Condo buildings are banning smoking, even in residents’
Erin Arvedlund, Staff Writer
22 February 2015
Dorchester at 226 West Rittenhouse Square is among the buildings that
have begun to ban smoking by residents.
Where there's smoke, there's ire. High-rise condo buildings such as the
Dorchester and Society Hill Towers and luxury buildings such as the St.
James are starting to ban resident smoking - even in residents' own
"There is now a growing trend in condominiums nationwide, and
especially in urban high-rises, to impose a total ban on smoking
anywhere on the property - common areas, indoor and out, and even in
the individual residences and on their balconies and patios," said Gary
Krimstock, a lawyer specializing in condo-association law with Fineman
Krekstein and Harris in Center City.
"The rationale is that secondhand smoke is a proven health hazard and
it is impractical or impossible to prevent smoke from migrating into
common areas or other residences due to inherent construction and
ventilation limitations," he said.
Most condo associations first survey residents to obtain a consensus,
then adopt the smoking ban as a new regulation, usually allowing
current smokers to continue as long as it does not disturb other
n theory, a smoking ban affects resale value in a positive way. So an
increasing number of Philly condo buildings have rewritten bylaws in
the last few years to accommodate non-smoking resident owners.
In November, the Rittenhouse amended its rules to ban smoking, said
Diane Bryant, a broker with Bryant & Wilde Realty in Rittenhouse
Square. She and brokerage partner Margie Wilde now send the amendment
to every new buyer in the building.
Wendy Meyer, president of the Rittenhouse Condo Association executive
board, confirmed the change.
"There are people who feel it's overreaching for an association to ban
something legal in your own home. I was one of them. But as high-rise
livers, we have a pet policy, and we can't have live Christmas trees.
As an association, you have to accept the rules," Meyer said.
Allan Domb, president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of
Realtors, said, "When we show an apartment and there's a smoker, it's
tough to sell.
"We usually suggest the seller fumigate and paint two coats of white
paint. That could be the Number One reason why a home doesn't sell. You
have have a bad kitchen or bathroom, you can change it. But an odor?"
Still, Domb recognizes that smoker-owners "have the right to do what
they like, but not to infringe on other people's property rights."
Owners at the St. James and Society Hill Towers confirmed that amended
bylaws ban smoking in the units there.
In general, buildings with such bans seek a compromise by
grandfathering in current owners who smoke and allowing them to
continue to smoke in their units. However, anyone who buys or rents
after the date of the resolution may not smoke.
The exceptions can make a smoking ban difficult to enforce fully.
"Grandfathered smokers have to register before the start of the smoking
ban, and then they are designated as living in smoking units,"
The issue is ventilation. If residents live next to a chain smoker, the
smoke can come through the walls.
If there are complaints against grandfathered smokers for smoke and/or
odor escaping from their unit into hallways or other units, those
smokers must caulk and seal gaps in their units, and may have to buy
special air-filter machines. If that doesn't resolve the complaints,
grandfathered status can be revoked and they can be subject to fines
The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton permit smoking by owners in their
units. "It is allowed, but I've never had an issue, and never smelled
any smoke," says Kelly Boyd, who owns there.
Philadelphia is following New York City, where building-wide smoking
bans have passed in recent years.
"A board sees one building impose the ban and not have as many issues
with it as expected," Sheelah Feinberg, executive director of the New
York City Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, an advocacy group, told
Habitat magazine in June.
Last year, Mayor Nutter signed a measure that prohibits e-cigarettes
and "vaping" in public spaces in accordance with the Clean Indoor Air
Worker Protection Law pertaining to conventional cigarettes, which
includes the common areas of apartment buildings and hotels.
Smoke Free Philly
Smoke Free Philly maintains a list online (http://smokefreephilly.org/)
of private dwellings that are smoke-free. Two plan to make the change
by May 1: Chestnut Hill Village Apartments on Crittenden Street and
Park Towne Park Apartments on the Parkway, both owned and operated by