Q&A: My Rights Are Up in Smoke

Q. The 40-year-old, chain smoking, son of a shareholder lives with his parents and is not allowed to smoke in his apartment or in our co-op. Instead, he loiters directly below my apartment windows, and only below my window, and smokes almost continuously, except for regular 30 to 60 minute intervals when he goes inside or leaves the building. Thus, from early in the morning to late at night, my home is almost constantly filled with the smoke from his cigarettes! He does this knowing how upsetting it is, since my father recently died horribly because of cigarette smoke.

Though he could easily walk up or down the block, away from my windows, he vehemently refuses to do so. Whenever I have asked him to do so, he manifests a big grin, making it clear he enjoys deliberately bullying me. The co-op says it is powerless, despite an article from a publication saying a board can legally prevent harassment, bullying, and inappropriate behavior by shareholders in, around, and nearby the homes of the others who live in the building. The police refuse to stop the loitering (which is illegal).

What can I do to assert my right to quiet enjoyment of my home without noxious and harmful toxins that directly, and avoidably, result from the behavior of another shareholder? What legal rights do I have to stop this bullying? And what are the co-op’s legal responsibilities to cure this abusive conduct by one of its shareholders?

—At My Wit’s End

A. “In response to your inquiry, a few things,” says attorney Richard Klein of the New York City firm Romer Debbas, LLP. “First, as a practical matter, I would recommend that the writer try to reach out to the smoker’s parents and discuss with them what is going on with their son and the constant smoking outside the window. The parents might not be aware of the problem and hopefully can talk some sense with their son and get him to move to another outdoor spot to smoke that is not directly under the writer’s window.

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