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The Problem With Weed

Crossing the line. Boards don’t always opt to enter the fray when there are complaints about smoke emanating from apartments, but when multiple owners or even staff members complain, they will. That was the situation at an Upper West Side condo where an occupant was smoking marijuana all the time and the smoke and odors were permeating into other apartments, the common areas and even the on-site managing agent’s office, causing people to have headaches and feel unwell. 


A war of escalation. Sending cease-and-desist letters to the occupant and then threatening litigation didn’t work, so we sought, and won, a preliminary injunction. This stopped the marijuana smoking for some time, but then it started up again. We went back to court and sought a contempt order and a permanent injunction, which we won. The reason for success was because we had affidavits from unit-owners and staff detailing the dates and times when they experienced smoke and odors. 


We were less fortunate at another condo dealing with a similar situation. After winning a preliminary injunction against the smoker, we were able to negotiate a settlement agreement in which she promised not to allow marijuana smoke to escape her apartment, which she then violated. In this case no one was willing to testify against her, and the board wasn’t granted a contempt order. Its hands were tied. To add insult to injury, the condo’s bylaws didn’t allow for the recovery of attorney fees incurred when pursuing violations of the governing documents.


Lesson learned. Before inserting itself into any nuisance disputes, a board should have not only witnesses and evidence but also a provision that allows it to recoup legal fees if it is successful in court. Sometimes, though, the benefits of pursuing a case outweigh the potential financial burden of going to court. It's not always a cut-and-dried decision.

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