SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – San Francisco landlords who want to ban smoking entirely on a property will not be able to evict a tenant who smokes if smoking was allowed in the apartment when the tenant signed a lease.

A city ordinance prohibits smoking only in common areas of apartment buildings, while a California law that takes effect Jan. 1 gives landlords the option of declaring an entire building a non-smoking property.

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KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

A decision by the Rent Board this week siding with smokers was meant only as a stopgap until the city finds a better strategy for enforcing the new law, said executive director Delene Wolf.

“We have a public health issue that needs to be addressed,” she said. “Taking away people’s housing, that’s not the way to address it.”

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In the meantime, landlords will be caught in the middle should a tenant complain about secondhand smoke from another unit in the building, said Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment House Association.

“As one person testified, they’ve protected a smoker ahead of someone who is pregnant and has the smoke as a health issue,” she said.

Wolf said the Rent Board would take another look at how to mediate conflicts between smokers and non-smokers early in 2012.

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