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West Hollywood, California has amended its rental code in response to the state’s recent no-smoking rules.

The new ordinance reiterates that landlords cannot change the terms of an existing lease unless the tenant agrees.

According to West Hollywood City Council, California’s SB 332–affirming the right of landlords to ban smoking in rental units,  is confusing, and may create the false impression that a landlord can unilaterally change the terms of an existing lease by banning smoking, and ultimately evicting the offending tenant.

The newly adopted measure to designed to “assuage any such confusion or concern by reaffirming that the Citys existing ordinance precludes any such unilateral change to the terms of a lease or rental agreement or a tenancy.” Council admits this ordinance is simply a confirmation of existing law.

This rule does not apply to other changes made during the tenancy, including rent increases, noise complaints, failure to control pets, or other similar conduct which disturbs the quiet enjoyment of other tenants at the property.

In fact, the ordinance states that “smoking by a tenant does not in and of itself disturb the quiet enjoyment of other tenants at the property.” Likewise, smoking by a tenant does not constitute a nuisance under this law.

The amendment relates to existing rent stabilization laws. One reason for the new law may be to discourage landlords from using a newly-instituted smoking ban to evict tenants from these properties, clearing the way to increase the rent.

The ordinance is clear that while state law does encourage smoke-free apartment buildings, the state law also makes an exception for city ordinances which may be contrary.

Nonsmoking rentals have increased in popularity in recent years. A number of judges throughout the country have held that a landlord can be liable to tenants for illnesses related to secondhand smoke. However, to effectively institute a ban on smoking on properties where there are no existing no-smoking rules, landlords are encouraged to implement the ban in phases, requiring new tenants to sign no-smoking lease agreements.

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