Section 2. Abstract of Proposed Research Project.

Secondhand Smoke and Condominiums: Policy Options


The Surgeon General of the United States has determined that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) and that the only option to fully protect nonsmokers from exposure to SHS is to eliminate smoking in indoor spaces. According to the Surgeon General’s 2006 report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, “secondhand smoke can cause premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.” Despite these findings, at this point no state or local government has regulated smoking in multi-family residential housing units.

Condominiums account for anincreasingly large portion of the residential housing market in Minnesota and, contrary to popular perception, households living in condominiums tend to have lower income and are older than single family homeowner households. Even though condominium buildings are generally newer than other multifamily housing this does not necessarily mean that SHSis less likely to transfer from one unit to another. Urgent calls to tobacco control agencies and legal services programs indicate that secondhand smoke is moving between units in condominium developments and is causing health problems for owners.

Establishment and management of condominiums and common interest communities require more complex legal arrangements than are necessary for rental apartment buildings. Articles of incorporation, by-laws and covenants, conditions and restrictions are some of the required documents for condominiums and common interest communities. The number of parties that may be involved in disputes regarding SHS in condominiums may be more numerous because of the involvement of property managers and homeowner associations. These factors, along with the element of ownership and marketability of the property, contribute to making solutions to the issue of SHS transfer in common interest communities more complex than for rental apartment units.

Research is needed to assist owner/occupants resolve existing SHS issues, to provide guidance on transitioning existing properties from smoking-permitted to smoke-free, and to determine public policy options to encourage more smoke-free common interest communities. This project will address this need in two ways. One component of the research will focus on documenting the prevalence of secondhand smoke transfer in common interest community residential housing and assessing owner/occupants’ interest in smoke-free policies. The second component will review the status of the law on condominiums and common interest communities, evaluate the applicable legal standards and strategies for addressing conflicts,and propose private and public policy options to promote the creation and availability of more smoke-free CICs.

Relevance to ClearWay Mission

The objective of this project is to provide information and tools through research to encourage more smoke-free residential options. With condominiums continuing to grow as the residential choice for more and more Minnesotans, promoting smoke-free condominiums and common interest communities (CIC) will contribute significantly to ClearWay Minnesota’s mission to enhance life for all Minnesotans by reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke through research, action and collaboration.

The TobaccoLawCenter, the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), the Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota (ANSR), and representatives from common interest community organizations will collaborate on the research on secondhand smoke in condominiums. The results from surveys of owner/occupants and interviews with property management personnel will be supplemented by legal research into the state and federal statutes and local ordinances and codes controlling common interest communities and condominiums. The synthesis of the two components of the research will form the basis for recommendations on actions to promote smoke-free community living. Templates documents to establish smoke-free residential community associations, such as condominium covenants, conditions and restrictions, will be developed along with public policy recommendations for initiatives at the state and local level.

ClearWay Funding Priorities

A primary product of the survey and legal research will be recommendations for state and local governmental initiatives to reduce or eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in the condominium or common interest community environment. This addresses ClearWayMinnesota’s priority of “research to determine the impact, implementation and enforcement of local and statewide public policies that reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.” A thorough analysis of the owner/occupant survey resultsand the legal research will yield information in a couple of areas: identification of government initiatives to address the SHS concerns of common interest communities and documentation of the extent of support among CIC residents for various policy initiatives. Based on the analysis, the project will develop suggestions for specific action steps for public policy initiatives.


The project research will be divided into two components: 1) owner/occupant survey and property management interviews, and 2) legal research. Oversight and advicewill be provided by an advisory committee consisting of the co-principal investigators (TobaccoLawCenter and CEE) and partner organization (ANSR), experienced representatives from common interest community management (Common Interest Communities –Midwest, part of the Minnesota Multi Housing Association and Community Associations Institute) and attorneys specializing in common interest community law. Anderson, Niebuhr & Associates will develop the research tools in consultation with the Center for Energy and Environment. Oversamples will be conducted for certain populations identified as priority populations by ClearWay Minnesota. In addition, a sample of property management representatives will be interviewed by phone. The CEEand Anderson Niebuhr will analyze the data and produce summary reporting.

The TobaccoLawCenter will conduct the legal research for the legal component of the project. This componentwill review the current status of federal, state and local laws on common interest communities and condominiums as those laws relate to the issue of secondhand smoke transfer, comparing other states’ laws with those in Minnesota. Interviews will be conducted with stakeholders in other locations to assess responses to other localities’ laws and to identify successful legaloptions and strategies. The legal research will also review private and governmental policy initiatives proposed and adopted in other locations. The product of the legal research will include a summary report on state of the law in regards to CICs and secondhand smoke, model legal documents for use by common interest communities and recommendations for policy initiatives.