A former Queensland Government Works Commissioner says a recent ban on a unit owner from smoking on her balcony could set a precedent for anything that could be considered a health hazard, including the animal urine and barbecues for smoking or vaping in office buildings.
- A former company commissioner says a decision on smoking could have a huge impact on any strata-owned building
- The ruling using the term ‘danger’ had never been made before and could be invoked for things like animal droppings and barbecues
- Chris Irons says it could open the door to litigation and drain public resources
Last month, the Office of the Commissioner for Corporations and Community Management ordered the owner of a Surfers Paradise unit not to smoke tobacco products on her balcony after a complaint from her neighbor.
The woman was only ordered to smoke elsewhere in her apartment if she took reasonable steps to ensure that the smoke did not affect another person in the complex on the grounds that the smoke posed a hazard.
Now senior vice president of the Strata Communication Association, Chris Irons said the decision had broad potential and had been impossible to achieve from his old office.
“There was a legal precedent set for nuisance and it was so high it was virtually impossible to achieve, but that has now changed.
“Second-hand smoke was declared a hazard, and now this is the declaration by which it is defined.
“Not only that, the order goes on to say the phrase ‘tobacco products,’ so we’re looking at that, including vaping.”
Pets, incense, barbecues too
Mr Irons said the use of the term ‘danger’ could be invoked for many other issues in shared areas, including the use of barbecues or even the presence of pets on balconies.
“I think there’s potential for it to expand,” he said.
“Barbecue smoke, could anyone say that’s a hazard? Well, if anyone had a document from the health department showing it was, maybe.
“Incense? Or another good example would be dog urine, feces on a balcony. It could very well cause damage.
“So I don’t think it’s automatic, but the potential is definitely there.”
Mr Irons said the decision could impact all buildings and spaces belonging to strata.
“These can be duplexes, high-rise buildings, commercial buildings for offices, some hotels, unit lots, commercial developments, shared hangars,” he said.
Health Hazard vs Owner’s Rights
According to Mr. Irons, while the decision could set a new precedent, he said that for it to be effective, it would have to be enforced.
“That doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Just because the order was placed doesn’t prevent the person from smoking,” he said.
“This order must be enforced through the courts and it is a long, arduous and expensive process.
“Each situation is also considered on its merits. Each owner, each building is different.
“So the potential drain on public services in terms of dispute resolution and the justice system can be quite high at this outcome, I would have thought.”
He said he wasn’t surprised the topic sparked debate in the community overnight, but he wasn’t sure if it was due to the smoking ban or rights issues. of the owner.
“Which part [of the ruling] bothers people, I’m not sure,” he said.