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:
- A right to live in privacy – As a landlord, you also have a right to access the unit to carry out your responsibilities. For instance, to inspect the unit and to show it to prospective tenants, lenders or buyers.
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!