Smoking bans spread to balconies

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A new condominium project in the Oslo suburb of Bærum will ban smoking on balconies and in the garden terraces of those with units on the ground floor. Developers claim the smoke would otherwise bother neighbours.

“We have developed housing projects in the past where some buyers have complained about neighbours smoking on their balconies,” Philip Stephansen, manager of Backe Prosjekt AS, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday. “This new rule has been imposed to address the problem in advance.”

Buyers undeterred
All buyers of units in the project called Eiksparken, which will have 66 residential units in four-story buildings, must agree to refrain from smoking on their balconies or garden terraces. Otherwise, developers claim, the smoke will waft into neighbouring units through windows, doors and vents.

The project is still on the drawingboard with construction due to begin early next year. The entire project in the Eiksmarka area of Bærum, with units still available priced from NOK 4 million to as much as NOK 11.3 million (USD 500,000 to USD 1.4 million), is due to be complete in mid-2018. Parking in the buildings’ garage costs extra, at NOK 300,000 (USD 37,500) per space plus monthly maintenance fees for both the buildings and a garage. The fee for the garage alone, for example, has been stipulated at NOK 3,600 per year.

The project had already sold 25 units as of Tuesday, according to its own online list of units and their prices, including several of those priced highest. Buyers clearly were not put off by the smoking ban even on one’s own private property, and outdoors. Stephansen told NRK he wasn’t aware of smoking bans at other residential projects. “Time will tell whether this becomes a trend,” he said.

Legal questions arise
Some homeowner associations, including one in the northern city of Tromsø, have posted signs discouraging smoking on balconies because it can bother neighbours. Selling privately owned units with such a ban is unusual, though, according to the legal department of the national homeowners’ federation Huseiernes Landsforbund (HL).

“It’s unclear whether a ban on smoking, laid down in a homeowners’ association, would hold up in court, even if it was set in the original bylaws and agreed to by the owners of all units,” Anders Leisner, leader of HL’s legal department, told NRK.

Leisner said it couldn’t be taken for granted that a homeowners’ association can legally forbid resident to smoke, because it would have to involve a “concrete evaluation” of the disadvantages. The threshold for evaluating smoking as a disadvantage has been lowered in Norway, and “blowing smoke from a balcony right into a neighour’s unit is not acceptable,” he said. “But if you take a puff without bothering anyone, I don’t think that can be forbidden.”

Norway otherwise has imposed strict anti-smoking laws in recent years, some of which extend to outdoor areas. It could thus break new legal ground if the bans on smoking were extended to private residential property, and tested in court.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund