In the U.S., tenants have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their rented property. The “Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment” is the promise decreeing that a landlord will maintain a tranquil environment to allow the tenant to enjoy the premises in peace.
It’s a foundational concept that is contained in every tenancy agreement. As a landlord, violating this right may constitute a breach of the lease agreement. As a result, your tenant may have different legal options to consider. For example, the tenant may:
- Withhold further rent payments until you have fixed the violation.
- Sue you in a court of law. Usually, this may end up in a small claims court.
- Move out without further obligations to the lease agreement.
Clearly, none of these scenarios are good for business. Therefore, as a landlord, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the “Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment.” Once you do, you can avoid common problems.
The following are answers to common questions regarding this crucial covenant:
What basic rights do tenants have when renting?
A lease or a rental agreement gives a tenant certain rights. They are as follows:
That said, you also have a responsibility to let your tenant know of the same through a written notice. Most states have statutes that define how much time a landlord should give their tenants before entering their homes.
- A right to live in a safe and secure home – As a landlord, you must make sure that your property is free from any health or safety hazards. Additionally, you must ensure it meets all habitability standards.
- A right to use the property in the way they wish – Tenants also have a right to use their rented premises in any way they want, so long as they don’t violate the lease agreement. An example of a violation would be to use the property to manufacture illegal drugs.
- A right to live in peace and quiet – Of course, within reason, tenants are entitled to a property they can freely occupy without recurring disturbances.
An example of a common disturbance is loud music from adjacent neighbors. Repeated landlord entry, especially without notice, can also infringe on their right to live in peace and quiet.
What does an “Implied Covenant” mean?
An implied covenant, in the legal world, is an agreement between two parties that infers or implies to enforce something. In other words, the phrasing doesn’t necessarily have to be contained in the lease agreement.
Also, as a landlord, you cannot force your tenant to waive this fundamental right. It’s a basic right that they are entitled to by being a tenant.
The “Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment” is one of two covenants tenants have a right to. The other one is what is referred to as the “Warranty of Habitability.” The two covenants serve the purpose of ensuring that tenants’ basic rights are protected.
What does “Quiet Enjoyment” mean?
In regard to a rental agreement, “Quiet enjoyment” protects tenants’ rights to live in peace and quiet. Defining the term “quiet” is, however, not easy. That’s because it’s a relative term and may mean different things to different people.
As a rule, recurring disturbances and disruptions constitute a breach of a tenant’s “quiet enjoyment” of their property.
What are some common violations of the “Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment”?
The following are some common violations of the covenant:
- Entering the unit too often and/or without serving proper notice to the tenant.
- Invading the tenant’s personal space. For instance, by snooping around their personal property.
- Ignoring the tenant’s maintenance request to resolve ongoing disruptions, such as noise complaints.
- Harassing the tenant either by phone or in person.
- Failing to provide the tenant with basic services that were promised in the lease agreement.
- Engaging in actions that are meant to “constructively evict” a tenant from the home. For instance, locking the tenant out of their unit or shutting off the water, electricity or A/C.
- Failing to respond to the tenant’s calls for repairs within a reasonable time frame.
- Prohibiting your tenant from enjoying social functions, like having dinner parties or entertaining guests.
As previously mentioned, violating the covenant of quiet enjoyment is a serious lease violation. A tenant can move out, withhold paying rent or even sue you in a small claims court.
What are some common disruptions that don’t violate a tenant’s quiet enjoyment of property?
These don’t necessarily violate the covenant, especially if not done repeatedly:
- Maintenance requests and small cosmetic issues that the landlord handles promptly.
- A smoke alarm that goes off and is turned off quickly, or if a simple fire drill is being conducted.
- Common sounds of wildlife, like birds, crickets, and small animals scurrying in the grass.
- A dog that barks but which the owner keeps under control.
- Noises from neighbors moving upstairs or downstairs.
- An average dinner party with music and conversation at a moderate noise level.
- Knocks from a landlord who is demanding due rent.
How can a landlord mitigate against infringing on their tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment?
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to ensure that issues at the rental property are dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.
In case of legitimate concern, consider:
- Talking to the tenant who is causing the disruption. This is usually common in multi-unit complexes. Let the tenant know that there can be legal consequences should they not halt their actions.
- Compensating the tenant. If damages result from the nuisance, then consider compensating the tenant appropriately. Damage may result, for instance, when a tenant trips and breaks their arm during a renovation in the hallway.
- Evicting the tenant who is causing the disruption. If the tenant doesn’t change and continues disrupting other tenants, then consider evicting them.
Respecting a tenant’s peace and quiet enjoyment is key to running a successful rental investment. If you are just getting started and don’t have a grasp on tenancy laws yet, T-Square Properties can help. We have been helping property owners in the Seattle area since 1996!
In the rental business industry, finding high-quality tenants is one of the top objectives. For this reason, you want to keep them loyal to your property.
Good tenants are prompt in paying rental dues. They strive to contribute to the harmony in the property and neighborhood. Damages are also minimal since they conduct their tenant duties well. For this reason, you want to keep these types of tenants happy to prevent them from leaving.
Check out some of these tips on how to inspire happiness in your tenants:
1. Always prioritize repairs and maintenance.
Who wants to live in a rental unit with a clogged toilet? Who wants to spend a rainy day indoors under a leaking roof. No one. Therefore, when there are problems that you need to address, focus on resolving them.
Renters are happy when living in a safe and habitable space. They don’t want to spend precious time reporting various property concerns. They’d prefer not to deal with stressful inconveniences, whether minor or significant. Without them, tenants can spend time in their homes while in a relaxed mood.
2. Be reachable when a tenant contacts you.
An absentee landlord makes life incredibly stressful for tenants when they need to get in contact with you as soon as possible. One of the many responsibilities of your position is to be accessible to your renters. So, declare certain business days during which you’ll be available to answer their calls.
Tenants will be glad to have landlords that they can easily contact. Waiting for a response will make tenants anxious. When the concern is urgent, tenants want to feel relieved that the landlord is aware of the problems. Action is expected in some cases, and this requires landlords to be present and within reach.
3. Follow the State law regarding tenant’s privacy.
There are many violations a landlord may commit while doing their job. Hovering over tenants or constantly monitoring their every move goes against tenant’s privacy laws, and their peace and quiet. Additionally, so are unannounced property inspections. Make sure to schedule your visits ahead of time and provide reasonable notice of at least 24 hours.
Renters will appreciate that you value their privacy. They do understand that inspections should be performed to keep up with property maintenance. However, they’ll feel much more respected when enough notice has been provided. This way, they can rearrange their schedule to be present at the time of the inspection.
4. Prioritize the tenant’s safety.
If a property lacks security measures, tenants will undoubtedly feel unsafe in their homes. To protect your renters, invest in security camera equipment. Moreover, purchase solid door and window locks. Your property should discourage burglars from breaking and entering.
Tenants will feel relieved and happy to live in a well-secured area. When CCTVs are present, they can breathe easy knowing that there’s a way to track and identify anyone with ill intentions. Even if the rent is cheap, it’s scary to be a victim of a petty crime. Further, having a good security system means tenants can go home late without fear.
5. Treat your tenants respectfully and professionally.
A landlord who is difficult to deal with will put any tenant at unease. When interacting with your tenants, practice tact and treat everyone fairly. Be flexible and approachable without being overbearing. Lastly, dress acceptably and be considerate.
Renters are happier when they get along well with their landlord. They’re not looking for you to be overly friendly and go out drinking with them. Instead, they want someone reasonable, firm and respectful. Retain boundaries without being overly strict and protect each tenant’s privacy.
6. Make your rental unit pet-friendly.
Does the rental have too many restrictions, such as disallowing pets? Does the property have the perfect location and amenities, but no pets are permitted? Being unwelcoming of any pets can make your prospects narrower.
Pets naturally make tenants happier. So, by being a pet-friendly rental space, you automatically add joy to your customers. Opening your property to pets might be challenging.
However, with the right measures, you can protect the value of your home. You can add pet addendums to detail your requirements and restrictions according to the type, size and breed of the pets. Most tenants who own pets also stay longer, being a significant incentive.
7. Appreciate your tenants.
Are your tenants responsible and dependable? Do they avoid violations and consistently adhere to your property policies? If yes, consider giving recognition and appreciation.
Make your renters happy by letting them know you value their presence and loyalty. You can give out gift cards, meal coupons and even holiday cards. This effort goes a long way in cultivating a good landlord-tenant relationship. Some landlords will even offer rental discounts after a tenant renews.
8. Listen to your tenants when they have complaints and concerns.
Do your tenants trust your judgment during conflicts and report their concerns to you? As a landlord, you must communicate well with your renters. Practice active listening and avoid dismissing complaints you consider as minor. What’s minor for you may be a big deal to the tenant reporting the concern.
Ask for further information so that you can better respond to your renters’ needs and resolve issues promptly. Tenants are likely to be happier when they know that you pay attention to their requests. If something is within your capacity to grant and it’s reasonable, then being flexible is a good idea.
Keeping renters happy requires you to pay attention to the details. Take care of the property, be responsive to your tenants and show respect at all times. Generate a long-term vision of cultivating loyalty from your tenants. Serve their needs well, and you’ll end up a happy landlord in the process.
If you need an experienced and dedicated property manager, contact T-Square Real Estate Services at (425) 485- 1800 or visit our website.
Like most people, a contingency plan for a pandemic like Coronavirus might not have been part of your protocols as a landlord. However, when a crisis hits, your ability to bounce back right away and respond promptly helps ease your tenants’ anxiety.
You should practice excellent management in a time like this, when your renters need you most. How can one achieve this? We here at T-Square Properties have written this article to give you some ideas on what measures to take.
Tips for Handling Maintenance in a Crisis
#1. It’s vital to stay in communication with your tenants.
You must understand that a reassuring message coming from you can make all the difference to your tenants. It’s important to let them know that maintenance services will still be offered during this difficult period. Your reliability will be highlighted in this crisis, and knowing they can count on you will lead to more loyal renters.
Establish safety measures when dropping by a tenant’s unit. This sends the message that you care for their well-being. While essential maintenance duties may still need to continue, there’s no reason to forgo sanitary practices.
Your tenants will also appreciate if you send them useful information as a good resource. It shows you’re looking after their health and safety as well. Providing reminders on how to practice sanitation is another way to send the same message, too.
Even in the midst of COVID-19, emergencies still happen. Since many tenants will be staying home due to the virus, your property needs to stay safe and comforting in this distressing period. Make sure to send them a message, letting them know that you’re within reach if needed. You should prioritize quickly responding to all calls and emails.
Now is the time to prove to your tenants that their decision to rent your property was the best move. It also cements your relationship, and shows that you are a landlord who can be depended upon in dire situations.
#2. Implement maintenance precautions for everyone’s safety.
When you have to send in maintenance professionals to your tenants’ units, remind them to observe proper hygiene measures, specifically by washing their hands before entering the property. Always ask the workers to carry soap, hand sanitizers or hygienic wipes with them when working.
Using gloves is a sanitary way to perform a maintenance job, so remind your maintenance staff to always wear fresh ones when entering your property. Remind them that it’s also important to discard used gloves properly to avoid contamination.
It’s also essential for them to keep their working area clean and to have them wear masks, PPEs or shoe covers while performing their job.
Never allow a sick maintenance contractor to work, and always have a ready replacement. This will help control the risk of spreading the virus. If a tenant requests for an emergency repair, the maintenance worker you send should be completely healthy.
#3. Be sure to have your own set of supplies ready.
When your maintenance worker needs to conduct repairs in your property, you should be ready with the essentials. As a landlord, you should have masks, alcohol wipes, sanitizers and gloves. You never know when you yourself might need to enter your tenant’s home with a contractor.
Always be prepared so you’re ready to visit a renter and attend to the different property needs. This is also for your own safety. It’s a given that even in this pandemic, you’ll be in contact with a number of residents, especially if you’re self-managing multiple properties.
Things to think about when receiving service requests during COVID-19
- Consider having a phone call to walk a tenant through the repair problem, if it’s minor.
- Weigh the essential versus non-essential repairs so you can prioritize the urgent cases.
- Consider the presence of children and seniors in the property when sending maintenance staff. You’ll need to advise the repair staff to be even more cautious in this case.
- Inform your tenants and reduce their anxieties by telling them the initiatives and precautions you’re taking while maintenance work is being done.
- Inform the tenants beforehand (especially if they’re working from home) that maintenance work will be conducted and there may be noise. Advise the maintenance contractor to minimize noise when a tenant is working from home.
As a landlord managing your own rental property, it’s especially challenging right now to carry out your duties. You need to communicate with your tenants in a clear manner, be on top of things and practice good hygiene for your safety and that of your tenants. If there’s repair work to be handled, you should make sure that the workers are also practicing good hygiene and taking safety measures.
This added layer of precautions and stress could take its toll on you. You might find it easier to hire a property manager to handle your property while you focus on your own well-being.
Property managers have adequate resources, efficient protocols and an experienced maintenance team that will save you a lot of time, money and resources. You may find hiring one invaluable during this stressful COVID-19 period. Standards must be strict since COVID-19 is highly contagious and there’s currently no cure or vaccine.
If you need support from a professional property manager in King & Snohomish County, contact T-Square Properties today at 425.485.1800 or Info@TSquareManagement.com.
As a landlord, you should do your best to find tenants who will take good care of your rentals. By doing so, you can maintain the value of your property and extend the life expectancy of your appliances and other home components.
However, realistically speaking, not all tenants are will take the necessary steps to care for the property. For this reason, you should be proactive to minimize the occurrences and gravity of damage to your rental.
Keep reading to learn some proactive tips that can help you lessen the impact of tenant damages to your rental.
1. Be proactive about maintaining your property.
No one will care more about your property than you. Knowing this, you must take the necessary steps to ensure your property stays in its best condition. This will allow you to ensure that your property is marketable throughout the years whether the economy is booming or in a period of a slump. You can accomplish this by incorporating the following practices into your routine:
Conduct regular inspections with a checklist.
When conducting regular property inspections, keep a checklist to ensure that you don’t forget essential areas. This is the most efficient way for you to keep a record of your inspections. Primarily, you will want to look for deferred maintenance items that may require attention during the Tenant’s occupancy. These will typically include looking for:
- Slow water leaks around all plumbing fixtures
- Broken Caulking around tub and shower enclosures
- Inoperable or disabled Smoke and CO detectors
- Any apparent lease violations such as smoking, unauthorized pets, or unauthorized roommates
By proactively checking for these deferred maintenance items you are minimizing your exposure to the possibility of expensive repairs.
Be vigilant during tenant move-ins and move-outs
Often property damage takes place during tenant move-ins and move-outs. As a property owner, encourage your tenants to use furniture sliders. This can reduce the damage you face to your floor, carpets, and walls.
2. Be thorough during tenant screening.
When interviewing prospective tenants, keep an eye out for red flags. Tenant screening can reveal potential problems so that you can prevent them from ruining your property. When screening a prospective tenant, you should make sure to do the following things:
Evaluate the applicant’s rental history
Check to see if the prospective tenant changes rentals every few months. Make sure to learn why they do this as they may be trying to escape facing the consequences of property damage. You can verify the real reason by checking with their previous rental owners. This is a sensible way to learn if the prospect can be relied upon to take good care of your rental unit.
Always run a criminal background check
To ensure that your other tenants and your property are safe, running a background check is important.
You don’t want your rental home to become damaged or the center for illegal activities. You also don’t want to risk sheltering a criminal in your rental unit or becoming an accessory to their criminal activities in any way.
Check if they have an eviction record
If a prospect has been previously evicted from a rental you’ll want to find out why. They may have caused serious property damage to the home. In this case, you’ll want to avoid having them on your property as they are more likely to do this again. This will save you from having to evict them from your property as well.
3. Encourage tenant accountability when it comes to property maintenance
Emphasize the importance of taking care of the rental unit to your tenants. You can do this in a variety of ways:
Ask for a security deposit
To incentivize the tenant to cause as little damage as possible, a security deposit is a great incentive. Make sure that this is high enough to warrant the desire to obtain a refund in full. If it’s too low, it will defeat the purpose since the tenant will not care much if it’s returned or not.
Include clear maintenance policies in your lease
Carefully outline your tenant’s maintenance duties in the lease agreement. This way, they can’t claim they didn’t know their responsibilities. Include who is in charge of repairs to avoid conflicts.
Develop a respectful relationship with your tenants
Tenants are much more likely to take care of the property if they have a good relationship with you.
Focus on building a good relationship with your tenants for this reason. Look after the rental unit well out of genuine respect for you is even better than them doing so just out of obligation.
Trusting your tenants to lessen property damage out of a sense of duty is a hopeful sentiment. However, it’s not a good strategy. To protect your property, encourage your tenants to report all property damage and necessary maintenance.
Rather than allowing problems to fester in the background, you’ll be able to meet them head-on. Additionally, your proactive approach is key in keeping your rental property attractive in the years to come.
For more help with maintaining the value of your rental property, consider hiring a professional property manager. At T-Square Properties, we inspect for and conduct preventative maintenance to make sure that our client’s properties are always in their best shape. Contact us to learn how we can do the same for you!
In the state of Washington, squatters can legally claim ownership to a property through adverse possession. Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows someone who possesses another person’s property for a certain amount of time to legally claim ownership of the property.
To prevent a squatter from taking over ownership of your property, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the Washington landlord-tenant law as well as squatters’ rights. This will help you prevent squatters from entering your property and help you navigate the situation if you do end up with squatters.
What is a squatter?
A squatter is a person that starts living in someone else’s property without the owner’s consent. Besides not having any legal ownership rights to the property, a squatter also doesn’t pay rent to live on the property. Typically, squatters will occupy properties that are unoccupied, abandoned or have been foreclosed upon.
What is the difference between squatting and trespassing?
It’s easy to confuse squatting and trespassing, but it’s important to note that they are not legally the same thing. Unlike trespassing, squatting is a civil matter, not a criminal offense. Squatting will only become a criminal offense once the property owner has discovered their presence and made it known that they need to leave the property.
When does a holdover tenant become a trespasser?
Holdover tenants are renters who refuse to leave the property once the term of their lease agreement has expired. They are also known as tenants at sufferance.
If the landlord allows them to stay, the tenant will be responsible for continuing to uphold the terms of their existing or previous lease agreement. They will be living at the will of the landlord, however, which means they can be evicted at any time and the landlord does not have to provide them any notice.
If the landlord doesn’t allow them to stay after their lease term expires but they refuse to leave, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit against them. At that point, the holdover tenant will be considered a criminal trespasser. Once they become a trespasser, they will no longer be able to make an adverse possession claim to the property.
What is color of title?
Color of title means that the ownership a person has over the property isn’t considered regular. Regular ownership means that the person who is claiming ownership of the property has acquired the property through the typical legal process. In the case of color of title, the person claiming ownership of the property is usually lacking one or more of the necessary legal documents to claim ownership.
Do squatters need to pay property taxes?
Yes, squatters must pay property taxes for at least 7 uninterrupted years while occupying the property. If they cannot prove that they have done so, they cannot make a legal claim of ownership to the property.
What conditions must squatters meet to lay claim to the property?
In Washington, a squatter can lay a claim of ownership to a property after occupying it for 7 continuous years. However, this is only one of the conditions they must meet to make a legal claim to the property. They must also meet the following requirements:
They must be able to make a hostile claim to the property.
Squatters must be able to make what is referred to as a ‘hostile’ claim to the property. In a legal sense, ‘hostile’ takes one of the following three meanings:
- Simple occupation. In this definition, the term ‘hostile’ is defined to mean a mere occupation of the land. The trespasser is not obligated to know who the actual property owner is. Most states follow this definition of a ‘hostile’ claim.
- Awareness of trespassing. Unlike the first definition, this definition requires that the trespasser has an awareness of their criminal actions. They must know that they are committing a criminal offense by living on the property.
- Good faith mistake. In this definition, the trespasser is assumed to have made an innocent mistake in occupying the property. They could have relied on an irregular document, such as an invalid or incorrect deed. Only a handful of states follow this definition.
They must have exclusive possession of the land.
A squatter will not be able to make a successful adverse possession claim if they cannot prove that they have had exclusive possession of the property. This means that they cannot have shared the property with anyone else, such as other squatters, tenants, or even the property owner.
They must have open & notorious possession of the property.
Under this requirement, the squatter must have publicly occupied the property. They cannot have hidden the fact that they were living on the property from anyone.
They must have actual possession of the property
A squatter cannot make a claim of adverse possession if they haven’t actually possessed the property. They must occupy the property, regardless of whether it’s a legal occupation at the time or not. They can prove that they have done this by beautifying, maintaining, or improving the property.
How to evict a squatter in Washington state:
Unlike many other states, property owners in Washington can remove squatters simply by involving the police. To do this, they need to provide the police with a declaration form. This is a legal document that states that:
- The person filing the declaration form is the property owner or their representative.
- The person staying at the property has no legal authority to do so.
- The property was not abandoned when the squatter started living on it.
- The person filing out the form understands that it is illegal to provide false information.
They will then allow the alleged squatter to present their case on their rights to the property. If the squatter fails to present a convincing case, the police will remove them from the property. They may end up facing charges for criminal trespassing as well.
To get a declaration form, please click here.
How to protect your property from squatters:
- Regularly inspect the property.
- Pay your property taxes.
- Secure all entrances of the property if you aren’t living there.
- Place signs around the property indicating “No Trespassing”.
- Seek the help of the police as soon as you notice the presence of squatters on the property.
- Hire an experienced property management company.
At T-Square Properties, we are well-versed in Washington state laws. If you hire us, we’ll work to ensure your property is cared for and occupied by a top-quality tenant so you won’t ever have to face the issue of having squatters. Contact us today for more information!
Note: This post is not intended to provide legal advice but rather practical advice from a property management perspective. Legal advice should always be provided by an attorney.