Co-Op Pays for Secondhand Cigarette Smoke

 Secondhand SmokeAs more and more buildings go smoke-free in New York City, a recent court ruling provides additional incentive to ban cigarettes. Earlier this month, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled that a co-op has to pay one of its apartment owners more than $120,000 in maintenance and fees after she sued over damage from people smoking in neighboring apartments, which she said also affected her health.

Attorney Robert Braverman, a partner in Braverman Greenspun, told Habitat magazine the decision is “groundbreaking.”

“What the judge is saying is that landlords, including co-op boards, are going to be responsible that smoke doesn’t pass from one unit to another,” said Braverman, who was not involved in the case. “I think it’s going to create a lot of discussion within the industry.”

The tenant, Susan Reinhard, bought an apartment in the Connaught Tower, at 300 East 54th Street, in 2006. For the next nine years, she claimed the unit was unlivable because the smell of smoke was so pervasive that it left her coughing and watery-eyed and gave her headaches. After a managing agent told her it wasn’t the building’s problem, she embarked on a decade-long series of engineer and contractor consultations, arguments with the co-op board, and legal proceedings.

Ultimately, the court ruled that the co-op is liable for all maintenance from June 2007 to the present, amounting to more than $120,000 in damages—a steep price to pay to enjoy a cigarette in one’s apartment. New York Magazine suggests this case will only serve to accelerate the push toward smoke-free residences:

Quite a few co-ops in New York have already gone smoke-free, in part to forestall such cases. In 2006, a judge in Manhattan ruled that if secondhand smoke is seeping into an apartment, the building owner is breaching its “warrant of habitability,” which compels him or her to maintain “livable, safe and sanitary” conditions. By legal precedent, that now means carcinogen-free.

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