Are Victorian apartment blocks the new no smoking areas? Stephen Raff

Are Victorian apartment blocks the new no smoking areas? Stephen Raff
Are Victorian apartment blocks the new no smoking areas? Stephen Raff

GUEST OBSERVER

Changes to smoking rules in parts of the country set the stage for 'smoke free by-laws' in strata properties.

The stage is set for new smoking laws in Victoria, as New South Wales and Queensland progress reforms on controlling if and where apartment owners can smoke.

Owners corporations in Victoria are encouraged to get feedback from their owners on what their position is.

As part of a raft of changes to New South Wales strata legislation in late 2016, for the first time smoking was included as a potential nuisance or hazard to apartment residents. Owners corporations there can now create by-laws to make their buildings smoke-free.

Queensland, which is currently reviewing its strata legislation, has also proposed laws to allow smoking to be banned in apartment buildings.

Should Victoria be looking to emulate these reforms?

Residents of apartments are more vulnerable to second-hand smoke because the smoke can easily drift between areas of a building. Furthermore reverse cycle air conditioners, common to many apartment buildings are often taking the second hand smoke from one individual and circulating it to other members of the Owners Corporation.

Some strata schemes have been crying out for the chance to regulate smoking in their buildings.

The aim of these by-laws is not to stigmatise people who smoke but restrict where people can smoke or restrict smoking completely to create a cleaner and healthier living environment for all residents of a scheme.

The most obvious benefits of smoke-free apartment buildings is the health benefits from decreased exposure to second-hand smoke.

Second-hand tobacco smoke causes cancer and any level of exposure is potentially unsafe. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of a range of conditions.

Adults who have been exposed to second-hand smoke experience immediate adverse effects on their cardiovascular system and in the long term can develop coronary heart disease and lung cancer.

Benefits to smoke-free apartment buildings is not limited to just the health aspect but can also create financial benefits to owners.

Tobacco smoke leaves residue on walls and curtains and smoke-free apartments have been shown to have cheaper cleaning costs.

Smoke-free buildings also carry a reduced risk of fire and other damage such as burn marks on carpets, furniture and counters thereby reducing repair or replacement costs.

Current laws in Victoria only allow for smoking to be prohibited on common property.

Owners Corporations under the 2006 Act are able to pass a rule as a special resolution at an AGM, prohibiting smoking in designated common property areas but cannot prohibit a resident from smoking in their lot.

So how do the NSW laws work?

In NSW an owners’ corporation can create smoke-free by-laws or make changes to existing ones. New by-laws require a special resolution at a general meeting of the owners’ corporation. For the by-law to be introduced 75 percent must vote in favour of the resolution.

Once a by-law is in place and communicated to all residents in the building a breach can result in a penalty notice being issued by the owners’ corporation. The offending owner or resident may be ordered to pay a monetary penalty.

Ultimately it is about giving strata communities a choice.

The updated legislation that allowed these by-laws to be brought in are not anti-smoking per se, but they do give strata communities that do not want smoking in their buildings a great deal more power enforce restrictions. Ultimately it’s up to each community to individually decide how their scheme is managed.

Victorian decision makers should be closely watching their New South Wales and Queensland counterparts to see how the smoking model rule is received by owners.

 

Stephen Raff is the CEO of Ace Body Corporate Management and can be contacted here.

Tags: 
Strata Management Smoking Laws

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