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Flat Chat

Gunning for smokers

Worried about the ban on smoking in apartments? According to the ABC TV news, it was "tough new laws giving more power to owners corporations" that forced two dedicated puffers out of their rented apartment at the prestigious Highgate building in Sydney's CBD.

Talk about smoke and mirrors. These 'tough new laws' were enacted in 1996. It's the fact that an adjudicator in the Consumer, Traders and Tenancies Tribunal has decided they should be taken seriously that has changed the landscape.

For a start, it wasn't a ban on smoking in apartments. It was a ban on smoking in a specific apartment built in such a way that the smoke could find its way next door, stinking out neighbours' homes and defying the many attempts by the Executive Committee to contain the fumes.

The smokers argued that it wasn't their fault that the apartment was built like that. The CTTT adjudicator ruled that the way the apartment was built was a fact of life but if the smokers didn't smoke, there would be no problem. No smokers, no smoke - so stub out or move on, which they did.

What does this mean to you? Well, you can forget any excuses that the neighbours can only hear your surround-sound home cinema system because the walls are too thin. This ruling means you have to modify your behaviour to suit your environment, including adjoining walls built to the laughable basic Australian building standards.

You also might feel encouraged to complain about smoke from barbecues when it billows off your downstairs neighbours' balcony and pours into your apartment (if you've been silly enough to leave your windows open in summer).

Joe Lamburner downstairs could argue that barbecues are allowed, everyone knows smoke travels up and that it might go in any open windows. But then the "no smoke without a smoker" rule comes into play.

There's a long way to go with this one. The CTTT is fairly far down the legal food chain. Sooner or later, some cigar chomping fat cat owner will go all the way to the Supreme Court to establish their right to stink out their neighbours' homes.

Civil liberties? The next thing you know they'll be trying to stop us driving too fast when we've had a few beers.

First published SMH March 2007