Renting out one of your properties means that you are giving someone else the right to use that property in specific ways. Once the lease is signed, you can no longer come and go at will, and the tenant gains some type of control over the management of the property.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go there when necessary or that you aren’t responsible for maintaining the property. However, it does mean that you are responsible for keeping the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.
The concept of quiet enjoyment is one that some landlords may have never heard before, but they’ve likely followed it in practice. The right of quiet enjoyment is at the core of every single lease agreement between a landlord and a tenant, so it’s probably time for you to understand exactly what it is more clearly!
You don’t want to cause a break of quiet enjoyment unintentionally as it could permanently damage the relationship between you and your tenant, and it could even get you into some legal trouble. Let’s find out why quiet enjoyment matters so much!
A Table Of Contents For The Covenant Of Quiet Enjoyment
- What Is The Implied Covenant Of Quiet Enjoyment?
- Examples of Quiet Enjoyment In Action
- Can I Ask A Tenant To Waive Their Right To Quiet Enjoyment?
- What Rights Does A Tenant Have At A Rental Property?
- How To Avoid A Break of Quiet Enjoyment
- What Can A Tenant Do If This Right Is Not Kept?
- Should Your Lease Include A Quiet Enjoyment Clause
When you sign a lease agreement with a tenant, you implicitly agree to give that tenant a right to quiet enjoyment at the rental property.
What is quiet enjoyment?
Quiet enjoyment is the concept that a tenant has the right to use the leased space peacefully, reasonably, and without disturbances. It can be a hard phrase to define because the words quiet and enjoyment can both be interpreted in many ways. The core idea is that the landlord must allow and ensure that tenants can use their space in a state of quiet enjoyment.
Why Is It An Implied Covenant?
You might be wondering why the right to quiet enjoyment is sometimes referred to as the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.
An implied covenant is a concept that is not specifically written into a lease but is indicated by the landlord-tenant laws in every state on the basis that the laws require landlords to not intrude on the tenant and to keep the space in livable conditions for the tenant.
While an explanation of quiet enjoyment may not be written into the leases that your tenants sign, that does not mean that you are excepted from needing to ensure this right for your tenants.
Now that you have an idea of what quiet enjoyment means, you might be wondering how this could affect the management of your rental properties.
Let’s talk through a few examples.
First, let’s say that you need to make some repairs to a rental property. You show up, let yourself in, and start the repairs without letting the tenant know. They get upset and say that you’re impeding on their right to use the space. Are they right or wrong?
In this case, they would be right. You cannot simply enter the space without notice except in emergency conditions and you did not give them any notice. Doing so impedes on their right to quiet enjoyment.
Here’s another example. Imagine that you own an apartment in a very busy city on bustling street corner. The traffic is loud, and a new tenant complains that you need to do something to make it more bearable.
In this case, you don’t have to do anything differently. The tenant could have predicted that issue, and it is not a factor which is under your control, causing them to feel distressed.
A Break Of Enjoyment Vs Real World Problems
Distinguishing between what is your problem to deal with and what is simply a problem of the world can be as confusing for you as it is for your tenants. To help you to better understand the difference, we’ve drawn up a few comparisons.
|Breach of Quiet Enjoyment
|Not A Breach
|Other tenants in your rental building are blasting music 24/7, throwing parties, and leaving trash in the hallways.
|Other tenants in your building have a large number of guests over that leave at a reasonable hour.
|Landlord threatens the tenant because of their late rent.
|Landlord repeatedly asks for the rent that they are owed.
|The toilet is leaking constantly and never fixed by the landlord even though it has been reported.
|The toilet is fixed but there is a stain from where the water dripped. The stain is just cosmetic.
Hopefully, these examples have helped to illustrate the ways that ignoring the problems of your tenant can cause a breach of their right to quiet enjoyment. In some cases that a tenant complains about, however, you will not have any obligation to make the changes they suggest if the issue is not a true breach and more of an inconvenience.
At this time, there are no states which allow you to ask a tenant to waive their right to quiet enjoyment.
As mentioned previously, this right is an implied right that is part of your responsibilities as a landlord to make the property habitable. If the tenant cannot be comfortable living there due to your choices, you are breaking their right of quiet enjoyment. And that is never okay!
You cannot ask a tenant to waive this right.
The two main rights that you need to make sure that you maintain for your tenants are their right to quiet enjoyment and their right to live in a habitable space. If nothing else, you should be consistently ensuring that you provide the right conditions for these rights.
The state laws for the landlord-tenant relationship in each state typically include the following rights that tenants receive when they sign a lease:
- Privacy: nobody barging in, entering the property without notice, or spying on them
- Quiet: no unreasonable sounds or disturbances caused by the landlord or neighbors in a multi-unit building
- Use: right of use with the exception of times when a landlord is reasonably allowed to enter the space
- Safety: adequate security and building quality
- Utilities: heat, electricity, and water must be available
Habitability goes beyond just being able to exist in a space. The things that you must provide to your tenants are things that ensure they can live comfortably. Of course, you can enter a space with notice or in emergencies, but you need to remain at a distance and allow the tenant their rights otherwise.
Breaking a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment is sure to cause some tension. Whether the neighbors in a multi-unit setting are always causing noise disturbances or you consistently enter the property for repairs without notice, breaking this implied covenant is sure to make waves.
Even if a tenant doesn’t pursue any legal action for any type of covenant breaching, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be upset. Building a strong and trusting relationship with your tenants is important, so you should try to avoid breaking the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment as much as you possibly can.
Common Landlord Mistakes
It is very easy to think to yourself, “Okay! I won’t cause any problems for my tenant, and then I won’t be impeding on their rights.” But sometimes, inaction is just as bad as action.
These are some of the most common mistakes that landlords make, which have led to a violation of the rights of their tenants:
- Enters property without notice
- Enter property frequently
- Harasses tenant for rent or over other issues
- Doesn’t control disruptive noises caused by other tenants
- Doesn’t control disruptive noises caused by the property itself
- Turns off utilities without notice
- Does not fix things at the property
- Doesn’t follow the terms of the lease
- Does not allow the tenant to have any guests over
- Looks through tenant’s private belongings, including mail
Doing any of these things is a big no-no when you’re talking about the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. All of these issues seriously impede on the tenant’s ability to sit around at their home and have a relaxing time. And that is not fair to the tenant!
When A Tenant Is The Problem
Sometimes, the problem is not you but the tenant. This is an especially significant problem in multi-unit buildings where you own multiple apartments, but it can be a problem anywhere.
If you have a tenant that is regularly throwing huge parties that last all night, letting their smoke alarm run continuously, or otherwise making a loud disturbance that causes frustration for other tenants in the building, it is your responsibility to step in.
The loud tenant is, effectively, infringing on the other tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment. As the landlord of the establishment, it would be your job to ensure that the problematic tenant is taken care of. Whether this means that you evict the tenant or you call in a civil complaint about the noise, something has to be done to fix things.
Decide For Yourself
When you’re not sure whether or not a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment is being infringed upon, ask yourself this: Would I feel comfortable using the rental if I was in their position? Would I be able to truly enjoy it in those conditions?
If you would feel at all uncomfortable, don’t assume that your tenant is comfortable. Instead, do something about it! At the very least, take it upon yourself to talk to them to find out if there is anything that you can do to balance out the problem.
A Step-By-Step Approach
If a tenant comes to you with a complaint about how they are being allowed to use the space or you suspect that there is a disturbance bothering them, do you know what you should do?
Here are our suggestions:
- Ask the tenant what the problem is. Listen to their complaints completely, and don’t blame them for being frustrated about the situation. Try to remember that you would be frustrated, too.
- Decide if the problem is something that you need to or can address. Are they upset about a neighbor’s loud music? You can address that. Are they upset that the building next door is under construction? You cannot address that.
- Address the problem quickly. Do what you can to make the disturbance disappear.
- Keep the tenant updated while you are attempting to resolve the situation. Even if they are still frustrated, they will appreciate the attention to their well-being and comfort.
Remember that you are responsible for providing your tenant’s with a comfortable and safe property to live in. That is what you agreed to when you signed the lease agreement, and you should always feel confident that you can create that space for your tenants.
What would happen to your rental property and the lease agreement if you do not ensure that your tenant gets to keep their right to quiet enjoyment?
If you repeatedly break this right or overstep boundaries that should be followed, it is possible that the tenant will be able to take you to court. A successful case might mean that they can get back some of the money they paid for rent since their rights were infringed upon. Whether or not they get any back will depend on the state. California, for example, has this type of rule.
In serious situations, they may be allowed to terminate the lease without repercussions.
Violating the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment is a severe issue. As mentioned, this right is the core value of every lease, and breaking it breaks down the fundamentals of the agreement completely.
Finally, some landlords might wonder if they should add a quiet enjoyment clause to their lease to explain the concept to their tenants. While this is not required in any way, it might be a good idea to do so.
Imagine that you own a duplex. One of the tenants is continually throwing parties that last all night, and the parties are impeding on your other tenant’s comfort and enjoyment. With a quiet enjoyment clause in your lease, you can easily go to the problematic tenant and remind them that they are violating this right for your other tenant.
If they continue to be problematic, having this clause in your lease may even help you to evict them more efficiently. Adding clauses, such as rules about pets, to your lease is always a good way to spell things out for every “what-if” situation. Even if the situation never occurs, you’ll be glad you had your bases covered!
Quiet Enjoyment Is Required
Now that you know what quiet enjoyment is, would you say that you found it to be a shocking and groundbreaking idea?
We didn’t think so! Most landlords know intrinsically that their tenants have a right to privately, freely, and reasonably use the rental property without any interference. In practice, however, landlords don’t always realize the extent that the right of quiet enjoyment can extend. We hope that today’s lesson has helped you gain a more complete understanding!