Skip rent when secondhand smoke persists?

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Q: I live in an apartment building that I thought would be zealous in protecting me from secondhand smoke. My lease has a clause in which I acknowledge that secondhand smoke is a legal nuisance, and I promise to make sure that no smoke from me or my guests infiltrates common areas or other tenants’ apartments.

Several months ago, I began getting smoke in my unit from a neighboring tenant. Management’s attempts over the past four months to stop it failed, so I asked to be moved. The management approved, but required that I sign a new, one-year lease. Since I’m planning on going to school in another city, I couldn’t do that — and I couldn’t bear the smoke anymore, so I had to leave.

I didn’t pay the last month’s rent, and I’m refusing to pay for any of the months left on the lease. Do I have the law on my side? –Dan C.

A: To management’s credit, they have recognized the dangers of secondhand smoke in a multifamily rental, and have made it clear that tenants bear some responsibility to keep their personal smoke from bothering others.

It suggests to tenants not only that they must follow the rule, but also that management will take reasonable steps to make sure that smoke from other people will not bother tenants.