What To Do If My Apartment Neighbor Smokes?

There is little more infuriating than suffering through secondhand smoke, especially when you aren’t a smoker.  Additionally, it can be particularly worry-some if you have kids or someone in your apartment has breathing or lung issues.  

If your apartment neighbor smokes, the first thing to do is make sure they are not smoking in the actual building, which is where the majority of the second-hand smoke is going to come from.  After that, talk to your neighbor to change where they smoke, and finally, talk to your landlord and ask for help. 

Both tenants have rights in this case.  The tenant who smokes has the right to smoke, just not wherever they choose.  And the tenant who is smelling the secondhand smoke has the right not to deal with this smoke and deal with a potential health hazard as well.  

So, where does the rights of one end and the other begin?  I am going to walk you through the situation in which your neighbor is smoking in your apartment, either cigarettes or weed, and it is causing you to be miserable in your apartment at least part of the time.  

Let’s start with where you can get secondhand smoke from in your apartment. 

Can Cigarette Smoke Seep Through Walls?

More than likely, any smoke you are going to get inside your apartment from your neighbors is going to come from the cracks in the doors and windows, through the ventilation system, or through the outlets in your apartment walls.

Most often, the smoke you are going to be smelling is due to a bit of it drifting in through the cracks in your windows, under your door, or on your porch or balcony sliding door.  Just like any other scent, smoke particulate is airborne and travels where the wind takes it, which can often mean, in through small cracks in your doors and windows. 

Actually, when people talk about smoke “seeping through the walls”, most of the time they are actually confusing this with the smoke coming through the electrical outlets. 

Yes, I know it sounds funny, but your electrical outlets are features that connect both apartments through the middle, or inside, of the common wall.  When one tenant smokes, part of their air goes through their electrical outlets, up through the middle of the walls, and down through other holes in the neighboring apartment… which usually consists of electrical outlets.  

The reason that people insist the smell is seeping through the walls is because the walls, or tiny holes in the wall, is actually where the smoke is coming into their apartment.  So, when they go over to plug something in, or do anything close to the walls of their own apartment is when they are smelling the smoke more intensely.  

Which explains why they think the smell is coming directly from the walls.  When actually, the small pores in the walls allow the particulates from smoking to stick to the walls, not travel through them. 

If you are one of those tenants unfortunate enough to live in an apartment that has holes in the walls, these can also be places where smoke is getting in from the outside.  Tell your landlord to fix these issues, as nobody should have to live with unnecessary holes in their walls. 

To fix the air passing between adjoining rooms via the electrical outlets, a cheap, simple cover will solve that problem until you are ready to use the outlet. 

I realize that a 50-Pack seems like a ton of outlet covers, but trust me, if the building is up to code, you are going to have outlets every couple of feet on the walls, some in the kitchen, and more in the bathroom as well. 50 of them for around $7 is a cheap and easy way to take care of your entire apartment.

How Can I Keep Cigarette Smoke Out Of My Apartment?

The best way to keep cigarette smoke out of your apartment is to make sure that your door and windows all have good seals to them.  This is the most common way secondhand smoke gets into adjacent apartments. 

Simple weather stripping can be extremely effective in keeping unwanted smells out of your apartment.  The fringe benefit you will have from weather stripping your doors and windows is the money you will save with heating and cooling your apartment in the summer and winter.   

Like I mentioned above, outlet covers are a big way of stopping smoke coming through from between adjacent apartments, and are a low cost solution to the smell. 

Another think you want to consider is talking to your neighbor who smokes about their habit.  This doesn’t mean that you need to convert them to being a non-smoker, but rather just voice your legitimate concerns about secondhand smoke.  

Maybe they are smoking in the hallways, or just out their windows when it gets cold outside, and not all the smoke is getting outside.  This is a common problem I deal with every winter, and usually, smokers will be considerate and change where they smoke in consideration of others.  

The same thing goes for smoking in inside common areas, especially by outside doors.  This seems to be one of the places where smokers congregate.  There are always ash trays nearby, and if it IS cold, and nobody is close, it is a great way to sneak a smoke without really going outside.  Any anytime smoke gets in the hallway or front areas of a building, you KNOW how long they smell for!

Finally, you should talk to your landlord about the issue.  Make sure you, and the tenant that is smoking, are clear on the rules and policies of the complex.  If a policy is consistently being broken, then it is the duty of the landlord or manager to address the problem with the tenant.  

There are some apartment sites out there that recommend hiring an attorney and going to court if things don’t move fast enough for you.  This advice is stupid.  You will spend SO much money in attorney and court fees, along with a ton of time, effort, energy, and stress that will absolutely NOT be worth it, just to get the landlord to stop someone from smoking. 

If it is THAT bad at your apartment complex, find another one.  You don’t want to be there anyways. 

My Apartment Neighbor Smokes Weed

Having a neighbor that smokes weed can be just as annoying than if they smoke cigarettes. The smell can travel between apartments, especially if they are trying to smoke inside, and can actually be more of an annoyance than just straight cigarette smoke. 

Weed smoke can go between apartments in the same ways as cigarette smoke can.  Depending on what state you live in depends on the legality of smoking weed in the first place.  As more and more states are allowing marijuana use for recreational purposes, reporting people who are smoking weed is rapidly becoming less and less of an issue for landlords to have to deal with. 

Simply giving the people a friendly message, through your landlord works fine too, that their extracurricular habit is becoming a nuisance to you, is many times all you need to fix the problem.   

And if they still insist on smoking weed around the apartment, have them check out how to keep your apartment from smelling like weed.  There are solutions in there for smokers that will REALLY keep the smell down to a bare minimum. 

My Apartment Reeks Of Weed

If your apartment reeks of weed, that means that more than likely someone in your apartment is doing the smoking.  The first thing to do is stop the smell at it’s source.  Then check out ways to make your apartment smell good again.

There’s a big difference between smelling weed and having your entire apartment reek of weed.  Make sure it isn’t one of your roommates that is the culprit and isn’t adhering to the rules of the apartment before you go accusing someone else down the hall.  

Nothing is more embarrassing than complaining about a neighbor, only to have them shine the light on your apartment where the actual problem is.  

If your apartment does smell that bad, the easiest fix is going to be for you to air out your apartment completely.  Follow the steps I lay out in this article why does my apartment feel stuffy, the same solutions will work for both issues. 

How To Make My Apartment Smell Good Again

If you are having constant problems with the smell of smoke coming into your apartment or just want to make your apartment smell the best you can get it to smell, check out the article I wrote on that issue called How To Make Your Apartment Smell Great.

Inside the article are several solutions to making your apartment smell great, because you can get used to the smell of your apartment that other people are going to notice when they come in.  You can prevent them from crinkling their nose by implementing some of the simple solutions I have laid out in the article.

 The best ways to stop smoke from your neighbors from coming into your apartment is to make sure your doors and windows close fully and are sealed well.  The next thing you want to do is make sure that your electrical outlets are covered with plugs to prevent smoke from moving between rooms in the building. 

Finally, talk with the smoker and ask if they can partake in their habit that doesn’t impact you or anyone else.  Most times, they will be more than happy to change their smoking location if they know they are negatively impacting someone else. 

If that doesn’t work, then talk to your landlord.  They have the obligation to make sure that you have a safe and healthy place to live, and they alone have the power to enforce the rules and terms of the lease.

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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