Stinky Smoke Protected by Mean Girl Manager
May 31, 2020 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Our apartment manager is a little drunk with power as she openly defends growers and smokers of "skunk pot" in our ancient building with antiquated ventilation. Many of our neighbors are suffering yet everyone is afraid of her. What are our options in a legalized state and how best deal with a manager who sees no inconsistency in libertarian views that don't include a renter's right to breathe clean air?

We live in a fifty year-old apartment building in the middle of an intentional, conservation-oriented community comprised of apartments, condos, and some single-family homes. Our building has only two vents for 100 units so we know when anyone in our wing is having cauliflower for dinner or changing scented kitty-litter. An engineer neighbor has expressed concern that we're also breathing one-another's germs. We've accepted these intimacies with our beighbors but we're struggling with the increasing intrusion of skunk pot smell several times each day, for 30-40 minutes each time. It comes in through primarily through the plumbing holes in the walls whenever a grower turns on a grow light, fan and when they smoke. We know of at least 2 users on each floor. Often the lobby is so filled with it that we have to hold our breath while we get our mail and wait for the elevator. In our home we have three good air purifiers with carbon and HEPA filter but even with these turned full on we often have to wear our face masks to fix dinner or use the bathroom.

This manager militantly supports both tobacco and pot and she adopts a stance of superiority when discussing our plight both with us and when speaking about us to maintenance staff. Though we voted for legalization (we had no clue at the time that such an offensive flavor exists) and we've tried to cope with this for more than a year on our own she portrays us as hyper-sensitive, intolerant, and generally un-cool--a quality she cannot abide. In casual conversations with neighbors we've met at least ten who are extremely bothered by the smell, one who may not renew her lease because of it alone. Because our manager is seen as a kind of "mean girl" these neighbors--many of whom are elderly and on a limited budget--are afraid to report any issues. When we must report a problem we adopt a sort of triage attitude and aesthetics take a back seat to safety.

The manager also plays favorites with "cool" (smoking) neighbors treated as personal friends (facebook). Sadly, she's not above lying. When she said she's certain that no one is growing because she's inspected every apartment we cited a neighbor we know for a fact is growing. She just glared back before making a joke about her regret over taking our meeting. She knew it's illegal to smoke outside within a certain number of feet yet she refuses to inform a favorite of this fact.

We're doing all we can on our own including filling plumbing holes with foam and supplying better furnace filters. Our manager pushed back even on the latter which confirms her bias since she has nothing to loose. We'd like to create an entertaining little flyer to let our smoking neighbors know some of us are bothered and to ask them to consider more edibles, their own purifiers, etc. A more popular neighbor warns us that the manager would not approve of this initiative. We've tended to be people-pleasers slow to claim our space. We don't want to do anything inappropriate or intrusive while at the same time we see this as an opportunity to do our own work, be the change... Any insights concerning this and any other ideas would be a big help. To smoking Mefites who feel an impulse to defend your way kindly consider that our ask is about balancing a preponderance of that energy already present in the situation. This is something we're breathing in, living in, without none of the benefits. Medical history makes a "join them" approach impossible. One of us is disabled with lung damage not from smoking and we've already had to explain the smell in our clothing to a nurse. For now we just want to go about our lives without the almost constant smell of rancid skunk and the stuffy nose and difficulty breathing.
posted by rcMAC to Home & Garden (11 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- LobsterMitten

Best answer: I don't see a win here. You should move.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:31 AM on May 31, 2020 [43 favorites]

Best answer: Who hired the manager / who is paying her? Appeal to that person and find a new manager?

Create a 'board' for the apartment building with president, vp, etc., who can have some power against the manager. The board should represent the residents.
posted by hydra77 at 11:49 AM on May 31, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Only recourse here I see is if you know who the building owners are. She works for somebody. If the owners (and this may be a company president or board, if it's not a private individual) are of a similar mindset this won't help. If not, a heads up that their property is being managed in this fashion may help.

[on edit: yes, there should be a tenants' association, and if there isn't one, this is a great time to create one.]
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:50 AM on May 31, 2020 [6 favorites]

If there are, as you say, at least two per floor who either grow, smoke or both, and there are say at least 10 floors to the building, you will never succeed in ridding the building of this issue. Here is why. There are 2 vents for 100 units. Every smell, odor, fragrance, etc wafts from apartment to apartment so much so that there is even an argument to me made that you are all sharing germs. Retrofitting an HVAC system in an older building is expensive, time consuming and logistically a nightmare. So, the only option is to get ALL 20 apartments (2 per floor, 10 floors (my assumption)) to stop using and/or growing. It sounds as if even if you are successful in getting 90%, 18 units, to stop, those other two units will never change and they can send the smell throughout the building wing. Actually all you need is ONE non-compliant person to make this a continuing issue.

I would move or find a way (unknown to me at this time) to seal your own apartment off from the rest of the building. You certainly are not going to change the BM attitude and actions. If you had the manager on your side, she would still have to struggle everyday with enforcement. With private apartments, enforcement is reactionary and difficult at best.
posted by AugustWest at 12:10 PM on May 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: If you don’t want to move and don’t mind escalating at risk of incurring rent increases (or fee increases if you own) and more flak from the manager: has someone looked into any potentially applicable state or local codes on ventilation? While, yes, enforcement is not a guarantee, the size of your building could make it a good “target” if you or others affected want to go that route.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 12:56 PM on May 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The owners who employ that manager will not care about this until enough people leave that the vacancy starts to hurt them financially. As long as she is keeping units filled, collecting rent on time, and not coming to them asking for lots of $$ to fix issues or damages, they do not care. They probably cannot afford to or do not want to update the HVAC retroactively.

If I were you, I would move and look for a smaller apartment building, or a duplex, townhome, or single family home where you share ventilation with as few people as possible and aren't dependent on one manager's preferences to make sure you can breathe clean air. Enforcement is nearly impossible in situations like this due to the number of tenants - even she wanted to find all the smokers and shame them, that would be very hard for her to do as one person.

Newer townhome developments are being designed to have totally separate utilities and HVAC, even ones with attached buildings/party walls, so if there's any newer housing stock in your area, I'd look at those places first.

If you cannot move for whatever reason, go to the hardware store and get magnetic vent covers for all your vents. Get a foam tube or door snake for your front door. Try to heat and cool your place using space heaters and a window AC if possible (not sure if your climate will allow this). If the building manager has a problem with you installing a window AC, that's when you remind her of the disability and what fair housing law has to say about disabled tenants making minor modifications to their units to enable them to live there.
posted by zdravo at 4:27 PM on May 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Move. Even without the weed smoke, the 2 vents and shared HVAC system is going to make living in that building uncomfortable for anyone with a sensitive nose.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:10 PM on May 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There may be several tenants who qualify for free legal assistance due to age, income, and/or disability, as well as the potential health code and habitability issues, so you and/or other tenants may want to consider getting a lawyer, at least for a consultation about your rights and options.
posted by katra at 8:41 PM on May 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

One of the problems you will face is that this is an issue of competing needs. If you’re in a state with legalization of pot, then at least some of the people using it may be using it for medical purposes, probably anxiety and depression, which are disabilities. You can have no-tobacco-smoking rules, but you can’t have no-pot-smoking rules in a legalized state for this reason.

People using skunk pot in states with legalization are using it because of the cost. There will be no benefit in fun infographics about edibles. I think most people are aware that edibles, vaping, etc are superior in many ways to smoking bad pot. But these things are really expensive. We live in a legal state and I had a visitor who went and got a vape pen of it - it’s shockingly expensive. Purifiers likewise are pretty expensive.

I really think moving is your best bet. There’s no way for this to be fixed other than things that are too expensive to do to the building and which probably can’t be done during the pandemic.
posted by corb at 1:46 AM on June 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Long term it sounds like you have to move, but short term, maybe you can approach the smoking neighbors and ask them to use a sploof. IF you explain you have a lung condition and maybe even give them a pack of dryer sheets they might be receptive. It won't get rid of everything, but maybe it will help?
posted by WeekendJen at 1:11 PM on June 1, 2020

Response by poster: We used all our resources to move here, won't be able to move again for some time. We're all poor here which is one reason we wouldn't dream of asking anyone to not smoke. We've hoped only for as much mitigation as is practicable.
posted by rcMAC at 4:07 PM on June 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older How to discretely track iPhone for at-risk...   |   How to reclaim some backyard space from ivy, rocks... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.