By Jan Bergemann

Published May 24, 2013


In recent years we hear more and more about fights among neighbors in regards to smoking. Our society has created this health frenzy – putting smoking next to asbestos.


I know my opinion will create a lot of controversy, but maybe my European background makes me feel different about these ideas about smoking.


I am in the moment in Germany, the country where I grew up and where our teachers taught us that America is the country of personal freedom – the Land of the Free!


I guess we really have to rethink the idea of being the Land of the Free. Society has changed and personal freedom has been put on the backburner. You don’t want to smoke, fine with me! You don’t like second-hand smoke – I have no problem with that. But when it comes to telling neighbors that they can’t smoke in their own home I really have a problem. If you claim that the smoke from the neighbor’s cigarette is bothering you, please complain to the guy who built your building, not the neighbor who smokes. Make no mistake, if you can smell the neighbor’s cigarette smoke, you can as well smell the cooking odors from the neighbor’s unit – and some other unpleasant smells that maybe coming from the bathroom. In my opinion it’s a sign that the builder cut corners and sold you a cheap structure, not that the neighbor is leading a life not to your liking.


So, you want to tell the neighbor he/she can’t smoke in their own home? What’s next? Telling your neighbors that they can’t cook with garlic or exotic spices, like curry?


It’s time that people start to realize that we have to leave other people alone. Who do we think we are telling everybody else how to live their lives?


Make no mistake: This life-style issue has gone totally overboard. I understand that unreasonable noise is very disturbing and should be avoided, but what else can we expect from our neighbors? That they adopt to our lifestyle and only do what we like them to do?


Wouldn’t you agree that that is really too much to ask for?


As much as I understand that neighbors have to consider that they have neighbors close by, it doesn’t mean that you should be able to tell neighbors how to live.


I’m in the moment in Europe, where about 80% of the housing is in some sort of apartment building. Lots of these buildings would be considered condos – if the laws of European countries would allow community associations.


Believe it or not, fighting over pets, smoking or record access are more or less unknown. Yes, there are fights over permanent barking dogs or bicycles parked in the hallway. But there are no association law firms specializing in neighborhood wars. Neighbors fight each other – fair and square – without facing an association with deep pockets. The realty firm managing the building will fall over itself to give you any records you ever want, since there is an ownership meeting (all owners are invited and have a right to vote – even in writing – on all agenda items) once a year, where the contract of the manager is up for renewal – and competition is steep.


Smoking maybe annoying – and so can be the smell of smoke. But should anybody be allowed to force his/her neighbors not to smoke in the privacy of their own home? Try that in Europe – and most likely your neighbors would call the doctors with the little white jackets. Here your home is still considered to be your castle. And I think it’s time that we turn the clock back to a time when that was still the way of life in the Land of the Free!


Personally, I can understand that people don’t want to move into condominiums. Why would I like to live in a place where neighbors can decide how I can live my life?

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Jan Bergemann

Jan Bergemann is president of Cyber Citizens For Justice, Florida 's largest state-wide property owners' advocacy group. CCFJ works on legislation to help owners living in community

associations. He moved to Florida in 1995 - hoping to retire. He moved into a HOA, where the developer cheated the homeowners and used the association dues for his own purposes. End of retirement!


CCFJ was born in the year 2000, when some owners met in Tallahassee - finding out that power is only in numbers. Bergemann was a member of Governor Jeb Bush's HOA Task force in 2003/2004.


The organization has two websites to inform interested Florida homeowners and condo owners:

News Website:

Educational Website:

We think that only owners can really represent owners, since all service providers surely have a different interest! We are trying to create owner-friendly laws, but the best laws are useless without enforcement. And enforcement is totally lacking in Florida !

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