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Neighbour's 'passive aggressive' gift for smoker flicking ash onto his balcony

The 40-year-old man said he'd had enough of being hit in the face with ash and "ciggy butts".

A Sydneysider has been praised for what he described as a "passive aggressive" approach to dealing with an annoying neighbour.

After putting up with ash and cigarette butts raining down onto his balcony, the 40-year-old took matters into his own hands and put pen to paper, writing a seemingly-friendly note and he even included a gift.

“Hi there neighbour,” the resident wrote. “I would really like it if you would use this ashtray instead of flicking the ashes or butts off the balcony. It blows onto ours and is not so nice to clean up or to get in the eyes. Sincerely, another neighbour.”

Along with the letter, the man has given his neighbour an ash tray.

The handwritten note and the ashtray.
Instead of calling strata, the Sydney resident sent his neighbour a note and an ashtray. Source: Reddit/dense-voyager

“Does this seem a bit too passive aggressive?” he asked users on Reddit. “Instead of calling strata, I did this instead: bought a $1 ashtray after I physically saw the guy flicking ashes and then the ciggy butt off the balcony.”

Neighbour’s revenge

Despite his concerns, the Sydney resident has been congratulated for his “responsible”, “thoughtful” and “polite” way of dealing with the situation. And it turned out that not everyone is as kind under the circumstances with plenty of people happy to share their reactions to similar situations.

“Our neighbour kept flicking butts despite being told repeatedly to stop by the building manager and several tenants, especially as he'd do it in the courtyard and there were several toddlers in the building who would play there,” one person wrote. “So someone collected them all and put them in his shoes he'd leave outside by his front door. It was effective and he stopped flicking them after that.”

Another explained how the neighbour across the street from them used to cross the road and smoke on their driveway so his wife wouldn’t catch him. “He would flick his butts towards my bin as opposed to putting them in it,” they explained.

“I politely asked him to not do that but he kept at it so I recorded him doing it daily for a year then submitted 345 individual reports of littering for each day to Report a Tosser. I think it’s around $300 to $600 depending on the offence. He moved out soon after. Apparently he could not afford rent and had to leave.”

Is smoking on a balcony legal?

While cigarette smoking is one of the most common disputes strata managers face, according to The Strata Collective — especially as more people are now working from home — there is no direct law against it.

“It really comes down to what is in the strata bylaws,” Monica Rouvellas, a property lawyer, told Yahoo News Australia. “But smoking would, at least in New South Wales, generally impact the quiet enjoyment of other tenants and could be considered as a nuisance.

A person's hand holding a lit cigarette.
The 40-year-old man said he "physically saw the guy flicking ashes and then the ciggy butt off the balcony". Source: Getty Images

So unfortunately, it’s on a case-by-case basis.

“It depends on each strata complex and their various bylaws,” Rouvellas explained. “Some of them might have smoking areas or smoke-free areas.”

She urged the resident to check what is in their bylaws. “If there is nothing in the bylaws, then technically the balcony is considered part of that person's unit so they should be able to do what they do on that balcony.

“However, throwing cigarette butts over the balcony onto someone else's balcony or yard, that would of course not only be littering but that would also fall under nuisance.”

If residents or owners fail to comply with bylaws, and are causing a nuisance or a hazard by smoking, the owners corporation can issue a Notice to Comply, according to The Strata Collective.

If the notice fails to stop the problem, the owners corporation can then make an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal which can issue a hefty monetary fine with penalties of up to 10 penalty units, or $1,000. While a repeat offender who breaches the smoking bylaw again within 12 months of their first offence, could be fined double.

Should neighbours try to solve problems themselves?

“For that person to offer them an ashtray and write a little note, I think that's probably a better way to try to resolve the issue, and good on them for doing that,” Rouvellas said.

She went on to explain that handling neighbourhood disputes yourself can often help avoid any flare ups. “The first step should always be to speak or write to the person to ask them to stop this sort of behaviour because of X, Y and Z, and how it impacts on your right to quiet enjoyment,” she said.

“The second step, if the behaviour keeps occurring, is of course to go to Strata and to report that behaviour.”

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