Strata living and smoke drift - how to be a good neighbour

In the world of communal living, we often find ourselves balancing personal freedoms with consideration for our neighbours. Among the myriad of challenges that can arise, smoke drift is quite common. This topic is no stranger to controversy, regularly sparking conversations about courtesy and compromise because even if you’re super careful, the smell of smoke can travel quite a distance. So, as experienced strata managers how do we tackle strata living and smoke drift?

At All Suburbs Strata Management, our team has over 35 years of experience in residential strata management in Sydney and on the Central Coast.

Indeed, smoking and secondhand smoke rank among the most frequently reported disputes confronted by strata managers nationwide. Let’s look at the rules and how to be a good neighbour, whether you’re a smoker or non-smoker.

What are the rules regarding smoking and smoke drift

In NSW, strata schemes are governed primarily by the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 and its associated regulations. While there isn’t a specific provision addressing smoke drift, general bylaws and regulations may still apply. Typically, smoke drift is managed through the implementation of smoke-free bylaws established by the owners corporation to regulate smoking within common property areas or individual lots.

In instances where smoke-free bylaws are not in place, smoke drift concerns are addressed by broader nuisance regulations found within both the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 and the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.

Owners corporations do have the authority to create and enforce bylaws that govern various aspects of strata living, including behaviours that may affect the enjoyment of common property or cause nuisance to other residents. Therefore, if smoke drift becomes a significant issue in a strata scheme, residents can propose the introduction of smoke-free rules.

Smoke drift goes beyond mere discomfort; it poses significant health risks. Passive smoking is associated with a range of adverse health effects, exacerbating conditions such as cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, asthma and diabetes while also increasing the likelihood of heart attacks. It is particularly risky for unborn babies, children, young people and those with respiratory difficulties. Consequently, there have been instances where tenants have successfully contested smoke drift problems by presenting their case before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

Happy apartment renter with thums up looks at you in a balcony a sunny day

How to be a good neighbour

Whether your strata scheme has explicit bylaws addressing smoke drift or not, it’s important to show consideration for your neighbours. If you’re a smoker, take steps to minimise the impact on others. Choose designated smoking areas if available, and avoid smoking near entrances, windows or communal spaces, such as balconies, where smoke can drift. Remember that smoke can travel a considerable distance, so being mindful of your surroundings is key.

In communal living, addressing smoke drift requires mutual respect and open communication. Both parties must collaborate to find effective ways to mitigate the issue.

Non-smokers should express their concerns respectfully, fostering constructive dialogue and the possibility of reaching a satisfactory outcome.

Lastly, smokers should always dispose of cigarette butts responsibly. Littering not only detracts from the appearance of the property but can also pose fire and environmental hazards. Always use designated ashtrays or appropriate bins to maintain cleanliness and safety within the strata complex. By adhering to these practices and showing consideration for your neighbours, you can contribute to a positive and inclusive living experience, regardless of specific bylaws.

What you can do if smoke drift is really bothering you

Smoking is recognised as a potential nuisance or hazard for occupants in NSW. If residents fail to adhere to bylaws, or if you’ve politely informed a neighbour about the impact of their smoke drift and they haven’t made any changes, there are additional actions you can take. Firstly, the strata committee can issue a Notice to Comply. Should compliance notices be ignored, the owners corporation can seek mediation from NSW Fair Trading and escalate to NCAT if necessary.

NCAT has the authority to impose substantial fines. Individuals breaching the smoking bylaw may face fines of up to $1,100, with repeat offenders potentially facing double the penalty within 12 months, totalling $2,200. If a resident continues to disregard NCAT orders, fines of up to $5,500 can be imposed.

Both tenants and owners have the right to request a hearing before NCAT if they believe the owners corporation’s actions regarding nuisance smoking are unreasonable.

Why choose All Suburbs Strata Management?

While Australia has some of the world’s strongest anti-smoking laws in public places, people are generally free to do whatever they want within the walls of their own homes. However, it’s a difficult situation when you live in a communal setting.

Smoke drift is a significant issue and not something you have to put up with. In the event of smoke drift issues, residents should contact their Strata Manager for advice.

At All Suburbs Strata Management, we have over 35 years of experience in strata management, covering all suburbs in Sydney, and we are experts in residential, community, commercial and industrial strata schemes.

We also assist developers in preparing for registration and provide strata reports and inspections.

We will ensure your strata scheme runs as smoothly as possible. When considering buying into a strata scheme or wanting to engage a professional and qualified team, contact ASSM today.

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