What to do about a smoking prohibition in my lease?

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What to do about a smoking prohibition in my lease?

My town has an anti-smoking ordinance that prevents smoking in multi family housing/parks, sidewalks are excluded. However, my lease says this, “Smoking of tobacco prohibited on the entire property, including individual units, common areas, every building and adjoining grounds”. I received a notice today to all tenants reminding us of the anti smoking policy. It says the same jargon as the lease but adds this, “This prohibition includes the street directly in front of the community”. Eviction is also mentioned. I sympathize but I have been gladly walking to a badly lit sidewalk for 3 years, do I really need to cross a street too?

Asked on December 14, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A lease is a contract and its terms are enforceable against the parties to it (e.g. the tenants). The language you quote states that smoking is prohibited on "adjoining grounds," though it also says that the prohibition is on "the entire property." There is an ambiguity in the language: "entire property" implies that it is only the landlord's property, not public or municipal land, like sidewalks, while "adjoining grounds" could take in the sidewalk next to the property. Since there is an ambiguity and it is therefore not clear that you would be barred from smoking on the sidewalk, you could possibly win in court, if it came to that (e.g. if they tried to evict you for violating the smoking ban). However, you need to decide if it is better to risk litigation and the chance you'd lose rather than crossing the street.


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