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Tina
Tina, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 8775
Experience:  JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
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We own a condo with three neighbors. One of them rents. They

Customer Question

We own a condo with three neighbors . One of them rents . They cook with a lot of curie and the smell has grown offensive over time . My wife and I are starting to have physical problems as a result of the curie . My question is do we have any legal rights.? And what steps do we have to take?
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 2 months ago.

Hello. I’m a family lawyer, former trial lawyer and appellate attorney with 36 years’ experience and also have extensive experience with landlord-tenant issues and other legal issues. I look forward to helping you today.

At the end of our discussion I’m going to ask you to rate me, okay? I’d appreciate it because this is the only way we get credit for our time here today. It is at no extra cost to you.

Please note:This is general information for educational purposes and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an attorney on this site. You are advised to retain your own attorney. The attorney herein is licensed in NY only.

This is a really tricky issue. Can you tell me what state you are in?

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 2 months ago.

Strong odors can be considered a nuisance. How close in proximity to you are they? The next apartment or down the hall?

You can have tenants removed for creating a nuisance but here is where you have to be careful because you don't want to cross the line, as I'll explain later.

You can follow these 5 steps to help determine whether a tenant’s cooking odors could be considered a nuisance or not:

  1. Are the cooking odors strong during preparation but then fade afterwards?
  2. Are the cooking odors emitted daily? Weekly? Infrequently?
  3. Can you smell the cooking odors in the common areas, such as the hallways?
  4. Have you had more than one complaint from more than one tenant?
  5. Does the cooking odor linger in the neighboring apartment long after preparation is over?

Many court cases have upheld the contention that strong odors can be considered a nuisance if they consistently affect common areas or the living spaces of others.

Here are the problems though.

You’ll walk a fine line when addressing cooking odors and crossing over into ethnic and racial discrimination. Ethnic dishes and the methods to prepare them can smell unpleasant and unappetizing to those who are not familiar with them or simply don’t like them.

With tenants who descend from a heritage that uses strong-smelling spices in cooking, for example, you cannot set up rules over what a tenant can or cannot cook. You should never disparage a tenant or demean their heritage when discussing cooking odors, nor make references to ethnicity or heritage when talking with the complaining tenant.

Also, acting on stereotypes is unethical and illegal when it comes to screening applicants or evicting tenants.

The best way to handle any cooking odor nuisance is to include an odor addendum in your lease agreement. Make sure the addendum includes language that prevents a tenant from disturbing the quiet enjoyment of others from odors and outline the tenant’s rights and responsibilities if odors permeate to other units or to common areas.

The addendum should cover a range of odors that include cooking odors. Discuss the addendum with all applicants before they sign the lease agreement so that everyone is clear.

The addendum can also outline the steps you will take to address the problem, such as issuing 3 written warnings before moving on to more serious measures. When you do receive a complaint about cooking odors and you determine that the smells constitute a nuisance, follow the steps in your addendum.

You have to be careful here because if they are from a certain ethnicity such as Indian, and they are using curry, it can be anticipated that they are going to continue using it because it is a staple of their diet. You don't want a discrimination suit.

I think you're going to have a problem here because even if you want to tell them to cut back on the use of it, since it is part of their diet, if they Indian, you're going to be looking at a discrimination lawsuit. In the future you can add the odor clauses but you can't right now. I wish I had better news for you but I know you want the truth here and not just an answer that you want to hear.

Does this answer your question?