Hilary Duff has 9.2 million Instagram followers. Her neighbor, Dieter Addison, has 742. He also seems to enjoy smoking cigarettes inside his apartment and breaking furniture when he argues with his girlfriend, according to an Instagram story Hilary posted this week. She’s tired of smelling his smoke and dealing with his noise. The thing about living in an apartment building is that your neighbors see your mail and know your name. If your neighbor has almost 10 million Instagram followers and your Instagram handle is your name, you’re probably in trouble.
I personally dealt with someone smoking cigarettes inside my building, and it wasn’t pleasant. What can you do if your neighbor is making your life shitty?
New York City implemented a new law in late 2017 that required all rental apartment buildings to have a smoking policy. While the law doesn’t state what the policy must be, it’s intent is to make tenants aware of what a building’s smoking rules are before they move in and sign a lease. The law gives landlords and property managers the power to dictate smoking guidelines for every part of their property, including common areas, apartments, and outdoor space. The guidelines must be displayed in the building or provided to all residents, and violations can lead to civil fines.
Before 2017, the city’s legislative history was pretty kind to smokers. The appeals court in the 2011 case Ewen v. Maccherone ruled that, if you live in a big city, you can’t really stop your neighbor from doing things in their home that don’t break the law. If you don’t live in a smoke-free building, your neighbor can probably smoke in their private residence as much as they want. At the end of the day, it may come down to your relationship with your landlord.
If you and your landlord are on good terms, you can beg for their help in getting your neighbor to stop. The city even provides a helpful guide with suggestions on handling this issue. The New York Peace Institute offers mediation services for people who are trying to resolve conflict with their neighbors, often about secondhand smoke. NYC Smoke-Free is an organization dedicated to expanding the number of smoke-free spaces in the city.
Your landlord may be willing to ask your neighbor to stop smoking, but they aren’t required to, and since smoking isn’t illegal in private residences in the city, the Health Department won’t be much help. The government recommends documenting in detail every instance of secondhand smoke drifting into your apartment. Under the warranty of habitability, your landlord is required to provide you a safe place to live. If secondhand smoke from your neighbor is affecting your health, a court may rule that your landlord is in violation of the warranty of habitability. If it’s bad enough and you document it well, you may be able to build a case for constructive eviction and break your lease without penalty.