A chain smoker resides in balcony underneath our apartment and smoke has been pouring into our apartment via the balcony. What can I do? – VIC, Sasa

Q: Chain smoker resides in balcony underneath our apartment, ever since they moved in smoke has been pouring into our apartment via the balcony (it seeps in regardless if balcony is closed). We can’t use our balcony because of it. I’ve written a letter to the neighbour as I don’t have access to their floor to ask them politely to stop. What can I do? I reside in VIC.

A: This sounds very frustrating and, unfortunately, a not-uncommon one within strata living. As a basis for your position, Rule 1.4 of the Model Rules provided by the Regulations of the Owners Corporations Act in Victoria state that;

1.4 Smoke penetration

A lot owner or occupier in a multi-level development must ensure that smoke caused by the smoking of tobacco or any other substance by the owner or occupier, or any invitee of the owner or occupier, on the lot does not penetrate the common property or any other lot.

Also, per the Act, all owners and occupiers (tenants) are required to comply with the Model Rules.

In almost all instances of dispute within community living, the ideal place to start is a conversation. The neighbour seems to be ignoring or not receiving your written requests, and as you can’t access them directly, being on different floors, your next recourse should be to the strata manager.

Contact your strata manager and advise them of the situation, requesting that they contact the responsible neighbouring lot and advise those occupants of their duty to comply with this rule. Should this fail to be effective, you should consider lodging a formal complaint with the owners corporation. Your manager will be able to provide both the form and advise of the process involving the grievance meeting to follow the submission of the complaint, should it come to this. Usually, the initial contact by the manager will illicit improved behaviour once the occupiers are aware of their obligations and the breach they are causing.