Are you a condominium owner interested in securing smoking restrictions in your building, including inside individual units? If you're like other condominium owners, you know how smoke can travel from one unit to another, creating health risks and unpleasant smells, and diminishing property value. Perhaps you are concerned about fire risk or liability? Maybe you've heard that other condominium boards and associations have eliminated these hassles by adopting comprehensive smoking restrictions, and you're wondering if such a policy will work for your building, too.
The Maryland Condominium Act regulates the management of condominiums in Maryland. Under the Act, bylaws may contain restrictions on or requirements respecting the use and maintenance of the units and the common elements. Any rule or regulation properly adopted by the council of unit owners or its designee is binding on residents of the condominium, whether they apply to common areas, individual units, or both. Condominium rules regulating the use of individual units are common. Some frequently cited examples include restrictions on owning pets and creating loud noise or other nuisances. Courts have recognized such restrictions as reasonable, citing potentially offensive odors, noise, clean-up and maintenance problems, and possible health hazards.
The Maryland Condominium Act can be found here.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has concluded that a condominium board may regulate smoking in individual units as well as common areas, so long as the bylaws do not forbid such rules. “It is my view that a rule barring smoking in individual units would be reasonable, at least in cases where the smoke seeps out to the common areas or to other units. Thus, it meets the test set both in § 11-109(d)(2) and the case law. Moreover, it seems clear that such a rule would bear a relationship to the health of the residents of the condominium, both in the avoidance of secondhand smoke and by reducing the risk of fire. As a result, it is my view that current law permits condominium boards to adopt rules prohibiting smoking in condominium units, unless such a rule would be inconsistent with the bylaws for that condominium.”
A condominium, by definition, is a communal form of estate in property consisting of individually owned units which are supported by collectively held facilities and areas. In exchange for the benefits of owning property in common, condominium owners agree to be bound by rules governing the administration, maintenance, and use of the property. In Ridgely Condominium Association v. Smyrnioudis, 343 Md. 357, 359, (1996) the Maryland Court of Appeals, recognized this arrangement, stating that “inherent in the condominium concept is the principle that to promote the health, happiness, and peace of mind of the majority … each unit owner must give up a certain degree of freedom of choice which he might otherwise enjoy in separate, privately owned property.”