Seventy five-year-old Friedhelm Adolfs was told to leave his home of 40 years after he ignored repeated complaints about him smoking indoors, which neighbours said was stinking out the rest of the building.
When Adolfs took the issue to the administrative court in Dusseldorf, a judge told him his landlady had been well within her rights to evict him as he was endangering his neighbours' health. The heavy smoker had usually opened the door to the stairwell to get fresh air to his flat.
"Smoking in rented flats is generally a problem, and rulings such as this one can help protect neighbours," said Martina Pöttschke-Langer from the German Cancer Research Centre on Wednesday.
Germans are still far less sensitive to the dangers of passive smoking than other parts of Europe and many attempts at introducing smoking bans in public places - notably in the capital Berlin - have failed over the past years.
But the ruling may be the first sign of a sea-change in attitude, said Pöttschke-Langer.
"We're seeing a clear sensitisation to this issue among people, many are no longer prepared to expose themselves to other people's smoke," she added.