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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 01/18/2012

The secondhand smoke debate hits home

This week’s real estate cover story unpacks a question that’s sure to ruffle feathers among property-owning smokers and nonsmokers alike: Should homeowners be allowed to smoke in their home if the secondhand smoke bothers neighbors with whom they share common space?

Maryland resident David Schuman says no. The townhouse owner sued Greenbelt Homes Inc., the company that manages the 1,600-unit townhouse development, complaining that his neighbors’ secondhand smoke was creeping into his unit and violating the “nuisance clause” of his mutual ownership contract. In November, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge ruled against Schuman, saying it was a decision that should be left up to lawmakers. Schuman is appealing the ruling.

Schuman’s case is the latest to touch on this murky area of the law that’s shaping up differently in cities around the country. Some courts have said secondhand smoke is a nuisance, while others have found that it’s simply a condition of living in a community environment that residents have to accept.

A bill that Maryland Del. Ben Kramer is poised to introduce this session could clarify the law locally. The proposed legislation would change the “nuisance statute” of mutual ownership contracts to explicitly include secondhand smoke – which could give homeowners such as Schuman a leg up in litigation against cooperatives that they say don’t do enough to solve the nuisance.

What you think, readers? Vote below and tell us more in the comments section. We'll highlight the best comments later this week.

Condo residents take on secondhand smoke

Do you have a real estate law question? Send them to Capital Business legal reporter Catherine Ho at hoc@washpost.com, and stay tuned for a feature we’re launching where we’ll send common reader questions to real estate lawyers and share the answers here on the Where We Live blog.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 01/18/2012

 
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