Our legislators are currently considering Int. 1585-A, a bill that would require the owners or boards of rental, co-op and condo multiple dwellings to establish a smoking policy for their building.
The adverse effects of smoking and second-hand smoke are widely proven by a vast body of scientific evidence, so there is no need for discussion on that point. We fully agree that smoking and its side effects are dangerous. Our issue of concern is whether a rule needs to be legislated to mandate the regulation of smoking in our apartments.
The strength and foundation of cooperative and condominium housing is that each building is a separate entity governed by a board of directors, elected by the shareholders or condo owners to fairly and duly represent them and their desires to live in a certain manner. The decisions thus made are individual ones, unique to each building.
While there may be some overlap and similarity among the house rules developed in each building, there is no mandate that says every building “must …” Indeed, the variety and the particular nature of governance that make each building unique are specifically what appeal to potential buyers.
The establishment and enforcement of house rules are properly within the purview of each board of directors. Although rulemaking is already closely regulated by business law and by many other local and federal guidelines, they remain the distinct and proper responsibility of each unique building.
The establishment of rules that fairly represent each building’s group of residents presents a formidable challenge as boards try to manage noise, trash, deliveries, pets, subleases, window coverings, storage, etc. The list is interminable already.
The specific concerns related to smoking have been hugely contentious, even the courts of law, as judges wrestle with broad interpretations that include issues of privacy, reasonability, tort liability, degree of pollution, appropriate remedies, and especially the facts of each case. If boards are required to establish and enforce smoking regulations, one can only imagine residents’ resultant conversations, that would best belong in a playground:
“You were smoking. Was not. Was too. Prove it. No, you prove it. Prove I was. Prove you weren’t. Well, I’m sick because of it now. You were sick before. No I wasn’t. Yes you were. Prove it. No, you prove it.”
And then, of course, there are the untenable issues of monitoring, verification, remediation and equitable enforcement — to mention but a few. Boards of directors already have the power to establish reasonable rules that reflect the wishes of their residents. It is always hoped that they establish rules that are fair, equitable and enforceable.
It is assumed that they have the collective wisdom to justly consider already existing overreaching laws and regulations as well as applicable science to make determinations on behalf of their constituents — or, like other elected representatives, be removed from office.
Co-ops and condos do not need any governmental intervention or direction in the establishment of their rules, whether regarding smoking or any other stipulation, and should be allowed to continue to function under the already well-defined guidelines of law to maintain the habitability of their respective buildings to the satisfaction of their residents.
There is no need for Int. 1585-A.
The author is president of the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums.