Residents have long had to worry about their neighbors smoking, and landlords were often held to account, but never before had a case been brought in court over the matter until last month. Now, a judge in Nassau County has ruled that a renter in an Upper East Side apartment building had cause to break her lease, according to Crain’s.
While this was an isolated matter, and the case was largely a matter of six months’ unpaid rent, at least one expert believes it could have more far-reaching repurcussions.
While there won’t likely be an avalanche of similar cases, tenants will begin to use secondhand smoke as an offensive measure against landlords, said Stuart Berg, a partner at Kurzman Eisenberg Corbin & Lever. “Landlords should take notice and start modifying leases to become stricter in terms of who to lease apartments to.”
For co-ops, it may become a trickier situation. Mr. Berg is working with two co-ops in the city now, where the co-op boards are requiring smoking tenants to install ventilation or air filters in the apartment. Dealing with the issue is a little bit harder in co-ops because they have to vote and amend co-op bylaws. “It is easier for non-co-op residential landlords to deal with it by modifying leases and not permitting smoking in the apartment,” he said. “Co-ops do not have that flexibility.”
And with talk now circulating about banning smoking out front of buildings, pretty soon the only place left for New York smokers will be inside their cars (those that have them).