Condo buildings are banning smoking, even in residents’ own units
The Inquirer
Erin Arvedlund, Staff Writer
22 February 2015

The 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 units.

"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 residents.

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," Krimstock said.

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 and sanctions.
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 ( 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 AIMCO.

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