Instilling a Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing - Part XXXXX +1
Hi Rose Marie,
Here is a copy of the letter we are sending out to our supporters, just a note to say thanks for helping us during our fight... included some thoughts about what we learned through this process. Feel free to post this comment. Thanks, Melanie
Melanie and Matthew McDaniel
Kamloops BC V2C3A6
May 15, 2012
Re: McDaniel vs Strata Plan LMS 1657 2012 BCHRT 167 Decision
We are elated to share with you the good news of the decision made by the Human Rights Tribunal regarding our case of discrimination. As you are probably aware, we fought long and hard with our Strata Council and smoking neighbours to win back our dignity. Today, we can finally celebrate closure.
We endured three long years of feeling helpless and hopeless. Although we have made a great sacrifice and ultimately lost our home, there was nothing left to make us want to stay. It was a lesson learned and a great gamble for a young family. But knowing now that standing up for what we always truly believed in was worth the pain. The decision made and published is proof that our fight existed and hopefully other families or individuals in the same situation will be able to use this to their advantage.
We sincerely thank you for your assistance, kind words, letters, and support during this difficult time. We now live smoke-free, remain health conscious, and are taking time to heal. Our hope is that someday Canadians will be able to live smoke free and be protected in their homes without lengthy battles. Currently, we have more rights in the workplace and public places than we do in our homes, where we spend most of our time. Enclosed are some tips we would like to share with others discouraged by second hand smoke in their homes.
Matthew and Melanie McDaniel
Everyone with smoke sensitivities should cover their bases before getting stuck in a situation where smokers rule.
- Before you purchase a home write conditions of sale into the agreements regarding smoke free housing. Review Strata bylaws, past complaints, and ask the real estate agents if you are buying into Non-Smoking premises. Ask the Strata Council what they would do in a situation where second hand smoke was an issue and document their answer.
- If you are renting a home, write a statement into the Rental Agreement that at no point of your residence you will experience smoke infiltration and the consequences if you do, such as reimbursement of rent and eviction of smoking neighbours. Ensure that they rent only to non-smoking tenants and are understand that rule is for guests too. Get this agreement notarized. If you do ever experience smoke infiltration, you should not be the one who is forced to move, it should be the people causing the problem!
- Should you or know of someone with serious smoke sensitivities or losing a fight to be smoke free in their Strata home, follow these guidelines:
- Gain support through the Smoke Free Housing website: http://www.smokefreehousingbc.ca. They have lots of references, tips, and templates for letters, logs, etc.
- Check out the extensive blog, http://canadianpushforsmokefreehousing.blogspot.ca for references and community support. You will be amazed that you are not alone!
- You will have to be organized and document everything – keep a binder with your correspondence: include logs with dates, areas of the home affected, how the smoke makes you feel etc. Keep complaint letters sent and their responses, make a journal, gain witnesses, and keep copies of Strata Meeting Minutes. Keep notes about when you speak to the Strata council, neighbours, and witnesses. Keep receipts should you have any expenses that you wouldn’t have if you had a smoke free home (air conditioning units, air filtration units, medical expenses, etc). Also, the sooner you file a complaint, the better!
- Get a copy of your Strata bylaws and see if you have an existing non-smoking bylaw and nuisance bylaw. Point these out in your complaint letters. If you don’t have a Non-smoking bylaw, gain support to call a meeting to get one in place. Join the Strata Council. See what your city bylaws entail as far as nonsmoking bylaws as well.
- Gain doctor’s support and get letters. If you have a medical condition exacerbated by smoke infiltration, get support through advocacy groups. Get solid proof that second hand smoke bothers you and you may be affected differently from others without your condition.
- If you can afford it, gain legal support. Research UBC law clinics, Human Rights clinics, and discuss what you can do in your situation to right the problem.
- Always remain hopeful, even on the worst days. Remain positive that you, the non-smoker, have rights too. Smokers, and Strata Councils may try to turn the issue around to make it seem like you are the problem. Although it may seem difficult, always remain on good terms with neighbours and councils. If you do your due diligence and cover your bases, you will, just like us, be proven right.
- If your Strata Council decides to help you, document meetings, mediator decisions, and ensure their promises are kept.
- Should your fight come to the point of a hearing with the Tribunal and you find yourself self-representing, you will have a big fight ahead of you. Strata Councils are run by management companies that have lots of money and access to lawyers with lots of knowledge and expertise. Don’t let these points scare you off. Don’t give up or give in to any sort of pathetic ways they will try to brush you off. When they apply to have your complaint dismissed, review every point they make and follow them up with references from past Tribunal decisions. Be clear and concise. When it comes to your hearing, be confident and courteous even when you are outraged.
- Often this fight can be long and drawn out and turn into a waiting game. Remain diligent at all times, and if you need to seek respite with friends and family. Don’t be bullied to a point of exhaustion!