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by Abigail Van Buren

Community Harmony Clouded by New Neighbor's Smoking

DEAR ABBY: I live in a townhouse in a small development -- just four townhomes with a very relaxed HOA. Since it's just the four of us, we discuss things like needed repairs and come to an agreement.

Our problem is our newest neighbor. She smokes outside at all hours. It prevents the rest of us from enjoying our own outside spaces, nor can we open our windows for fresh air.

As far as I know, she smokes only outside and not inside. What can we say or do so we can enjoy our decks and patio spaces or leave our windows open without being smoked out? -- SMOKED OUT IN MINNESOTA

DEAR SMOKED OUT: Because your homeowners association is so tiny that you have no manager to handle this, it is important you approach this sensitive problem with a positive attitude. This woman is the newest member of your four-unit "family," and this will be a long-term relationship -- for better or for worse. Remember it must be built on trust and mutual respect.

Come together in a neighborly way to discuss other matters that need to be dealt with and then raise this subject in a noncontentious way. The solution might be something as simple as her agreeing to walk farther from the building when she smokes. Determine what would be acceptable and work from there.

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