Second-hand or passive smoking, causes adverse health effects — including cancer — and any level of exposure is unsafe.
While single dwellings or private homes are often separate, second-hand smoke can drift from one property to another through windows, doors, vents and other openings. Issues can worsen when neighbours smoke close to the boundary between two properties.
Smoke drift can impede people’s right to breathe clean air in their home and is often a cause of tension or disputes among neighbours.
How to address second-hand smoke in a single dwelling?
Unlike apartment complexes, strata title properties and retirement villages, there are no governing regulations to protect single dwelling residents from second-hand smoke exposure.
However, there are ways you can try to address the issue:
1. Speak to your neighbour
Ask your neighbour politely to smoke somewhere that does not impact you. You can do this in person or by writing a letter. Be sure to explain how it’s impacting your health and wellbeing and provide suggestions on where they can smoke where it won’t affect neighbouring properties. While councils have limited power to address second-hand smoke, it is worth raising the issue with them so they are aware.
2. Report the issue to your local council
If you have tried speaking with the neighbour and the issue isn’t resolved, report it to your local council. Second-hand smoke is a nuisance and a hazard and should be treated the same as noise complaints. You can also try contacting your local health district to see if they can help resolve the issue.
3. Contact the property manager
If the neighbour is renting, they need to abide by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and not “interfere, or cause or permit any interference, with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of any neighbour of the tenant”. In this case, report the second-hand smoke issue with the property manager, real estate agent or landlord.
It is important to note that any action pursued through the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 needs to be between the landlord and tenant. Unfortunately, as a neighbour you do not have rights under this act, but it is worth contacting the landlord or managing agent so they can raise the issue with the tenant.
If the landlord or managing agent are willing to cooperate, they could issue the tenant with letter asking them to stop smoking where it impacts neighbours. If the nuisance smoking continues, they could choose to not renew the lease or pursue further action through Fair Trading or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
4. Seek legal advice
If you are unable to resolve the issue, you may wish to seek legal advice. Unfortunately, due to lack of legislation protecting residents of private homes from second-hand smoke, there may be limited avenues to pursue. Legal advice can also be costly so it’s important to consider this.
If you have any questions about second-hand smoke in single dwellings, please contact the Tobacco Control Unit. Please note, our team does not have any legal expertise and cannot provide legal advice.