QMy fiance and I rent a condo in an eight-story high rise. Our bedroom window is very close to someone else's patio. This person smokes like a chimney and is constantly going outside to smoke. We can hear (and feel) the patio door opening and closing, and this happens from 5 a.m. until very late at night. Because our neighbor sits on the patio to smoke, we can never leave our bedroom window open (or any window, for that matter) because the smoke wafts in immediately.
We would like to address this, but we're not sure how. Obviously, people have the right to smoke, so how can we politely tell our neighbor that the smoke is bothering us without infringing upon smoking rights? Should we leave a note or do it in person? -- Arlington
AI think it is time to meet the smoker who seemingly invades your space. My first suggestion is to introduce yourself to your neighbors because knowing everyone who lives around you is important, if only for safety purposes. Doing so will also allow you to discuss issues that disrupt your home life, including the smoke that constantly comes from next door.
Chances are that your neighbor does not realize how her smoke is affecting her neighbors' lives. She doesn't have to alter her actions because smoking on a balcony is not against the law, but she may become more sensitive about her actions depending on the kind of person she is. After you chat about the poor construction of an apartment building that places one person's patio door against another's window, you may mention that you are peeved by secondhand smoke.
Don't approach the subject in a confrontational manner. Blame your complaints on the way the building is set up rather than what you may view as your neighbor's bad habit. Perhaps ask your neighbor if there is any way to minimize her smoke impact on fellow apartment dwellers, perhaps by directing her smoke away from you or opening and closing the patio door more quietly. Be understanding if your neighbor thinks changing her habits is an improbable request.
See how your neighbor reacts to the conversation, but do not expect a drastic change. Smoke manages to find a way to waft into open holes easily. The normal response to controlling secondhand smoke from adjacent apartments is to close off any gaps and cracks in the walls, under doors or through electrical outlets, telephone and cable apertures, door latches and vents. You can also ask building maintenance workers to check on the building's ventilation system and change, clean or upgrade existing air filters. Improved ventilation may reduce secondhand smoke lingering in the air. Buying an air filter, purifier or scrubber that uses HEPA filters (short for high-efficiency particulate air) may help, too, because these devices help pull impurities out of the air.
The key is to cut off smoke odors at the source, so in this case, closing the windows is probably the best way to keep the smoke out. Ask your landlord to assist you. Because secondhand smoke inhalation could potentially harm your health, your landlord should consider allowing you to change apartments if the problems persist after you do your best to block the smoke.
Sometimes the best way to truly breathe, sleep and live better in an apartment is to move to another unit or building. Such is the luck of the draw when you live around strangers who may not share your lifestyle.
Your recent discussions about apartment laundry room etiquette were most informative; however, I believe the situation in the building in which I live presents a unique problem. A restaurant around the corner is using the laundry room to wash its vast collection of tablecloths and towels! The restaurant's owner used to live here, but I am told that now he subleases his unit and rents two other units in the building for his employees. Tenants are prohibited from installing personal washers and dryers in their units.
Employees of the restaurant dominate the laundry room. Our manager has told me, and other tenants, that higher management has "an arrangement" and that the employees have been asked not to use more than five machines if anyone else is waiting and not to do laundry on weekends.
While attempting to do laundry one recent afternoon, I found two washing machines being used as lunch tables while the restaurant employees ran loads in at least six other washing machines and numerous dryers. Our folding table was covered with folded tablecloths and towels, and the sinks overflowed with wet tablecloths that trailed onto the floor. When I returned several days later, one of the women had apparently just arrived with three enormous laundry bags that completely blocked the room's doorway.
Apart from the obvious inconvenience to tenants who pay steep rents to live here, is this situation sanitary? What do you suggest? -- Washington
Washing clothes and linens is typically sanitary, assuming people don't drop items on the floor during the process. But the issue here seems to be one of laundry room access rather than one of whether or not the restaurant's washing practices are sanitary.
What you need to do is petition the building owner, who owns the laundry facility, to stop allowing non-residents to use the laundry room and ask the residents not to use the facilities for their commercial loads. Find other people in the building who are equally annoyed by the volume of laundry that the restaurant brings, and organize a group to help you address the problem. Write a letter to the management and the higher management you cited, and get as many residents to sign as you can.
Restaurant employees should find another place to do commercial laundry, such as a nearby coin-operated laundry. If higher management remains unresponsive to residents' concerns, then you and your neighbors could take a stand against the unfair laundry agreement by going elsewhere. The alternatives may not be many, and it certainly would entail even more of an effort than waiting for on-site machines to become free, but taking this kind of action is likely to put some pressure on building management to change its laundry room policy. At the very least, it would help you negotiate a compromise that puts tenants' interests first.
Building owners who favor laundry rooms over in-unit hookups do so to keep utility bills down and to make additional revenue. If their pocketbooks start getting hit, landlords who initially ignored residents' concerns are sure to take notice.
Do you have questions, comments or ideas about apartment life? Contact Sara Gebhardt via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail, c/o Real Estate Editor, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.