Join 3,503 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How to survive a smoking household as a non-smoker?
November 1, 2011 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I've moved into a new shared-house living situation, and contrary to what the live-in manager explicitly told me, the roomies smoke cigarettes in the house. I'm not a smoker and tobacco smoke really bothers me. What to do?

I've just started renting one room of a multi-bedroom house in Seattle where I have three other roommates, the landlord and two others. I specifically asked the landlord if anybody smoked tobacco before signing the lease, and he said no. I did not, however, get that in writing. The lease is only for six months, after which I'm out of here, but I'm wondering what my options are in the interim.

I found the landlord's girlfriend smoking in the living room the day I moved my stuff in, and since then I've found one of the other roomies smoking cigs in the living room too. I'm not there that often, so I don't know if I just happen to show up when they're smoking or if this is a regular thing, but it seems to be the latter. I don't think they're chain-smoking, it seems to be one or two at a time and the smell mostly clears out in a few hours, but I really don't like the smell of cigarettes and I really don't like the thought of it getting in all my clothes and gear. The smell doesn't get into my room too much because I've closed off the heating vent and my room is in the far back corner of the house, but I'm worried that as the days get colder there's going to be more and more indoor smoking and less and less ventilation in this place. I've emailed the landlord about it but gotten no response (he's out of town). I haven't confronted the roommates yet because I've only met them once each and didn't want to start a confrontation within five minutes of meeting them.

1) Is there any way to keep the cigarette smell out of my room and out of all of my stuff as I ride out the six months and look for a better situation?

2) Do I have any legal recourse for getting my non-refundable deposit back if I break the lease and leave early?

3) Any other suggestions for managing this situation?

Demographic info: all-male household, 20s to early 30s. Finances: The money is probably a bigger deal for them than it is for me.
posted by hackwolf to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You can speak to the landlord about the cigarette smoking. Tell him that you have allergies to it and it's difficult for you to breathe when there is cigarette smoking. Remind him of the written agreement in the lease. Perhaps suggest that everyone please smoke outside, you're not asking them to quit smoking.

If that doesn't work, tell him it's a breach of contract and ask that everyone please adhere to the contract.

It's not easy to quarantine smoke. Like air, it will simply drift through cracks and crevices. You can try having a air purifier run 24/7 in your room to prevent all of the contents from getting smoke. It may work well if you get a good one.

Good luck!!
posted by Yellow at 3:10 PM on November 1, 2011


Ask him to get let you out of the lease. Tell him it's not going to work for you, and he and you would be better off with another tenant. Unless it's hard to find renters in Seattle, he shouldn't have a problem with this. You could even offer to pay his Craigslist advertising fees.

I don't see how asking everyone who already lives there to change their habits is going to work for you or them.
posted by cnc at 3:13 PM on November 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


Don't tell him you're allergic if you're not, he will know and you'll come off as a manipulative dick and will lose the moral high ground. Just say that you don't want to live in a house with cigarettes and that was the agreement and this situation doesn't work for you. Hell probably be fine with letting you move after one month.
posted by fshgrl at 3:18 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remind him of the written agreement in the lease.

The OP says: "I specifically asked the landlord if anybody smoked tobacco before signing the lease, and he said no. I did not, however, get that in writing."

Hackwolf, if they are only smoking when the LL is not there, they may have an unofficial house-policy of sneaky smoking when he's not around.
posted by K.P. at 3:23 PM on November 1, 2011


If they are only smoking when the landlord is not there, it can still be smelled all over the house. Clearly the landlord must not give a shit. Especially if his girlfriend is one of the culprits.

I'd say try to talk people into being outdoor smokers (I have lived with outdoor smokers who also hated the smell of indoor smoke, and it was pretty much like living with a nonsmoker), but it sounds like you're in the minority here, and if the landlord lied to you about this, you may not have much sway. I think I agree with cnc.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:38 PM on November 1, 2011


I knew going in that there were smokers in the house, and that doesn't bother me, but the quote from the landlord when I asked was "no smoking tobacco indoors, ask anybody you see doing it to stop". Which I will in the future, but I'm not sure how far it's going to get me.

K.P.: The fact that the landlord's girlfriend was doing it too makes me think it's not even that sneaky and the landlord maybe just hoped I wouldn't mind it sometimes. The roommates I feel like I've got some sort of parity with, but in any disagreement between me and the landlord's S.O. about what she did/didn't do, I'm pretty sure going to lose.

I'm kind of leaning towards the GTFO solution, but the check for first, last and a deposit has already been cashed, and I'd really prefer not to lose that if I don't have to.
posted by hackwolf at 3:45 PM on November 1, 2011


If I were you, I'd get lots of weather-stripping/tape/such for your door and vents and just seal the crap out of them. Open windows when you are out and the weather allows it.
posted by ooklala at 3:45 PM on November 1, 2011


"no smoking tobacco indoors, ask anybody you see doing it to stop"

This is bullshit for him to put it on you. This is his job if he's telling prospective tenants that the smoking isn't happening. "Dude, your girlfriend."
posted by rhizome at 3:57 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Tenants Union of Washington State has a tenant's rights hotline at the top of the page and an office in Seattle. Call tomorrow, or wait until next week.
Tenants’ Rights Hotline
10am-12:30pm Mon, Tues, Wed
Call 206-723-0500

Walk In Hours
1:30-4pm Mon, Tues, Wed

Tenants Union Office
5425 B Rainier Avenue S
Seattle, WA
You will probably have to try for a friendly negotiation with the LL and housemates though. Your housemates might be surprisingly flexible (when I smoked I didn't mind when our non-smoking-95%-of-the-time house became 100% non-smoking). Or you might find just a little bit doesn't bother you (after I quit, I didn't notice my housemate chainsmoking by an open window in their bedroom).
posted by K.P. at 4:42 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next time, if it's that important, get it in writing. I'm betting that since they don't appear to be chain-smokers, they probably don't really consider themselves smokers. IANAL(awyer) or a L(andlord) but the fact that it's not in the lease and the landlord's own girlfriend is doing it [and doesn't apparently live there] means that you are highly unlikely to get your deposit back. I don't think trying to keep the smoke out of your room and belongings is a good use of your time. It's damn near impossible, for one.

You could try asking them politely if they would mind keeping the smoking outside of the house, making it very clear that the smoke bothers you a lot and that it was your understanding that it was a no-smoking home. (If they respond with hostility to a politely worded request, you have a different problem.) I would have done this before emailing the landlord actually. Still, your landlord might turn out to be sympathetic if it's going on outside of his presence... or if he really wants to keep your rental income. If he's not, try to negotiate your way out of the lease. You might try a tenant's association for more specific advice on that.
posted by sm1tten at 4:46 PM on November 1, 2011


I've lived in an apartment where roommates only smoked near open windows, and while I occasionally smelled it a bit near the doors in my room, it really had no effect on my stuff. They might not totally mind making that change, so I'd definitely ask them first and then take more action if they seem to need to smoke out in the open.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:51 PM on November 1, 2011


stoneandstar: "I've lived in an apartment where roommates only smoked near open windows, and while I occasionally smelled it a bit near the doors in my room, it really had no effect on my stuff. They might not totally mind making that change, so I'd definitely ask them first and then take more action if they seem to need to smoke out in the open."

The thing is, even non smokers start to become inured to the smell of cigarette smoke pretty quickly. After 2 or 3 months, the OP will probably no longer be able to tell if his stuff smells like smoke. He'll just have to take it as a given, because believe me other people will notice. My parents smoked while I was growing up, and I couldn't smell the smoke smell in my clothes and hair because I was so desensitized to it by living in it. But I got constantly asked by teachers, friends, and friend's parents if I smoked, because they could smell it on my clothes.

I definitely think you should try asking your roommates to please smoke outside while you're living there. Explain that the Landlord told you that smoking would be an outside activity, and that you only plan to live there until your lease runs out, so they'll only have to change their habits for a short period of time. And of course, keep your word and move out when the lease is out.

If you meet resistance, then I would go to trying to negotiate your way out of the lease with the landlord.

If that doesn't work, just try to ride it out and move out when your lease is up. And to be honest, when you're looking for a new place, don't consent to live with smokers, period. The plain fact is that people who smoke aren't going to want to go outside to smoke all the time, even if they're very nice and generally accommodating to non smoking people.
posted by katyggls at 5:15 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just ask, don't come off as a whiny, but bring it up with the landlord and tenants. I am a smoker and even I don't like smoking in houses, even when its permitted. It just becomes stale and nasty.

I don't think most smokers would mind. I could be wrong, but most of the time, smokers will forgo and go outside. Hell, even I don't smoke in my car if I know its bothersome to someone in the vehicle.

Can't hurt to ask both landlord and tenants. Just be polite, not a anti-smoking dick, but point out its bothersome to your health.
posted by handbanana at 5:18 PM on November 1, 2011


I would try to establish friendly relations with the other tenants, and then ask them, as a favor, if they could keep the smoking outside or limit it to certain areas. If the lease doesn't say that they can't smoke, then you don't really have the right to tell them to stop, so your best bet is to create a situation where they like you and want to make your life easier.

For this to work, you're going to need to accept the current level of in-house smoking for at least two weeks. You should get to know them a little bit before making this request.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:35 PM on November 1, 2011


katyggls, I grew up in a house with smokers too, and I know what you mean (I was shocked when one of my friends borrowed my copy of Les Miserables and deduced from the smell of the pages that my parents smoked). But I moved out of that apartment a few months ago, I don't currently smoke, and I'm 100% sure that my stuff doesn't smell like smoke. If they're just sitting around chainsmoking in the vicinity of a window that probably won't help, but if they smoke out the window in their bedrooms it might not even be noticeable.

Also, I have at various times in my life been a smoker, and I've never had a problem smoking outside. My stubborn 50-year-old uncles do, but most younger people I know have no problem with it (especially since apartments in a lot of states don't allow smoking indoors anyhow). Obviously this is a less than ideal situation for the OP, but I don't think asking the roommates first is such a bad idea.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:56 PM on November 1, 2011


Oops, I didn't mean to imply there were statewide apartment smoking bans, just that non-smoking apartments are becoming more popular.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:00 PM on November 1, 2011


I've emailed the landlord about it but gotten no response (he's out of town). I haven't confronted the roommates yet because I've only met them once each and didn't want to start a confrontation within five minutes of meeting them....

the quote from the landlord when I asked was "no smoking tobacco indoors, ask anybody you see doing it to stop"


In dealing with other human beings, the first step should always be talking to them directly. Escalating to the landlord (teacher, boss, mom) should be something you do only if you don't get satisfaction with direct communication.

Communication ≠ confrontation. You walk into your smoke-free house and someone's smoking? First thing you do is say "whoa, can you take that cigarette outside? Landlord assured me this was a smoke-free house!" And proceed from there. Either the landlord gave you conflicting info, or the person is flouting the rules, or something else is up, but without talking directly to the person, you don't know.
posted by headnsouth at 4:00 AM on November 2, 2011


« Older I'm leading an innovation sess...   |  Rewards for AmEx card now suck... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.