Q&A: Smokin' Mad

Q I have a young toddler at home and my wife is a breast cancer survivor. For several years, our next-door neighbor’s chain-smoking home health nurse has filled up the hallway outside our apartment with smoke. The smell is so strong that it has activated the fire alarm behind our door. Our building’s rules clearly state that “unreasonable odors” are not permitted in the hallways, but our board president won’t enforce this house rule since this shareholder votes for him.

I have requested in writing on to see the board’s monthly minutes. The president refuses to let me see them, despite the fact that the rest of the board had no problem with it. Am I not entitled to see them during reasonable business hours? At a Meet the Candidatesmeeting in December, the president again refused out loud to allow me to view the minutes.

I have shareholder rights on paper, but when I try to exercise them, neither the managing agent nor the building’s lawyers will respond.

— Stonewalled on the Upper West Side

A According to Bruce Cholst, a partner with the Manhattan-based law firm of Rosen & Livington, “The overwhelming majority of co-op proprietary leases contain the phrase ‘Lessor shall not be responsible to the Lessee for non observance or violation of house rules by any other Lessee or person.’ Such language means that the board is empowered but not required to enforce its house rules in any given situation. If this provision exists in your lease you do not have the right to compel your board to take action against your neighbor.

“However, you may have private recourse against your neighbor in the form of a suit for ‘nuisance’ in which you would seek injunctive relief requiring him to install appropriate venting or otherwise restrict their aide’s smoking.

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