We have a two-year-old and live near a chain smoker. What can we do about secondhand smoke? Our greatest concern is our baby. – Adam, NSW

Q: Hi. I’m living in a rented apartment in a block in Sydney. We have a two year old. Are there any restrictions on neighbours smoking on balconies? It seems we live near a chain smoker, whose second hand smoke means that we must keep closing windows/balcony doors to avoid inhaling. Obviously, concern is greatest for our baby.

Secondhand smoke is a huge health concern, especially in strata community living where there are infants and young children. The fact is it’s hard to prevent smoke drift from one living space to another in strata apartments as there are common areas and shared walls. Also, every owner has a right to enjoy their property in their own way.

That said, they should be considerate enough to let others also enjoy their property peacefully. With respect to smoke drift, it’s important to clarify where the person is smoking – if they’re doing so within their own private property, its difficult to restrict them. However, if they’re smoking on common property, you may take the help of your committee to offer the following alternatives to the smoker: Option 1: Your owners corporation can allocate specific smoking zones in common areas and put up signages to notify owners about them. These smoke-free zones may be away from residential spaces and other common areas. Option 2: Your owners corporation can allow smokers to continue smoking with the condition that they should ensure smoke doesn’t drift into neighbouring property or common areas and their activities do not cause concerns with neighbours. It may help to speak with your neighbour about the issue first – sometimes an honest, friendly conversation can help solve the issue or they can work up a compromise. You could help them get familiar with your property by-laws if they’re unaware of them. If your by-laws regarding smoking are unclear or inadequate, your owners corporation may choose to adopt a model by-law and include measures to restrict smoking on common property. You can have your by-laws amended by filing a motion in an annual general meeting (AGM) and seeking a decision through special resolution. Read another FAQ answer on smoking in NSW strata communities here. (https://stratafaq.com.au/im-concerned-about-cigarette-smoke-drift-into-my-apartment-what-can-i-do-kane-nsw/). For more information, you may read this article on the importance of following your propert by-laws: https://picagroup.com.au/playing-by-the-rules-vs-breaching-by-laws/