02/09/2011 09:31 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Second-Hand Smoke Could Get You Out Of Paying Rent

Second-hand smoke might be annoying, but it has its benefits.

A New York District Court judge ruled last week that an Upper East Side woman could break her lease -- with two months' free rent! -- because her landlord ignored her complaints about second-hand smoke in her East 96th Street Apartment.

From Crain's New York:

In this particular case, landlord Upper East Lease Associates sued a tenant for roughly $12,000 in unpaid rent. The tenant claimed that she had complained about second-hand smoke in her apartment and was fed up so she vacated her unit at 215 E. 96th St. with four months left on her lease. She had stopped paying rent two months before she moved out.

"When a tenant's smoking results in an intrusion of second-hand smoke into another tenant's apartment, and that tenant complains repeatedly, the landlord runs a financial risk if it fails to take appropriate action. This case involves such a situation," said the court ruling. "The landlord's failure to take appropriate action, over a period of several months, to rectify a second-hand smoke nuisance, justifies rent abatement, and excuses the tenant from any obligation to pay rent after her constructive eviction."

Crain's reports that the case is likely to encourage other renters to use second-hand smoke as an excuse to avoid rent payments.

"Landlords should take notice and start modifying leases to become stricter in terms of who to lease apartments to," said Stuart Berg, a partner at Kurzman Eisenberg Corbin & Lever.