He's a smoker, he's a toker . . .
June 6, 2008 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Inveterate cannabis smoker as a tenant. Other tenants complaining of smoke that befouls the hallways and apartment above. As landlord, what should I do?

I'm somewhat of a consumer of the evil weed myself, both medicinally and recreationally, so I'm loath to "narc" the tenant to the fuzz, or hand him his eviction papers for toking up.

However, I gave him my landlord speech and asked that he find a way to confine the smoke to his apartment. The problem is, if he smokes near the door of his apartment, the hallway smells like weed, and if he smokes near the window, the upstairs tenant (who has complained in the past) is subject to fumes. Classic catch 22.

The tenant is an older gentleman who I doubt would be receptive to the idea of buying a vaporizer. He seems set in his ways.

My super and prop. manager are urging me to call the police. I'm afraid I'll have to do that, and move ahead with an eviction, if he doesn't respond to repeated warnings.

Are there any ways by which the tenant could confine the smoke to his apartment, other than buying a vaporizer or consuming his weed as space cakes?

If these measures fail (or are refused), what are my options--and legal obligations--vis-a-vis calling the police and moving ahead with an eviction?
posted by Gordion Knott to Work & Money (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Three ingredients:

1) Cardboard from a toilet paper roll.
2) Sheet of fabric softener.
3) Rubber band.

Replace fabric softener every 2 to 16 weeks as needed.
posted by farishta at 6:25 AM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, farishta, awesome. My first thought was relatively sealed room (bathroom?) venting through a charcoal air filter, but that's obviously an expensive and time consuming setup. Way to know the inexpensive workaround.

It doesn't sound like you've asked him about getting a vaporizer. If the choices are vaporizer, no smoking in his apartment, or eviction, one would think he would at least try it.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:37 AM on June 6, 2008

Three ingredients:

1) Cardboard from a toilet paper roll.
2) Sheet of fabric softener.
3) Rubber band.

As almost any former college Resident Assistant can tell you, that doesn't work nearly as well as the user thinks it does...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:38 AM on June 6, 2008 [4 favorites]

Yes, it is called a HEPA filter air purifier. Have him purchase one and use it.
posted by Gungho at 6:39 AM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Take a damp towel and put it under the door. Or, and maybe even as the landlord you can do this and write if off as home improvement -- get his door really good weather stripping. Both like the bottom rubber stripping as well as the insulated padding for the sides and top where the door meets the frame.

I second the HEPA filter, but like the Spoof (what we called the paper towel roll and dryer sheets in college) it has issues -- it takes time to work.. so that immediate toke is still gonna smell. It will mitigate the lingering reek though.

Being an apartment smoker myself, I think sealing the door is key. Then you just hotbox your apt and open the window later. Drafts are killers and will suck the smell right into the hallway.
posted by judge.mentok.the.mindtaker at 6:46 AM on June 6, 2008

As almost any former college Resident Assistant can tell you, that doesn't work nearly as well as the user thinks it does...

It was you! You're right, NMRN, it is definitely a blunt method, but maybe enough to make a difference. It notably reduces the potency of the smell, but you still have to get rid of the air, so it helps if you breathe through such a contraption and into a bathroom exhaust fan, air filter, or out of a window. In my limited experience, this combination eliminates the smell almost completely.

Like Derive said, if the option is vaporizer or eviction, he'll probably go with vaporizer. They're more efficient and come in plenty of easy-to-use forms. I think I've even seen some in the form of glass tubes that hit like a cigarette. If he's not down with that, and he already has a bong, he could buy a heat gun and use that instead of fire for the same effect.
posted by farishta at 6:51 AM on June 6, 2008

don't call the police on him! that's a buzz kill

an ex roommate of mine ( he was a nerd ) constructed a rectangular pipe heading out a window ( sealed with garbage bags taped tightly) consisting of shoe boxes, drink cases and various cut up boxes leading all the way through the kitchen (all sealed with duct tape in the connections) to a large box which was large enough to stand up in ( i think it was a box from a fridge with extensions ) and he had another small fan cut into the wall blowing air into it. It had a full door that suctioned closed and worked great !
posted by 0.0.0 at 7:25 AM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is there a problem with him going somewhere outside for his toke, like being too close to nearby buildings? It may not be always convenient, like if it's raining or winter, but might help mitigate some of the inner apartment issues, and I would think more pleasant for him than some of the other suggestions. Where do the local kids go to smoke-up...
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:33 AM on June 6, 2008

As the landlord I don't think it's wise to give him advice as to how to get rid of the smoke. That advice could come back to bite you in the ass. Just tell him flat out that he has to stop toking in the apt, period. Mention that there have been complaints and you can't stop the people who have been giving those complaints from calling the cops. Also tell him that if there are more complaints he has to go, whether you sympathize or not.

I can sympathize with the guy but he is better off finding a safe spot away from the apt to light up.
posted by JJ86 at 7:48 AM on June 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

While I agree that it should be legalized, your responsibilities as a landlord have to trump your attitudes toward the devil weed. Any implication that you are abetting the use of illegal drugs on your property could land you in big trouble.

That said, I don't see anything wrong with making sure the guy's apartment has proper ventilation- for cigar smoke and cooking odors, etc.
posted by gjc at 7:49 AM on June 6, 2008

One thing to keep in mind, is that in some areas, a property can be seized if it is used in drug offenses. Is keeping this tenant worth losing your building? Yes, I agree that it's over kill for a couple of spliffs, but it's something you should be aware of when making your decisions. If one of your other tenants decides you're not doing it and calls the police, you can end up holding the short end of the roach.
posted by Morydd at 7:53 AM on June 6, 2008

and if he smokes near the window, the upstairs tenant (who has complained in the past) is subject to fumes

That tenant must have a moral objection, because it couldn't be that strong. The toker had better be careful as a tenant above like that is likely to call the cops on his or her own. I agree with JJ86, it is not your job, or even a good idea, for you to find a technical solution. You should ask him to find a way to not annoy the neighbors or move out.
posted by caddis at 7:54 AM on June 6, 2008

The cardboard tube (coke bottle, etc) + dry softener is cute, but the answer is Ozium. This product is a bacterial air sanitizer that actually eats smoke, rather than just covering it up like Lysol and other such products do. You only need to spray it in arc for about one or two seconds and it will clean out an entire room within a minute or so. The stuff is cheap, too- about $7 for a good sized canister that will last for weeks or months depending on usage. If sprayed in a room shortly after someone starts smoking it will keep the smoke contained. Spray once after sparking and once when you're done and you more than likely won't continue to have this problem.

JJ86 is right that there's some potential liability on your party if you out and out tell the guy how to go about getting away with it, but at the same time you can probably get away with just giving him a canister of it and maybe discreetly slipping him some instructions.
posted by baphomet at 7:57 AM on June 6, 2008

What does the guy's lease contain? Is smoking (cigarettes) allowed in the apartments? If so, the other tenants should expect to deal with smoke and maybe it is their problem. Maybe the guy isn't even smoking marijuana but flavored cigarettes that smell like marijuana. I would be careful about making accusations without proof.
posted by doomtop at 7:58 AM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

What ever happen to good 'ole incense?
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 8:23 AM on June 6, 2008

Does he have an oven with an exhaust over it? If he would smoke in the kitchen, the smoke would be pulled straight up to the roof.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 8:25 AM on June 6, 2008

"If so, the other tenants should expect to deal with smoke and maybe it is their problem . . . I would be careful about making accusations without proof."

If the upstairs neighbor reasonably believes that it's marijuana and calls the cops, there's no terrible fate that will befall him. None. Even if the guy downstairs is smoking something perfectly legal.

If, on the other hand, he's not smoking something legal, and OP tries to help him get away with it, an over-zealous prosecutor could make his life quite difficult.

Lay down the law (even if you don't like it) and let this grown man make his own life choices. It's not your job to protect him.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:25 AM on June 6, 2008

Maybe you could set up a couple of lawn chairs and some potted plants on the roof and invite your tenants to relax up there. Otherwise you need to make it very clear to this guy that he needs to stop irritating his neighbors or he is out.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:35 AM on June 6, 2008

Is there a way you could move the tenants around? If there is an open apartment somewhere more secluded on the property perhaps the smoker could move there. Otherwise, yeah, I think you just have to inform him that if there are any more complaints, the police will be called. If he chooses that path, he has only himself to blame.
posted by sophist at 8:36 AM on June 6, 2008

I'm not sure why calling the cops and starting an eviction proceeding go hand in hand. You have an obligation to your other tenants who have complained to you about what might be called a breach of their warranty of habitability. As a conscientious landlord, you have an obligation to to pay attention to their complaints, regardless of your personal feelings about marijuana. You probably also have a legal obligation to them, since they could perhaps turn around and sue you, alleging that they notified you and you did nothing.

However, I'm not sure your obligation extends to calling the cops. It might include sending the tenant a proper notice to cure the offense that is bothering your other tenants, noting that if he doesn't take some steps to fix the problem, you'll be left with no choice but to start legal proceedings. If you send such a notice, and he doesn't comply, then you could consider your legal options, such as attempting to evict. In any event, you should consult a lawyer in your own jurisdiction about what your legal responsibilities are as a landlord -- no doubt they vary from place to place.
posted by lassie at 8:40 AM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd ignore the issue of the type of smoke. He smokes a lot, and is inconsiderate about the annoyance to other tenants. Write a warning letter stating that his smoking is causing annoyance to other tenants, and that all traces of smoking must be eliminated from common areas. If he is unable to eliminate all traces of smoke from common areas, he will be evicted. Seriously, I wouldn't call the cops. The lease should have a provision about consideration in common areas, so the legality of eviction should be assured, although the fact that he's using drugs can be a backup, if needed.
posted by theora55 at 8:41 AM on June 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ozium, good seal around the door, and a pipe with a lid (like this one, for example), and/or a smokeless ashtray should minimize smoke leak and make the other neighbors happy.
posted by notashroom at 8:49 AM on June 6, 2008

Ozium works great!
posted by 0.0.0 at 9:26 AM on June 6, 2008

Also a window fan pointing out to receive exhales
posted by tonci at 9:59 AM on June 6, 2008

Yeah if you are going to give him options I suggest an anonymous envelope under his door describing the many ways he can mask the smell. This way if you are forced to evict then he can't say for sure you tried to help him.
posted by any major dude at 10:01 AM on June 6, 2008

Tell him you heard about this great website called aromazap.com. He'll thank you later.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:10 AM on June 6, 2008

To slightly improve on farishta's recipe, stuff a sock into the end one will exhale into, and a couple of dryer sheets at the end. To make it look a bit "nicer" just stuff the entire tube into another sock.
posted by nobeagle at 3:03 PM on June 6, 2008

Check his lease and the Body Corporate or Home-Owners Association by-laws. The ones that I have seen prohibit any activities that disturbs any other resident - obviously subject to the reasonable person test.

Your tenant could be as disruptive as a person playing excessively loud music. Your responsibility is to remove the impact of the disruptive behaviour from the affected people.

While I feel sorry for the one guy trying to indulge in his hobbies or whatever, both he and you should be mindful of the other people in the block.

On the flip side, the other people must also be reasonable and do whatever they can to minimise the impact on themselves. My neighbours smoke too (seemingly alot!) and I just close my doors and windows on that side - problem solved for me.
posted by dantodd at 10:16 PM on June 6, 2008

Even simply exhaling into a towel... a jumper.. anything!! will majorly cut down on the stink and make it manageable (if there's even any stink left to worry about).
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 11:11 PM on June 6, 2008

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