The covenant of quiet enjoyment is one of a tenant's most essential rights. However, too often, landlords and tenants may find that they don't understand what exactly this covenant entails. With that in mind, below is an explanation of the covenant. Read on below for more information on what rights are protected under the covenant, what actions are disallowed, and what you can do to ensure that you uphold this pillar of the landlord-tenant relationship.
What is the covenant of quiet enjoyment?
At its core, the covenant of quiet enjoyment is a formal clause found in many lease agreements for real property. The quiet enjoyment clause in a rental agreement essentially says that the landlord will protect the tenant's right to undisturbed and peaceful habitation of the property. However, notably, this can also be an implied covenant, which means that most courts will uphold this covenant in the landlord-tenant relationship, even if it isn't officially spelled out in the rental agreement.
In truth, it can be hard to spell out exactly what rights are protected under this convent because the definition of "quiet enjoyment" can be a bit subjective. In general, every tenant should expect to have the following rights:
- To exclude others from the premises.
- To peace and quiet.
- To a clean residence.
- To a residence kept in good repair.
- To basic services such as heat and hot water.
It's also important to note that tenants bear certain responsibilities under this covenant as well. In particular, the tenant must refrain from infringing on another tenant's right to quiet enjoyment. He or she must also agree to follow any local law pertaining to the right of quiet enjoyment, such as a noise ordinance.
What kinds of actions are disallowed under this implied covenant?
Just as specific rights are protected under the covenant of quiet enjoyment, specific actions are also disallowed under this arrangement. Below is a list of actions that a tenant is protected against under the quiet enjoyment clause in a lease agreement:
- A landlord harassing the tenant, either in-person or over the phone.
- A landlord entering the property without proper cause or without giving proper notice beforehand.
- A landlord doing unnecessary maintenance work or improvements.
- Any maintenance work or upgrades that take significantly longer the necessary.
With that said, not every disturbance should be considered a breach of the quiet enjoyment covenant. As a rule of thumb, this covenant protects against ongoing patterns of behavior, rather than any one-time nuisance. In light of that, the following instances will likely not be considered to be interfering with a tenant's right to quiet possession of the property:
- A landlord contacting the tenant once or twice to inquire about past-due rent.
- Any inspections that were outlined in the lease agreement.
- Emergency or previously scheduled maintenance or repairs.
- Another tenant walking around his or her apartment or hosting guests.
- A smoke or carbon monoxide detector going off on a singular occasion.
What happens if someone breaches the quiet enjoyment covenant?
In a perfect world, everyone would be able to cohabitate peacefully and no one would ever breach the covenant of quiet enjoyment. However, unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world and sometimes those rights are violated. Here's what to do if someone disregards the quiet enjoyment covenant:
If another tenant is the one who's infringing upon your right to quiet enjoyment, the answer is simple. Do your best to record evidence of the issue and talk to your landlord or property manager. They should be willing to deal with whichever neighbor has been causing the continual disturbance. However, remember that noisy neighbors can't always be helped. Activities like walking around an upstairs apartment loudly or hosting guests won't count as a breach of the covenant.
If the landlord or property manager is the one causing you not to be able to enjoy quiet possession of your rental unit, things get a little more complicated. You may be within your rights to either move out or to start withholding rent. However, before you do so, our best advice is to consult with a landlord-tenant attorney in your state who can help you understand your rights according to state law.
If a tenant is infringing upon other tenants' right to quiet enjoyment, it's your responsibility to take action. The first step can be a friendly phone call to ask them to stop the behavior. (However, be careful. Any more than one or two phone calls might be considered landlord harassment.)
After that point, though, if the behavior doesn't change, it's time to put your thoughts into writing in the form of a quiet enjoyment letter, also known as a cure or quit letter. This letter should specify the behavior that's taking place and a date by which it needs to be remedied. It should also state that if the behavior doesn't change, you may be forced to pursue further action, including eviction.
Before you write your quiet enjoyment letter, you'll want to check your state's requirements for eviction proceedings. Often, they will specify the timeframe that you need to give the tenant to rectify his or her behavior.
What can landlords and tenants do to obey the implied covenant?
In the end, both landlords and tenants can work together to ensure that the covenant of quiet enjoyment is upheld. Keep the following suggestions in mind to make sure your next leased property arrangement goes smoothly.
On the tenant end of the arrangement, upholding the right of quiet enjoyment amounts to being a good neighbor, Read up on any local laws, such as noise ordinances, so you can be sure not to violate them. Try not to have too many loud parties or play your music too loud. Make sure any guests are respectful of your fellow tenants.
For landlords, things get a little bit more complicated. Follow the list of reminders to make sure you're respecting your tenant's rights:
- Always give your tenants advance notice before scheduling any maintenance or repairs.
- Always ask permission before entering the unit.
- After an initial phone call, any correspondence should be in writing.
- Quiet enjoyment letters should be written in accordance with state law.
- Court or eviction proceedings also need to happen in accordance with state law.
The bottom line
The covenant of quiet enjoyment is an important part of the landlord-tenant relationship. Use the post above as a guide for tenants and landlords on how to uphold the covenant to the best of your ability and what to do if the covenant is breached.