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Navigating Marijuana Complaints in New York City Cooperatives and Condominiums

Co-ops and Condos

With the passage of legislation in 2021 legalizing recreational marijuana in New York State, New Yorkers have been more freely and openly smoking marijuana. Thus, it is no surprise that cooperative and condominium boards are seeing a record number of marijuana odor complaints. The prevalence of marijuana smoke poses considerable challenges for apartments in New York City, eliciting resident complaints regardless of their building’s adherence to stringent no-smoking regulations. Since August 28, 2018, residential buildings in New York City containing three or more units—such as rentals, condominiums, and cooperatives—have been mandated to formulate comprehensive smoking policies that cover marijuana, vaping, and e-cigarettes. Boards are advised to carefully review their governing documents to effectively address smoking-related concerns, including those involving marijuana, at both communal and individual levels. Achieving a balance between the rights of owners and shareholders and the overall well-being of the community is paramount in the development of these policies.

Managing Complaints

Dealing with marijuana odor complaints requires thorough documentation by boards. Residents are advised to first report issues to management, who should promptly investigate the complaint by visiting the apartment to identify the source of the smoke.

While some boards may exhibit hesitation due to the parallels with alcohol consumption, smoking marijuana can significantly affect neighbors. Residents seeking accommodations for medical marijuana use must substantiate a medical necessity. However, this does not inherently authorize smoking indoors, as medical marijuana can be consumed through alternative methods. Co-ops and condos are constantly having to intercede in disputes between residents smoking marijuana in apartments adjoining residents who suffer from respiratory ailments. This raises a sticky issue for buildings that are trying to follow prevailing laws requiring accommodations for owners or shareholders who have reported a disability that precludes exposure to smoke of any kind. 

Fines

For persistent smoking issues, the Condominium and Cooperative lawyers at Guzov, LLC can advise boards on amending governing documents to enforce fines. Cooperative apartments require explicit authority in the proprietary lease to impose fines, while condominiums must define this in their bylaws. Specifics on fine amounts are typically outlined in the proprietary lease or bylaws, facilitating clearer enforcement.

Implementing fines can resolve issues early, preventing escalation. In cases where fines are ineffective, boards may need to seek legal counsel to pursue judicial intervention.

If you would like to discuss issues concerning marijuana complaints, or any issues relating to cooperatives and condominiums, please contact us to schedule a consultation.

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