Mary Ann Allen, a resident at Edgewood Apartments in Kennebunk, says that cigarette and marijuana smoke coming from other apartments in the building is affecting her health. She has COPD, asthma and cancer. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Some days, the smell of cigarette and marijuana smoke is so strong in Mary Ann Allen’s non-smoking apartment building that she sleeps with the windows open, even when the temperature drops below freezing.

“This is very unhealthy for me,” said Allen, who has stage 4 cancer, asthma and COPD.

The smell is so persistent that her physical therapist has stopped coming to her apartment for appointments and her nurse wants to meet in a common area on a different floor.

Over the past year and a half, Allen and two neighbors at Edgewood Apartments in Kennebunk have repeatedly notified the company that owns the building, but they say nothing has changed. A company representative says the complaints are being taken seriously, but it is difficult to prove where the smoke is coming from.

“We’re doing our best to address it,” said Ken Berry, director of property management for Accessible Space Inc., the Minnesota-based nonprofit that manages the property and provides accessible and affordable housing in 25 states.

Edgewood Apartments provides housing to low-income people with disabilities who receive vouchers through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 15-unit building is ASI’s only property in Maine.


Some residents at Edgewood Apartments in Kennebunk say that cigarette and marijuana smoke coming from other apartments in the building is impacting their health, and that the management company has not been able to address their concerns. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

There is no federal requirement for private nonprofit housing providers to adopt a smoke-free housing policy, though they are strongly encouraged to do so. ASI implemented a smoke-free policy at all of its properties more than a decade ago, Berry said.

At Edgewood, smoking is banned inside the facility and within 25 feet of its doors and windows, according to residents’ lease documents. Because of HUD program requirements, the possession and use of any controlled substance – including marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law – is not allowed on the property. Violating those policies is grounds for lease termination.

“Management shall take reasonable steps to enforce the smoke-free housing policy to make the complex smoke-free. Management is not required to take steps in response to smoking unless notice is received that smoking has occurred,” the lease states.


Cindy Kalkhoff, who has lived at Edgewood for eight years, first complained about smoking in the building in August 2021. She has since filed numerous reports about the smell of cigarettes and marijuana but is dissatisfied with the company’s response.

In May 2022, Kalkhoff reported to ASI that “continual and daily” use of marijuana in the building was “producing heavy toxic carcinogenic smoke and chemicals that pervade into the second floor hallway and seep into apartments.” She said the smoke was causing dizziness, nausea, congestion and breathing problems.


“I can no longer use my apartment and must avoid being here as much as possible,” she wrote.

Kalkhoff then turned directly to HUD and wrote letters to elected officials. HUD did not respond to multiple requests from the Press Herald to discuss the women’s claims about smoking in the building.

Mary Ann Allen, left, and, Cindy Kalkhoff, an eight-year resident of the complex, say the management company has not been able to address their concerns about smoking in the building. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

ASI has asked tenants to report known or suspected crimes, including illegal drug use, first to local police and then to management. So Kalkhoff did just that. She called police in July to report the strong odor of marijuana in her apartment coming from down the hall.

In a report documenting her complaint, Kennebunk Police Sgt. Michael Tucci said he and another officer went upstairs and “could immediately smell the odor of marijuana and cigarette smoke.” But they could not tell exactly which apartment it was coming from, he wrote. 

In response to a complaint Kalkhoff filed with ASI in October, the company notified her that they did not question whether the smoke smell was present, but said the police report was “insufficient documentation that would justify someone receiving a lease infraction or a termination of a lease agreement.”

“Regarding your continued claims of certain residents smoking cigarettes and marijuana within the privacy of their apartments with their apartment entry doors closed, please be reminded and as you know, it is very difficult to reasonably and sufficiently document such claims even when evidence of such activity is present, including the smell of cigarette and/or marijuana smoke,” the company wrote.


On Dec. 3, Kalkhoff again turned to authorities, calling the fire department to report a chemical odor on the second floor that was making her feel sick. When a member of Kennebunk Fire Rescue reached the second floor, they could smell “the obvious odor of marijuana,” according to an incident report.

The building manager asked the department to track which apartment it was coming from, but the department said that doesn’t fall under its jurisdiction.

A memo reminding residents of the “smoke-free” policy is posted in the front entrance to the building. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Berry acknowledged that this has been an ongoing issue at Edgewood and said the company continues to document it through residents’ reports and through its onsite representative, who lives and works in the building.

“It can be a challenge catching someone violating any policy within the privacy of their own apartments,” Berry said. “We don’t deny there is the smell of smoke in the building. We understand it’s frustrating for our residents because it’s frustrating for us, too.”

The company has asked the Kennebunk police and fire departments for input on how to locate where the smell is coming from, he said.

“This is not an unusual situation, unfortunately,” he said. “Getting the verification and confirmation we need to confidently know where it’s coming from can be difficult.”



Allen said ASI gave her an air purifier in response to her complaints, but she doesn’t feel it is adequate. She believes the smoke is making her medical conditions worse.

Both women believe the company is negligent and could do more to identify who is smoking in the building. They’d leave if they could, they said, but face long waits for an apartment in a different building.

Cindy Kalkhoff, who has lived at Edgewood Apartments for eight years, uses fans to circulate fresh air from open windows into her apartment. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“We can’t afford to move anywhere else,” Kalkhoff said. She put her name on a waiting list at a different building but was told the wait would likely be about five years.

Kalkhoff and Allen would like to see ASI install sensors in apartments that can detect cigarette and marijuana smoke. Those sensors are used in some apartment buildings and hotels, they said, and could provide evidence to management that residents are smoking in the building.

But in a letter to Kalkhoff, company representatives wrote that they “are not aware of any such technology that will consistently, reliably and solely identify cigarette and marijuana smoke from other forms of smoke that may come from other sources, such as from a toaster, a stovetop or an oven.”

Allen said she is frustrated with the situation, especially because it has impacted her medical treatment. She worries about other residents retaliating against her for speaking out about the problem, but wants ASI to do something to fix it.

“They’re making excuses for everything in the world,” she said.

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