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Added Jan 22 2012

I live in an apartment building right near Palmer and Kimball. There are residents in the building who smoke cigarettes and marijuana. I understand that cigarette smoking isn't against the law and I'm sure many people think that pot should be legal to smoke. I would not really care what anyone in my building is smoking, except for the fact that the ventilation system in my building is awful and the smoke enters other units and fills up our stairwells. This is a concern to my wife and me because we actually care about our health and the health of our 10 month old son.

We think we know who it is in the building that is responsible for the smoke, but would not want to call anyone out on it directly. We have complained to our management company, who attached a rider to all of our leases saying that smoking in the building was against policy and anyone doing it would be liable to termination of their lease and/or fined; however, the management company refuses to do anything about it. I have also posted a notice on the walls in the stairwell asking people to not smoke in the building because the smoke moves between the units easily, but all that accomplished was getting the notes ripped off the walls and thrown at my doorstep (even though the notes were anonymous).

Is there anything we can do to get the smoking in the building to stop, since our management company will not act on the policies they set forth in the lease rider? Is calling 311 an option? The management company told me at one point to call the police if it bothered me so much, but I wouldn't know who I would be calling the police on in the 7 other units in my building.

Any advice would be appreciated. It's the middle of winter and we can't exactly keep our windows open for ventilation all the time.

  • any such name live, walk, & cook on the northwest side

    Apartment Therapy has been asked this question many times. Here are a few links if you want to peruse the comments there for suggestions:

  • Cynthia Resident Since 1988

    Maybe you could use this as a reason to break the lease without a penalty. If the building mgt doesn't do anything about it you don't have an option other than to move. Like you said, it isn't against the law to smoke cigarettes. But, if your building has such bad ventilation you shouldn't be forced to stay there.

  • Joe

    the best thing to do is move everything else is a confrontation.

    you can ask the landlord one more time or ask the landlord to release you from your lease so you can move.

    There have been successful lawsuits (torts) as well as the pot being criminal, but get some proof.

    you can try citing the below ordinance and put legalese in your certified letter the the land lord.

    Ask advocacy groups for help

  • Joe

    PLEASE TAKE NOTICE: Pursuant to Rex v White and Ward, 1 Burr 333 (Eng, 1757); Rex v Neil, 2 Carr & Payne 485 (Eng, 1826); Wheatley v Chrisman, 24 Pa St 298 (1855); Cartwright v Gray, 12 Grant, Ch (UC) 400 (Can, 1866); Sullivan v Dunham, 161 NY 290; 55 NE 923; 47 LRA 715; 76 Am St Rep 274 (1900); Locker v American Tobacco Co, 194 F 232 (1912); Canfield v Howard, 109 Ga App 566; 136 SE2d 431 (1964); Sargent v Ross, 113 NH 388; 308 A2d 528 (1973); Commonwealth v Hughes, 468 Pa 502; 364 A2d 306 (1976), Shimp v New Jersey Bell Telephone Co, 145 N J Super 516; 368 A2d 408, 416 (1976); People v Hegedus, 432 Mich 598; 443 NW2d 127 (1989); People v Chicago Magnet Wire Corp, 126 Ill 2d 356; 128 Ill Dec 517; 534 NE2d 962 (1989), cert denied sub nom Asta v Illinois, 493 US 809; 110 S Ct 52; 107 L Ed 2d 21 (1989); City of North Miami v Kurtz, 653 So 2d 1025 (Fla, 1995); and Fortunoff Fine Jewelry & Silverware, Inc v New York State Division of Human Rights, 227 App Div 2d 557; 642 NYS2d 710 (1996); and the common law, you are subjecting both persons and property to an unreasonable risk of harm by reason of your negligent and premeditated failure to provide fresh and pure air, including your negligent admission to residency of persons foreseeably causing the said endangerment, and negligent failure to evict said persons, to wit, persons spewing deleterious toxic tobacco smoke chemicals into the air, trespassing onto others, constituting ultrahazardous activity, causing an increased risk of death, constituting a nuisance and a taking contrary to law and constitutional rights, and violating the residency requirements with respect to safety, comfort, the sanitary duty, and habitability.

  • Joe

    In order that you may cease and desist from subjecting both persons and property to the aforesaid risk of harm, constituting a nuisance, it is incumbent upon you to adopt lawful residency admissions and retention practices, so as to abide by the common law right to fresh and pure air.
    If you negligently fail to satisfy the above demand, and the nuisance extant due to your negligence is the proximate cause of any reasonably foreseeable harm to persons and/or property, you shall be held personally liable in money damages to the full extent of any losses sustained by tenants or their lawful invitees.

  • Thanks for the responses!

    Moving is a last resort as we have a pretty amazing deal on our unit, especially for the size and being brand new. The option of using air purifiers mentioned in one or two of the Apartment Therapy posts would potentially be helpful, but that is not something that we should have to pay for in the first place.

    I think that I will give Joe's approach a shot. When I have mentioned taking legal action or withholding rent on the MANY things that were broken or not completed, the management company did seem to respond.

    Thanks again!

  • We also have smoking neighbors that have been repeatedly asked to stop. The affendors share the wall opposite our bedroom and it is just awful the stench that comes through the wall. There are also children affected. They have been fined by the condo board, and threatened with eviction but nothing changes. We have had a handyman seal up all of the outlets and walls, which didn't help much. We have confronted them multiple times, as have other neighbors, and they say they will go outside, but then they don't. Other neighbors are considering lawsuits, so I appreciate the above info. We feel your pain Jeremy! I HATE going to bed with our room smelling like a dive bar! We are at least lucky that we rent and we can move if we have to, but most others in the building own and don't have that option.

  • Whatever all the legal jargon (it is Greek to me) that was posted above... does that stand for buildings without non-smoking rules?

  • gerigirl I live and breathe this city!

    Who is this slumlord mgt. company??? their " we don't care attitude".....just give us the rent on time and "keep your mouth shut" many of them out there managing buildings like this......OUTRAGEOUS!

  • @gerigirl - I don't know that I should name them. However, that is almost how it is. They aren't quite slumlords. They do eventually get around to fixing things...unless of course it is something they included in their lease rider, like noting that smoking is not permitted in the units.

  • Take a look at these cases that went to court:

  • I Like #2's answer. Let the LL know you are moving because of the smoking in the building. Your LL should not allow smoking in the building, it's dangerous. Maybe you can find out who the insurance company is and inform them, since it is a danger.

  • Jeremy, you didn't say if "no smoking" is in the lease? Most landlords have a no smoking clause; why not yours?

  • Li Wright - I did mention in my original post that the management company attached a rider to everyone's lease that notes that smoking is not permitted inside the building. When I have mentioned to management that I would like them to act on the "no smoking" policy set forth in the lease rider, they have said that there is nothing they can do about it. (A lot of good that lease rider does.)

  • gerigirl I live and breathe this city!

    Jeremy....I wouldn't expect you to name them....might sue you for defamation....slumlord is appropriate when they take your money and don't live up to their part of the's as good as STEALING....YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR THIS!!

  • West Logan Pioneer Welcoming more and more like-minded neighbors

    As a landlord and a rational human, you need an advocate from the Chicago Tenants Union to advise you. Their number is (773) 478-1133 or

    All cooresponcence with Mgmt. should be in writing.

    Interfacing with anyone other than the property mananger will lead you to confrontations of the undesirable kind. Pack your bags, know your rights, begin the exciting search for a new place to call home.

    Air purifiers can only do so much. If you elect that route, send written notice to Mgmt that you're decting the cost of two from your next rent. Include a copy of your lease highlighting why it is fair. Leave the machines when you leave, and indicate that as such so they will not deduct from Security Deposit.

    Above all, be professional. Emotions are not going to get you a fair shake.

    Best of luck!

  • I would still love to know what your options are if you rent in a building where most of the units are owned. Has anyone every tried to fine the board against the cost of air purifiers, etc? (We bought a fancy HEPA thing, and put the best filters we could find in the main heat unit, and it barely does anything.) The owner of our unit has been great and trying to do everything, including get a lawyer involved, but it seems his hands are tie since it is not in the tenant bylaws to not allow smoking in you unit. It is however against the laws to disrupt other tenants or common areas, which is the grounds they are currently fining on. The board says they may be able to evict, but not when the weather is under 30degrees, plus they seem reluctant to want to deal with the trouble.

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78

    I feel your pain! In addition to the toxic substances smoking puts in the air, smoking is also a fire hazard.

  • Beach and Homan - 30 Years 30 Year resident HP, 60 Year, Lifelong Chicago Res

    First, let me acknowledge that I am a non-smoker and do not allow smoking in my home.

    Second, I believe that you may find out your efforts are in vain.

    While smoking POT is illegal, it is NOT illegal to smoke cigarettes in a private residence.

    Apartments are considered private residences and, unless there is an OVERALL BAN on smoking in the building, which was IN EFFECT, and so stated in the LEASE, at the TIME THE LEASE WAS SIGNED, banning smoking in an apartment building as an afterthought is not enforceable.

    The same is true of a Condo Association. If the rule was not in the bylaws AT THE TIME OR A UNIT PURCHASE, AND the Board has not properly presented an amendment to the bylaws, with the no smoking amendment having been properly approved and adopted by all of the UNIT OWNERS, then such a rule is NOT ENFORCEABLE.

    Again, I feel your hurt. I do not smoke and do not allow smoking in my house. I also promised myself more than 30 years ago that I would NEVER again live in an apartment building, condo or coop - but that is another story, best saved for another discussion.

    I feel your hurt, and fully agree with your basis, but the law is on the side of those who have apartments with leases which do not ban smoking. Even if you had a ton of money to spend on an attorney and the Courts, the Court would probably be of the same opinion - they would tell you that you should have investigated whether or not the building allowed smoking PRIOR to renting an apartment and signing a lease.

  • Emilie West Bucktowner

    Two things that could at least ease the frustration:

    1) Get an air purifier for the room(s) most affected. The white noise will be an added bonus for sleeping.

    2) Get a canister of the Bad Air Sponge for each room. It's a natural, non-toxic odor remover that's been used after industrial disasters forever (fires, sewer backups). They're $10 each and easy to get online. I use one in my son's nursery and it's awesome.

  • Beach and Homan - Thanks for the reply, but as I have mentioned, the management company DID put it in writing that smoking is not allowed in the building. If you were replying to one of the other individuals who has followed up in this thread with similar circumstances, then please disregard.

  • gerigirl I live and breathe this city!

    @JEREMY....After all is said and done.....I think BEACH & EMILLE have great advice.....You & family like it there because it's a great deal and you don't probably have any other problems then the no reason to disrupt your lives if Emillie's solution's work....everywhere you rent....there is always a do what's BEST for you and yours and give the solution a try! Make it a WIN-WIN for you!

  • Beach and Homan - 30 Years 30 Year resident HP, 60 Year, Lifelong Chicago Res

    @Jeremy: You stated the management company, "attached riders" to the leases. Riders are mostly meaningless. They are non-enforceable for pre-existing leases unless the person leasing the apartment AGREES to the rider IN WRITING - effectively voiding the old lease and creating a new one.

    While the landlord can add riders, they are meaningless and those who had existing leases prior to the leases can go on smoking without any penalty.

  • Thanks all. As for the riders, since the building was new construction and my wife and I were the very first tenants to move into the building and had to sign the rider, I would assume that everyone else who moved in after us had to sign the rider, as well. I would also assume that everyone else had to sign the rider, since the management company sends out blanket e-mails to everyone in the building about other issues related to policies in the rider saying that they will fine tenants for not following the policies.

    I do appreciate everyone's input here though.

  • Beach and Homan - 30 Years 30 Year resident HP, 60 Year, Lifelong Chicago Res

    Again, if the rider was not a PART OF the original LEASE, it is probably not enforceable.

    Adding a rider to a lease, after the fact, is not a legal amendment to a contract which has already been signed and a lease is a legal contract. So the rider would have had to have been made a part of the original lease to be effective and legal.

  • gerigirl I live and breathe this city!

    @JEREMY....In any event.....let us know how it turns very best to you and your family!

  • Joe

    Jeremy is trying to find a way to stay in this apartment and get the owner to stop the intrusive smoke. It does not matter what genius legal BS opinions exists. My suggestion is a ploy to get the owners to change their calculus not win a court battle or debate what will or will not happen in court. It seems to me the owner feels it is cheaper and easier to ignore Jeremy, however, if Jeremy demonstrates the potential to cause the owners (in their mind) time and money by sending via certified mail a letter filled with legal BS it may be enough for the owners to think to themselves that siding with Jeremy is easier and cheaper for them than ignoring him. No lawyer no matter how arrogant can predict what a jury or judge will do, especially in small claims court. One of my more satisfying moments in life was winning a judgement with prejudice representing myself against a team of lawyers.

  • Unfortunately, until you own your own HOUSE, where you can lay down the law, you will probably have this problem. I live in an partment building also and I can smell when folks are cooking, I can smell cigarettes, I can smell cigars and so on. There are 100 units in my building. It comes from under the door and the vents. I put paper in the cracks of the door when my neighbor smokes cigars because the smell is strong. I have an exhaust fan in my window to let out the smells as they come through my apartment.

    Hang in there!

  • The neighbors below me smoke. Unfortunately their favorite spot is right next to my bed. It comes up through the floor. I wish there was some sort of heavy duty rug I could place down...

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78

    Whenever a smoker moves onto my floor, I have to duct-tape my door. The managent also put a weather strip on the bottom of my door, which actually makes a HUGE difference. I have asthma , so the smoke is not just an esthetic issue
    I hope everything works out for you..

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78

    However, what I'd REALLLY like to do is penny the smoker into his apartment. But that would be dangerous in case of a fire and he/she/they need to escape. LOL

  • Well I have lungs, so the smoke isn't just esthetic for me either.

  • Yup, definitely not just about the aesthetic annoyance. It is a health issue. Courts are starting to allow assault suits by non-smokers against smokers for second hand smoke. Then there's the whole issue of third hand smoke once the smoke has soaked into your belongings. If it was just about aesthtics, we would find a way to deal with it, like air purifiers.

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78

    That's my point! It's a health issue as well as a safety issue - smokers use fire to light up- ergo- voila! FIRE HAZARD!

  • J-Wahhh Trying to do Everyblock without being a cry baby

    If smoke is a concern for anyone here, you have two choices: move in to a non-smoking building, or request that your landlord convert your building to non-smoking.
    Jeremy, your posts are unclear as to whether the non-smoking rider was pre-existing, or was instituted because of your complaint. If the former, you can threaten legal action. If the latter, it can't be enforced on existing leases, only new ones. So you'll have to wait for the smokers to move out.
    The assault suits you mention relate to smoking in the workplace. Your case involves property law, which is very different.

  • gerigirl I live and breathe this city!

    Thanks JASON W.....Clarity... at last!

  • Thanks, Jason. The lease rider was a part of the original lease signing process. When you sign the original lease, you also sign the rider. It was not added after I complained; it was in effect from day one when the building opened after construction was completed. They also had "No Smoking" signs posted in the building that someone in the building ripped off the walls. My wife and I were the first people to move into the building after it was built. The management company had us and every tenant that moved in after us sign the lease rider when we first signed the lease.

  • J-Wahhh Trying to do Everyblock without being a cry baby

    Looks like you're on solid ground for legal action (or at least breaking your lease and moving) if the management company refuses to act. That's a bummer. Sorry to hear they failed so badly.

  • Mary A human service worker that wants to help children

    I had the same problem when I lived on 5601 Sacramento I called the police and they told me that the landlord is suppose to tell the persons smoking anything illegal to stop and if they dont stop the lanlord should evict them, if that doesen' t work they also told me to file a complaint with your landlord.

  • This comment has been removed by EveryBlock staff.
  • This comment has been removed by EveryBlock staff.
  • Everyblock Admins, the above 2 posts are SPAM...^

  • I'd like to know exactly how the management company could enforce this even if they wanted to? I mean, these folks are smoking in their unit, right? I understand posting signs in common areas and enforcing there, but in a private residence? That's gonna be almost impossible to enforce. I'm not saying Jeremy doesn't have a valid concern, but this will not turn out in his favor, sadly.

    If it is truly that bad (no doubt it is) My advice would be to go to the Tenants Union and get out of the lease all clean and neat. Should be pretty easy. Come back to Everyblock for a landlord recommendation (I have one if you need it). Good luck!

  • gerigirl I live and breathe this city!

    Thanks Ed, I thought something was weird about those 2 post's.....anyway what is the Tenants Union?

  • yes, probably the best thing to do is just move like Ed suggested.

  • I got my girlfriend out of a lease several years ago for that exact problem by citing a section (5-12-110?) of the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance, which requires a landlord to maintain a safe living environment. I sent the letter only after we weren't able to find a mutually-acceptable solution. It worked well, and she was released from her lease early and received her full security deposit back. I wish I still had a copy of the letter.

  • gerigirl I live and breathe this city!

    Thanks Ed! Much appreciated....

  • Jeff Young (Karova) Logan Square resident

    Does anyone know if anything said here would apply to adjacent buildings?

    I've been living in my place for a few months now; I'm not sure if smoking is allowed but neither I or my landlord do (I live in 2-flat) so it's not been an issue.

    Neighbors who just moved in to the north do smoke, however, and since they moved in a week ago every time they sit on their back porch and smoke while I'm home it makes my apartment, specifically my and my daughter's bedrooms, reek of smoke. It's disgusting.

    For example, it's 3 AM as I write this; not only was I awoken by these neighbors slamming their back porch door to go out to smoke but the noise was accompanied by the smell of smoke throughout my bedroom. I am specifically bothered by my daughter be exposed to the harmful smoke.

    Thanks, all.

  • Michmine EHP

    Jeff, are your windows open? The easiest solution would just be to close them. If your windows are closed, it sounds like you have a serious issue with your windows. Probably worth trying to get your landlord to fix them, as you'll be really, really cold this winter. Your neighbors are outside on private property, and it is not illegal to smoke outside on private property. It's unreasonable to expect someone to not smoke outside on their own porch. That's a problem with city living. You're so close to everyone that it is hard to not do something that will annoy someone.

  • Jeff Young (Karova) Logan Square resident

    They are open, I don't like air conditioning. Unfortunately I've heard the same thing from others. I don't see why I should have to close my windows because of my neighbors bad habits; they are exposing my daughter and I to known carcinogens. I will be asking them to smoke elsewhere, maybe down in their apartment's garden, a little further from our bedroom windows. Hopefully they will do so.

  • Michmine EHP

    Well, you have to close your windows because (1) you don't have a right to control what other people do, and (2) you don't want smoke in your house. Why should they have to go downstairs (closer to someone else's windows) because you don't like air conditioning?

  • Jeff Young (Karova) Logan Square resident

    Smoking stinks and is a recognized health hazard. Why should I, and my daughter, have to give up our rights to healthy homes and bodies because of someone else's choice? At what point does someone's right to smoke infringe on our rights to live without? I live with asthma regularly because my parents smoked around me as a child - I don't want my daughter to have to deal with the same health issues.

  • William Martin Bucktown resident since 2007

    @Jeff Your car's tailpipe emits way more deadly carcinogens and gases driving your daughter around than some cigarette smoke wafting between two buildings. Judge not lest thee be judged.

  • This comment has been removed by EveryBlock staff.
  • Jeff Young (Karova) Logan Square resident

    Holy cow I am not running a car indoors and it's effect on the environment is a major reason why I don't run an air conditioner - I rarely even use it in my car.

    How is it that I'm guaranteed a smoke free environment in and around work and in and around almost all public places because of the hazards it represents to health but when it comes to my home I have accept it? This seems very, very distorted to me.

  • J-Wahhh Trying to do Everyblock without being a cry baby

    If smoking is legal where they are doing it, you are out of luck. You don't like smoke, you don't like A/C, you don't like city life.

  • LD

    Ah, no. If somebody asked, from another building, asked me not to smoke on my own property (assuming I didn't have a plethora of outside decks from which to choose) I'd tell them to close their windows (and I'd be thinking about telling them to get bit). You can ask, but there is nothing you can do but close your windows. This is your problem: not theirs. My neighbor used to smoke on his porch and I shut my mouth - and my windows. Nonsmoker here. If I was that worried about neighbor's smoke and its affect on my health, I think I'd move to someplace with better air quality that a giant Midwestern city.

  • thank you! jeez.....

  • J-Wahhh Trying to do Everyblock without being a cry baby

    Summer in the city is full of smells. Garbage, dog poop, and lots more.

    As far as second-hand smoke is concerned, there are risks for people who live with an inside smoker, but intermittent outside porch smoke? Seriously?

  • Michmine EHP

    Someone's right to smoke infringes on another person's right to live without it when the second person cannot avoid or escape the first person's smoke. You are not in that situation (unlike someone with a neighbor smoking inside the building), you can close your windows. Your decision to leave them open is responsible for exposing your family to the carcinogens.

    I don't want to listen to my neighbors across the street who always have a bunch of people yelling and laughing in their front yard, so I close my windows. I don't go out there and ask them to go somewhere else.

  • Jeff Young (Karova) Logan Square resident

    It's been every day, multiple times a day and night. Garbage and poop smells won't give you cancer. Second hand smoke will, which is why it's banned.

  • Michmine EHP

    Why its banned indoors, you mean. Just close your windows, unless you want to have forever awkward interactions with your neighbors after they tell you to get bent.

  • Jeff Young (Karova) Logan Square resident

    I'm fine with forever awkward interactions. I keep posting on this site, don't I?

  • Michmine EHP

    Hahaha, well then go forth and be hated by your neighbors!

  • J-Wahhh Trying to do Everyblock without being a cry baby

    It's not banned, it's restricted. Based on what you've said, they're not breaking any restrictions. Furthermore, secondhand smoke has been tested on people who live with a smoker, not people who live next door to smokers. Let's get real here, you just don't like the smell. Close your windows.

  • Jeff Young (Karova) Logan Square resident

    I don't like the smell. Beyond the wretched odor, it carries carcinogens which is why it has been restricted. I have asthma because I was around smoking throughout my childhood. My grandfather and uncle both had open heart surgery as a result of a lifetime of smoking - hardened arteries and emphysema. I've lost friends in the last year to cancer and know too many friends and family dealing with it right now. I've had to struggle through an ex-wife and both parents trying to quit. I hate smoking. It's a disgusting habit to be subjected to and it has terrible health ramifications both for the smoker and those around them. I don't want my daughter exposed to it.

    If I did what you folks said, I'd just sit back and accept it because I'm inconveniencing my neighbor and or walking into a hornet's nest. I asked for legal clarification from people who've dealt with the same issue to see what I could do and it appears that I just need to have a conversation with my neighbor about it, however uncomfortable that may be, to let them know their choice is affecting my life and my daughters. I'm an adult, I've dealt with difficult neighbors before, I don't expect to be everyone's friend, I can handle it if they do, in fact, tell me to get bent. I'll just figure out what to do next. Better I do that than sit back and believe I'm just some kind of whiner many here have made me out to be.

  • William Martin Bucktown resident since 2007

    @Jeff When you drive your car by my house and I have my windows open your CO, a deadly gas to humans unlike cigarette smoke, and other carcinogens waft into my breathing space. Please don't drive by my house.

  • FGFM

    Carbon monoxide isn't carcinogenic.

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