It's My Home, I'll Smoke If I Want To
Where do my rights to do what I want at home begin or end?
This is something that I think holds true whether you own or rent a house or suite in an apartment building. While I should have dominion over my home, there is a range of activities that might infringe on other peoples and some might lead to problems or at least friction.
There are some things that wouldn't be too much problem if you own a house with a yard. For instance smoking cigarettes on your back porch - or pipes or cigars or even hookah. In the city there might be a problem if you start smoking salmon or bacon or game in your backyard on the other hand. It might seem contradictory in that the smoke from a barbecue is not a problem even if that also would fill the neighbourhood with the smell of cooking meat.
Getting back to the "smoking" that same tobacco smoking that is okay on a porch may be an issue on an apartment or condominium balcony or patio because of the intimate nature of the suites where one person's balcony is directly beneath the next's window. I think that at least at the moment things like smoking are governed by leases and strata agreements. That goes for smoking inside the suite as well. In future, it looks like there are leanings in the direction of laws to do with smoking indoors if children live in the home just as there are in more and more places such laws coming into place about smoking in a car if children are passengers.
I think right now that voluntarily and especially if there are lease provisions prohibiting smoking in an apartment people will smoke on the balcony. I think the lease provisions for a large part have to do with the damage that continued smoking has on the suite with regards to the smoke and tar getting into carpets and staining the walls and such where perhaps smokers might not notice the oder but nonsmokers can note it long after a tenant has moved out.
I have heard there also being problems in buildings with central heating where the smoke will travel from suite to suite and that there are also issues to do with fire insurance.
But without there being laws about smoking, and if smoking is allowed in the apartment suites, what about the balconies? Where are your rights if neighbours complain about your smoking on the balcony?
But smoking is a very sticky issue really. What about barbecuing? What about loud conversations on the cordless or cell phone while on the balcony? What about tearing apart go-karts, lawnmowers, or chainsaws - or some other activity that is if not light industrial or commercial borders on it? Do my neighbours have any right to say what activities I do on my balcony or in my living-room?
I think there is a reasonable expectation that we be able to enjoy the place we call home. That being said - if we want to raise sheep, perhaps we should live somewhere with a meadow or field which is safe for sheep.
But we are in transition when it comes to things like smoking. We are going from a time when smoking was considered to be a normal and common thing and where a person would have to seek a place to avoid smoke and smokers to a time when smoking is considered dangerous and where a person has to seek a place where they can smoke.
A lot of what is acceptable has to do with what is acceptable in society, and that is not necessarily talking about whole countries, but even neighbourhoods. In some neighbourhoods having a meat smoker at the back of the yard might be acceptable and the smell of hickory smoke from the smokers on the block would be a welcome homey smell where the same smoker would be something considered nearly an industrial process in another neighbourhood.
Location does have to be kept in mind still as does safety. Tearing apart Harleys in the living room might be okay, but there is an issue perhaps of solvents, oil, and gasoline along perhaps with things like coolant being dangerous in a residential apartment. It might be okay in an apartment garage on-the-other-hand in the same building. Barbecues might be okay in some buildings but it might depend on a barbecue by barbecue basis and balcony by balcony basis. A small propane barbecue on a larger balcony is different from a larger charcoal or wood barbecue on a smaller one. I had one neighbour pumping a whole tin of barbecue lighter fluid - smelled like kerosene - on his large cast iron barbecue. I was 9-12 metres away (30-40 feet) away and was finding the fumes from the lighter fluid overwhelming inside my suite. I think that though perhaps there weren't flames shooting up - perhaps he let the fluid soak well into the briquettes - there is a black sooty smudge on the ceiling of the balcony above. Now the smell might be a nuisance but the fumes and flames are a hazard to the whole building.
But taking away the danger aspect - getting back to things like noisy telephone conversations under neighbour's bedroom windows or cooking weird and wonderful aromatic foods that aren't inter culturally acceptable where does one tenant's right end and the next begin? Since things travel through walls and through windows and around corners can you say at the wall?
A person could always say "If you don't like me as a neighbour, you can always move." But there might always be someone in every group who is stretching the bounds and hence no matter where you go there would be someone stretching those bounds if there aren't boundaries set. I don't know that I am wise enough to set those boundaries, but I am curious as to what they currently are.