Whether there is a lease in place or not, federal, state and local laws give tenants certain rights. One such law is the “Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment.”
It’s a foundational concept built into every tenancy agreement. It guarantees every tenant the right to live in their rented premises in quiet and peace, free from any unreasonable noises, disturbances and nuisances from landlords, their agents, or even fellow tenants.
As a landlord, it goes without saying that understanding this Covenant is essential to running a successful rental investment. That’s because failure to do so could mean several potential consequences.
Some potential consequences include:
- Your tenant may halt paying rent: Some state or municipality laws allow tenants to legally withhold rent when the landlord has breached their right to quiet enjoyment.
- Your tenant may decide to move out without further obligations to the lease agreement: Generally, tenants can terminate their lease or rental agreement if the landlord:
- seriously breaches the terms of the lease agreement; or
- refuses to fulfil their landlording obligations.
- Your tenant may decide to sue you: Most cases involving breach to the covenant of quiet enjoyment end up in a small claims court.
With that in mind, here are answers to some frequently asked questions involving the “Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment.”
What does “Implied Covenant” mean?
An implied covenant is an agreement that is not specifically stated in a contractual agreement. So, it doesn’t have to be expressly stated in the lease or rental agreement. Also, as a landlord, you cannot force your tenant to waive this covenant.
What does “Quiet Enjoyment” mean?
Generally, tenants have two basic entitlements under the lease or rental agreement. That is:
- A right to live in a safe and habitable dwelling; and
- The right to live in peace and quiet.
Defining the term “quiet enjoyment” isn’t easy. That’s because no two situations are ever the same. Also, the terms “quiet” and “enjoyment” are relative.
According to Nolo, a legal online resource, the covenant of quiet enjoyment simply means that landlords must do everything possible not to disrupt their tenants’ reasonable and peaceful use of their rented premises.
A lease or rental agreement gives a tenant a right to:
- Reasonable peace, comfort and privacy. As a landlord, you must do everything possible to make sure you don’t interfere with your tenant’s peace, comfort and privacy.
- Exclusive use of the property. The only exception to this is in circumstances where you need to access the property to carry out important landlording responsibilities. For example, repairing or maintaining the unit.
- Safe and secure premises. As a landlord, it is imperative that you have security measures in place before renting out your property.
- A habitable rental unit. Among other things, your property must have essential utilities such as heat, electricity and hot water.
When can a landlord enter rented premises?
About 50% of states have laws specifying when and under what circumstances a landlord can enter rented premises. Usually, a landlord can enter in any of the following situations:
- To inspect a unit when a tenant moves out. A move-out inspection helps a landlord document any damage that has occurred to the unit.
- To keep the property habitable by performing needed and requested repairs.
- To make aesthetic changes or improvements to the property.
- When looking to provide services that have been requested by the tenant.
- To issue an eviction notice to the tenant, only if accompanied by a law enforcement officer.
- In the event the property has been abandoned.
- Under court orders.
- To show the unit to prospective tenants, lenders and buyers.
Some states also specify when a landlord can enter rented premises. Generally, this is usually between 9AM and 6PM or any other time that is agreed upon by both parties. The only exception to this is in times of emergencies. For example, when there is a gas leak, flooding, or fire at the property.
What are some common violations?
Some of the common violations to the covenant of quiet enjoyment include:
- Entering the rented premises too often or without serving proper notice.
- Snooping through the tenant’s property.
- Failing to keep disruptive noises, nuisances, or behaviors under control.
- Harassing a tenant either in person or over the phone.
- Terminating or restricting essential services like electricity and hot water.
- Failing to provide items and services that were promised in the lease or rental agreement.
- Failing to repair things that affect the tenant’s safety and habitability.
- Prohibiting the tenant from enjoying the property, like entertaining their guests.
What are some common examples of acceptable disturbances to a tenant’s peace and quiet?
Below are some common disturbances that don’t necessarily violate a tenant’s peace and quiet so long as they aren’t done repeatedly.
- Knocking on the door or calling the tenant to demand due rent.
- Outside noise from wildlife such as birds and crickets.
- Carrying out important landlord responsibilities, such as repairs and maintenance tasks.
- Footsteps from neighbors who are living above them.
Is your tenant obligated to follow noise ordinances?
Like every other citizen, your tenant also has an obligation to follow civil laws and noise ordinances. As such, they cannot, for instance, infringe on their neighbor’s right to quiet enjoyment.
That said, since there is no lease existing between you and the neighbor, the disturbance is simply referred to as a nuisance. Consequently, the neighbor could decide to call the police and make a nuisance complaint. If the issue continues over time, the city may decide to sue you for the disturbances.
As a landlord, it’s important that you respect your tenant’s peace and quiet of their rented properties. If you are just getting started or have more questions, please consider hiring expert help. Pinnacle Property Management is here for you.