A PERTH pensioner says she’s being forced out of her home because of a neighbour’s chronic smoking, and authorities seem powerless to help.
Kath* is a former nurse who worked in the cancer wards of St John of God hospitals, a breast cancer survivor and the wife of a motor neurone disease sufferer.
But she says her husband can no longer come home after hospital visits because the neighbour’s non-stop fagging has made it too dangerous. Her daughter, an asthma sufferer, also steers clear.
Kath says the problem has been exacerbated by Perth’s push for density; the block she shares with her neighbour’s house has been chopped so small his backyard deck is hard up against her fence and just metres from her windows.
“I just can’t understand it; his wife has breast cancer,” says Kath.
“I put my head over the fence and asked if the person who is smoking could stop.
“I wrote a very pleasant letter and I knocked on the door, but he didn’t reply.
“When I finally saw him, all he said in reply was ‘well, we all have to die of something’.”
Kath says the smell has pervaded her home to the point that when she decided to put it on the market, her agent chided her for being a smoker and making it harder to sell.
The topic of stinky neighbours is such a fraught one that the Australian Medical Association dropped its usual hardball approach to smoking and said it didn’t know what to say.
Melville council’s acting CEO Marten Tieleman says there are local laws that can be invoked, but it’s a tricky one because health officers need to witness the smoke and be satisfied it’s a nuisance. WA’s laws don’t define what constitutes a nuisance.
“In reality, unless smoking becomes illegal the city cannot formulate policy to control it and certainly not within the private realm.”
Mr Tieleman says there’s an assumption that the Residential Design Codes deliver acceptable residential outcomes for all neighbours.
He says where outdoor living areas are situated in relation to neighbours is ultimately up to architects.
“Again, as long as smoking is a legal activity and the neighbour is acting within the privacy of his own home, there are limited options to the resident.”
• Not her real name
by STEVE GRANT