It was with great excitement that I read a news story this week about the possibility of smoking being banned in apartment blocks.
BY VANESSA DE GROOT
It was reported that an eight-unit apartment block in western Sydney introduced a by-law making the premises, including balconies, completely smoke-free.
It’s believed to be the first time such a ban has been imposed on an apartment block, but the Cancer Council of South Australia is predicting it won’t be the last.
People want more smoke-free areas due to increased awareness of the risks of secondhand smoke, says Professor Brenda Wilson, chief executive of SA’s Cancer Council.
“(The) fact remains that secondhand smoke is harmful,” she was reported as saying. “The level of exposure can determine a person’s risk and you could imagine many would like to have the choice that their home be a safe haven – something that poses quite a challenge in a shared setting such as apartment blocks.”
I used to live in an apartment where secondhand smoke was a daily issue.
My unit was on the first floor and the residents of the unit downstairs would sit outside every night (and probably during the day, but I was never home) and smoke, and really, they may as well have been smoking inside my unit. The smoke would waft right up into my living room. Not only in my living room, it also wafted into my bedroom, because there was a sliding door leading to my balcony that I liked to keep open in that room too.
The only thing you can really do in this situation to keep the smoke out is shut all the doors and windows. Now is that really fair to force someone to do that? I can go out and not have to be subjected to smoke due to laws banning smoking in public, so why should I have to put up with it in my own home?
There were other issues with these same downstairs neighbours when I lived in a unit and one in particular was noise, given that they were prone to having parties. I’m prepared to put up with noise because I think it’s something that can’t be avoided when you live in such close proximity and I am certainly not innocent in that department, having most certainly been guilty of keeping my neighbours up in my younger, partying days.
But smoke is quite another issue, given that it has the potential to either make someone very, very ill, or yes, even kill them. And that’s why I think it most certainly should be banned. In fact, I think banning it is a fantastic idea – the best I’ve heard in a long time.
There are arguments out there, especially from the heads of civil liberty councils, that people should be free to do whatever they want inside their own home and that body corporates shouldn’t have the power to dictate what people are entitled to do within their own lot.
“It’s a slippery slope,” the head of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties Cameron Murphy was reported as saying. “If an owners corporation doesn’t like people cooking because it doesn’t like the smell of cooking wafting from apartment to apartment, will they ban it? Drinking coffee, what you do in the bedroom… will they ban that?”
To put it simply, I think this is ridiculous talk. All body corporates have rules already, such as ‘no pets’, so how is adding something like ‘no smoking’ to those rules really impinging on civil liberties? Everyone knows that when you live in a unit there will be some restrictions and rules you must abide by. I don’t think it’s asking too much to refrain from potentially fatal activities.
Banning smoking in unit blocks would also be extremely beneficial for those with investment properties that are units.
I was recently looking for tenants for my property and was hoping they wouldn’t notice the smoke wafting from downstairs, because surely that would put anyone off. I’m sure if they noticed it, it would detract from the attractiveness of my property.
Another concern I had was that I’d have someone living in my unit who was a smoker. It’s certainly not preferable to me, because I think it’s really difficult to get the smell out of the property. Even if people smoke outside, I think it still wafts inside and gets into everything. If the body corporate was to ban smoking, that’s one less thing I’d have to worry about in terms of damage to my property.
What are your thoughts on this contentious issue? Do you think body corporates should be allowed to ban smoking? And for those with units as investments, would it be something you would welcome, or do you think it could potentially turn tenants off?
Vanessa De Groot is the deputy editor of Australian Property Investor magazine, www.apimagazine.com.au