Apartment blocks can restrict smoking on residential balconies, but not ban it entirely
The future of balcony smoking is still open. According to a Supreme Court ruling, smoking on residential balconies can be restricted by housing companies, but not banned entirely. Each situation has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
In its statement on Monday, the Supreme Court stated that smoking can be intervened against only if it is harmful beyond ”a reasonable level”.
The ruling of the Supreme Court relates to a dispute in an apartment building in Lempäälä near Tampere. In the spring of 2005 the shareholders’ meeting of the condominium decided to ban smoking on all balconies. Subsequently, the Tampere District Court decided that a general smoking ban does not violate the basic rights of residents. In October 2007, the Turku Court of Appeals overruled the decision, saying that it was illegal.
Supporting the decision made by the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court considered that it was beyond the authority of the shareholders’ meeting to ban smoking on residential balconies by a simple majority vote.
Moreover, the Supreme Court felt that the ban would violate the shareholders’ right of possession in situations where smoking is not excessively harmful.
Asthma sufferer Armi Pohjansaro, resident in Lempäälä, finds the situation agonising. She does not understand the reasons behind the decision made by the judges at the Supreme Court.
"I can go to a restaurant without a health hazard, while it is difficult to spend time in my own home", she notes. The smoke will waft to her apartment from the balconies of other apartments, causing her severe respiratory symptoms.
In the neighbouring building, smoker Arja Pohjois-Koivisto has an entirely different opinion.
"I have the right to smoke on my balcony, as I pay rent for it", she says.
"Besides, it is better not to smoke inside. Even my family members would suffer from the stench, as the smell of tobacco clings to clothes and other materials", Pohjois-Koivisto argues.
However, the asthmatic neighbour cannot keep her balcony door open while Pohjois-Koivisto is smoking on the balcony.
The two neighbours have discussed the matter, and Pohjois-Koivisto is doing her best to limit the harm by smoking at the far end of the balcony.
Director Anne Heikkilä from the Pulmonary Association Heli is also advising smokers and non-smokers to discuss the issue with their neighbours, before taking the problem to the housing companies.
Senior Lawyer Anu Kärkkäinen from the Finnish Real Estate Federation regards the decision made by the Supreme Court as good.
"The decision will give housing companies a possibility to interfere with smoking on balconies, if it poses a health hazard or excessively weakens other residents’ well-being", she concludes.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Health inspectors could be given powers to ban smoking on balconies (4.5.2007)
Pulmonary Association Heli
The Finnish Real Estate Federation