure that will instantly push all of the smoke into the hallway.