Smoking laws target apartments, condos, co-ops

By Janet Lerner, April 7, 2012

All went well for Gene Shanahan for the first two years that he rented a second-floor apartment in a small Pearl River complex — until new neighbors moved into the unit below his.

“Nice people, quiet,” Shanahan recalled. “But they chain-smoked constantly.”

The smoke wafted into his apartment and got so bad that Shanahan, a nonsmoker, said he couldn’t even open his windows without more fumes coming in.

He moved out as a result months later, but not before he got a guarantee — in writing — from his new landlord that the apartments next to his would not be rented to a smoker.

“Do they really have the right to smoke in their apartment when their smoke finds its way into my space?” Shanahan said.

With smoking now forbidden in bars, restaurants, stores, schools and many parks and beaches throughout the Lower Hudson Valley, housing has become the latest battleground between people who smoke and those who don’t.

Rockland is one of the first municipalities in the state to tackle the issue of smoking in apartments, condominiums and co-ops.

A new law has gone into effect requiring owners of properties with three or more units to have a policy stating where smoking is allowed and where it isn’t.

The law requires that all tenants be provided with a copy of the policy, that prospective tenants be informed of the policy during lease or rental negotiations and that copies of the policy be posted in public areas of the multiple dwelling.

“It’s not a smoking ban,” said Judi Hunderfund, director of environmental health for the Rockland Health Department. “The intent is to empower tenants so they know what the policy is and what they are getting themselves into.”

Owners of rental properties with more than five units must file a copy of the policy with the Health Department, which can fine a property owner who doesn’t comply.

“It helps incoming tenants make an informed decision,” said Maureen Kenney, director of POW’R Against Tobacco, a White Plains-based anti-smoking coalition that worked with Rockland legislators to help draft the bill.

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