Some D.C. area homeowners are going to extremes to avoid their neighbors who smoke. A Washington advocacy group says its phones are ringing off the hook with complaints from people worried about exposure to second- hand smoke.
Matt and Cara Daggett have not lived at home for five months.
“It was getting so bad it was disrupting our sleep, we were having headaches, nausea,” said Alexandria, Va. resident Cara Daggett.
Strong second hand smoke from a neighbor’s condo and news that they were expecting another child sent the Daggett family packing last year.
“I'm pregnant. All I want to be doing is nesting in my house, making a nursery. I don't want to be spending my money on this or my time or my stress,” Cara Daggett said.
The Daggetts tried talking to the smoker next door and they argued before the condo board that smoking violated the association's nuisance clause. When that didn't work...they turned to attorney J.P. Szymkowicz.
“Because smoking is a legal activity, condo boards are hesitant to tell someone they can't smoke in their own house,” said attorney Szymkowicz.
Szymkowicz represents a growing number of clients like the Daggetts, arguing that second hand smoke is a health hazard.
The Surgeon General reports, second hand smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, heart disease and lung cancer.
“When it comes to poisoning your neighbors, it's not okay,” said Angela Bradbery of Smokefree D.C.
Smokefree D.C.’s Angela Bradbery encourages property managers to make their buildings smoke-free.
“I think people are becoming aware that they have the right to breathe clean air in their own apartment,” Bradberry said.
Landlords Kassi Saridakis and Pete Barbera got the condo board rules changed after their tenant complained of second hand smoke.
“Their right to smoke basically stops at the walls,” said D.C. condo owner Kassi Saridakis.
The ordeal cost $4,000 but the building now bans most smokers.
“The initial challenge was just raising our hand and saying, hey, this can't be right,” said D.C. condo owner Pete Barbera.
Their baby is due in June, but the Daggetts say they won't move back home until the smoking stops.
Smokers in situations likes these have argued that they have the right to do what they want in their own home. But, Maryland recently introduced a bill that would make smoking a nuisance, clarifying that grey area in many condo association rules.