Should condo owners be allowed to smoke inside their units?

A "no smoking" sign is pictured in this stock photo by Getty Images.
A "no smoking" sign is pictured in this stock photo by Getty Images.

Oh, the joys and pains of condominium ownership. A 70-year-old army veteran in Langley, B.C. has caused a firestorm by defying orders not to smoke in his condo unit.

Paul Aradi wants to be able to light up in his unit without being bothered by Big Brother — a.k.a. his condominium corporation. That fight has now ended up on the doorstep of the B.C. Supreme Court.

See: Smoking laws by province

Aradi, who has smoked for more than 50 years, purchased his condominium before the no smoking rule was passed. In fact, he purchased his second-floor unit 10 years ago. The board passed the no-smoking rule in 2009, which effectively forbids condo owners to smoke inside their units or common areas.

Aradi is having none of it and has continued smoking despite the ban, telling CTV News: “I don’t think it’s anybody’s business.”

The condominium board, however, disagrees and has fined Aradi consistently over the last two years, every time residents of the building issued a complaint against him for smoking. Aradi now owes the nearly $2,300 in fines, with each smoking violation carrying a penalty of around $200.

Yet while Aradi racks up charges, the 46 other condo owners are fuming and want him to either butt out or get out. They’ve even go as far as filing a petition against him, which declares: “[Aradi] is causing and creating a significant nuisance and disturbance for the strata owners.”

The petition also claims Aradi’s smoking is a health risk and potential fire risk, should Aradi fall asleep with a lit cigarette. Now the strata council, or condo board, is taking Aradi to the highest court in the province to try to force him to quit smoking in his unit.

This is a legal dilemma, indeed. Is it a case of discrimination against a smoker? Or is it infringement of the rights of other condo owners?

It presents an interesting quandary in condominium ownership: how do you reconcile the rights of one resident with the rights of the collective.

Property owners have a lot of rights under the law; after all, they paid good money to buy a house or condo. Still, there are torts such as nuisance and reckless endangerment that say owners cannot cause harm to others, including neighbours. In other words, ownership is not absolute.

Still, property rights are a staple of common law and as an owner, you have the right to use and enjoy your property.

Aradi claims he’s addicted to cigarettes and has even filed a grievance with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the condo board.

The question here is: how do you reconcile these competing rights and laws? These are the issues the B.C. Supreme Court is going to have to examine.

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