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St. Paul condo sellers must disclose smoking policy to buyers

Minneapolis Star Tribune logo Minneapolis Star Tribune 1/7/2021 Shannon Prather, Star Tribune

St. Paul condo and townhouse owners looking to sell their units now must disclose their association's smoking policy to prospective buyers.

The City Council unanimously passed a new "Smoking Policy Disclosure Report" ordinance Wednesday, prompted by condo owners who said their neighbors' secondhand smoke seeped through walls and utilities, jeopardizing their health and quality of life. The council said prospective buyers deserve to know of smokers nearby.

"This is a step forward for public health and transparency," said Council Member Rebecca Noecker, who sponsored the ordinance.

Health advocacy groups including the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota and the American Lung Association supported the new rule.

The disclosure requirement is needed to help prospective buyers avoid dangerous secondhand smoke, according to the ordinance. Building design alone cannot control exposure to second­hand smoke, and a building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems can actually distribute secondhand smoke, the ordinance said.

Sellers in "common interest communities," including condos, townhouses and retirement communities, now must complete a smoking policy disclosure before a property is listed for sale. The disclosure will be provided to prospective buyers as part of the St. Paul Truth in Sale of Housing report.

Downtown St. Paul condo owners Jeff Tentinger and Robin Werrbach advocated for the ordinance. The couple said neighbors' smoking has cost them thousands of dollars in air purifiers, an air quality test and replacing their carpet with laminate flooring. Their homeowner's association board voted to ban smoking in 2017, only to reverse course in 2018.

Tentinger and Werrbach said the disclosure ordinance will protect "the basic human right to breathe clean air in our own home."

"The passage of this will provide a significant missing piece of information to those searching for a multiunit residence," the couple wrote in a letter to the council. "With that knowledge, individuals can then make an informed choice."

Several people wrote letters to the council in support of the ordinance, including St. Paul condo owner Kathy Klimoski. She moved in six years ago and was surprised to learn afterward that one of her neighbors smoked.

"We didn't even think to ask if it was a no smoking building," Klimoski wrote. "Having a disclosure made on a property would bring this issue to the attention of a [prospective] buyer who might not imagine that smoking is allowed in the building. "

The American Lung Association also wrote a letter in support of the ordinance, pointing out that secondhand smoke causes more than 41,000 deaths per year.

"All Americans deserve to live, work, study and play in smoke-free environments," wrote Heidi Larson, public policy and advocacy manager for the American Lung Association in Minnesota. "This policy should serve as a step forward to the goal of prohibiting smoking in all multiunit housing units in St. Paul."

Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037

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