Summertime is when Massachusetts heads outdoors, so does most of the US. Sometimes, this leads to tragedy. A fire in Arlington, Massachusetts reminded me that smoking on the porch is not a foolproof way to keep your house safe from fire.

Smoking Can Set a House On Fire

Smoking is a major cause of fire in residences in Massachusetts. It’s not so much the act of smoking; it is the way that cigarette butts and pipe embers are disposed of. Embers can linger and burst into flame later. If the ember is on the porch, residents often are no longer there to see the fire start. There are no smoke detectors outside to warn them.

The best way to dispose of hot embers is to have a metal can with sand in it for disposal. Ashtrays are not always enough.

Plant pots are the wrong place to dump the embers.

  • It’s bad for the plant.
  • There may be combustible chemicals in the soil.

Garbage cans may have combustible things in them. Flicking a butt into a flowerbed can lead to leaves or mulch catching fire in addition to the chemicals that might catch fire.

Other Porch No-Nos

Since it is summer, I take this moment to remind you that state law does not allow grills on the porch, unless you can be 10 feet from the building’s wall. Check your local town or city website for local ordinances that might be more strict. (Here’s a great example from Chelsea).

Important tips to remember about barbecues:

  • Don’t dump your charcoal too soon. Charcoal can take up to 48 hours to fully cool down.
  • Propane cans should be stored outside.

Can a Condo Association Ban Smoking?

Yes. A condo association is free to make rules about behavior like no smoking, no grilling, no locking bicycles on the fence, whether pets are allowed, or even requiring that all curtains have to be white on the outward-facing side.

If you are buying into a condo association, you need to check on typical rules that might affect your choice about living there.

Condo associations can ban smoking on the property. There is a variety of opinions about whether this is good or bad for property values. Some say that no smoking buildings are safer and more pleasant. Others say that the restriction may turn off future buyers. Also, smoking bans, like quiet hours, are hard to enforce because violations are hard to prove.

Can a Landlord Ban Smoking?

Yes, a landlord can ban smoking on the property. A lease can have a No Smoking clause.

What About Marijuana?

Yes, a landlord can ban smoking marijuana on the property. There is some controversy about whether someone with a medical use card should be allowed to smoke. The lawyers are still figuring this out, since legalization is still fairly new. State laws vary on this quite a lot.

Smoking is bad for your health in many ways. Be safe!


Rona Fischman is a founding member of NAEBA. She owns 4 Buyers Real Estate in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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