Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 24, 2008 11:23 AM

Stinky Food Downstairs: What can i do?

A couple recently moved into an apartment downstairs from me and the foul cooking smells that now seep through my door are driving me insane. They're fillipino and cooking, what i assume to be, fish and vinegar in large quantities. I'm not sensitive to food smells but something about this stink combination and it's ability to move through doors and walls has got me on edge. Anyone have an idea of how i can a)decrease the smell in my apartment b)tactfully de-funkify the hallway or c) cover up the funk without suffucating my allergic to scent boyfriend. ?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Much of the odorous filipino food is fried. Buy them an electric enclosed deep frier unit.

    1. Sounds like you need an air cleaner or three. Multiple speeds are good--you can run the unit on low 24/7 and it won't make a distracting racket, or crank it up when the neighbors are cooking. Cleanable filters eliminate the need to go find replacements. And an ionizer is handy for taking particulate matter (eg atomized cooking oil) out of the air.

      1 Reply
      1. re: alanbarnes

        I'd make a formal complaint to management. But that's just me, and it probably wouldn't solve the problem. Hope the air cleaners help. Your neighbors should pay for them, but again, that's just me .....

      2. Yeah, I'd go the air cleaner/filter route too. I don't know what complaining to management can do. They can't tell people to stop cooking a certain type of food.
        If it gets severe and can't be remedied and your stuff starts smelling badly, I'd contact a lawyer about breaking your lease (need be.)

        1. Many leases have clauses stipulating that cooking smells may be limited by management. I once had a kimchi loving neighbor who was moved to a unit with a separate entrance. I too like kimchi, but would never cook with it until I had my own house with an industrial strength hood. Check with your landlord. In the meantime, burn lots of unscented candles. If the smell gets too awful, smear a bit of Vicks Vaporub under your nose.

          5 Replies
          1. re: phofiend

            I lived above some Malaysian people and we had the same thing. Everything they cooked seem to use some kind of really intense, gaggy fish paste, we used to call it the dead dragon smell. When it started coming in our vents we actually had to leave or we would be physically ill. I tried to turn it around in my mind, thinking maybe the smell of American bacon cooking gagged them out, you never know. So I was trying not to be intolerant but there was nothing we could do to mask it. Candles, opening the windows, shutting all our vents, nothing. We ended up having to move out.

            1. re: phofiend

              I think you're right about a lot of leases having stipulations about cooking odors. If the air filters aren't doing anything, you may have no choice but to exercise that option.

              1. re: phofiend

                Landlord answering here:

                Not sure that cooking smells are a common clause in most standard leases (they aren't in the ones we use) but they may be in the specific property rules/clauses: always worth checking.

                More likely there is a fairly standard clause about not disturbing the "peace and quiet" of other tenants. I'd say that really strong cooking smells could fit into that category therefore worth mentioning the problem to the landloard (I'd certainly want to know about such a situation, as it could lead to increased tenant turnover as well as lingering odors that could need extra cleaning after a move-out.

                The landlord can then try to approach the tenants about the matter in a hopefully non-confrontational way, determine if better venting needs to be installed, etc.

                1. re: phofiend

                  We recently had a family from a East African country move in, who also cooked ethnic food. Minumum 4x a day from 8am-1am, cooked curry but HEAVILY flavored with cayenne pepper. Plus they roasted their own coffee which added to the problem.The building was not built to withstand or vent those types of odors and the upstairs apartments were inundated with the odor every time the downstairs tenants cooked.
                  The landlord put a new over-stove vent/fan in, but it didn't help at all.The fumes were wafting up through floors,plumbing,heater vents and saturating walls,cabinets,carpets,furniture,curtains,clothes in closets and even coating window screens.One of the upstairs tenants(who were 20 year tenants)were having a horrible time trying to live with the smells, which became more horrible after accumulating.They could not afford to move, so the very kind landlord reduced their rent a bit for the inconvenience. They still had to cope with the situation.

                  The "cooking" tenants had a year lease and the landlord didn't want to evict,so everyone around them suffered for a year before they finally moved.Then the landlord had to paint the apartment FOUR times,tear out all the carpets and linoleum(it was new when the tenants moved in),run a odor removal machine for a week and replace carpeting for the upstairs tenants also.The odor STILL lingered and they could not get rid of it until the apartment had aired out for 6 months.The landlord lost 6 months of rent and current tenants are saying they can(still)smell "odd" odors in the apartment.

                  Needless to say, the landlord has NOW put stipulations in leases about "overwhelming cooking odors" are not allowed. And that means anything from someone baking chocolate chip cookies or boiling broccoli constantly to curry. The Fair Housing Department(in California)says it is NOT discrimination to restrict cooking odors regardless of the ethnicity of the tenants.If it is a nuisance to other tenants it is no different than noise. And the damage to property is costly.

                  1. re: Rocky2014

                    I sure hope the landlord didn't return any of the security deposit after having to do all of that work!

                2. Be very grateful they are not cooking curried foods as the Indian cullture cooks. I sell real estate and that curry smell is the worse to get out of houses even long after the people have moved out.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MeffaBabe

                    How awful. I had the same issue, only in an office cubicle. I had to leave when a cubicle mate was eating his heated up food.

                    sixelagogo, as unbelievable as it sounds, I imagine your only recourse is moving.

                    1. re: MeffaBabe

                      This is true. I once moved into just such a house and the smell hung around for weeks. I kind of liked it though, no so problem.