Legal Options for Tenants Suffering from Drifting Tobacco Smoke

Legal Options for Tenants Suffering from Drifting Tobacco Smoke

A fact sheet about legal claims

If tobacco smoke frequently drifts into your apartment from a neighboring unit, causing you illness or discomfort, you might wonder whether you can take legal action. Suing your neighbor or landlord is an option, but it should be your last resort. Lawsuits are time-consuming, expensive, and contentious—and the outcome is always uncertain. In a lawsuit on drifting tobacco smoke in an apartment building, the result is especially unpredictable because very few cases (and no state laws) are directly relevant.

Before suing, you should try to reach an agreement with your neighbor to limit where and when they smoke. You could also ask your landlord or property manager to make specific areas of the building smokefree. In addition, you could work to pass a law in your community to address the problem of drifting smoke in multiunit residences. If these approaches fail, you might even consider moving.

If you reach the point where a lawsuit seems to be your only option, review the considerations in this updated fact sheet by ChangeLab Solutions, which explains how to evaluate your case, what types of claims might be relevant, and differences between trial court and small claims court. The fact sheet also includes a glossary of legal claims and relevant case law from various jurisdictions.

We are grateful to the California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program, for continuing to fund this work! Download the fact sheet below, and be sure to check out our other resources on secondhand smoke. Contact us to learn more, subscribe to our news updates, and support our work!