Landlords and tenants have a complicated relationship—which is why it makes sense to have a written rental or lease contract.
Aside from the clauses in the lease contract, there may be implied guarantees like the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
This guide will cover everything a property owner needs to know about the covenant of quiet enjoyment and your responsibilities to tenants based on this promise.
Every Lease Implies a Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment
The covenant of quiet enjoyment is one of the tenant's basic entitlements. And this implied warranty gives your tenant the right to occupy the rental property without recurring disruption, privacy violations, or harassment from the landlord or from anything that the landlord can control.
Even if your residential lease does not include a lease clause of quiet enjoyment, you are still liable for upholding it since it is an implied warranty.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment is one of the basic tenant rights—which means that a tenant can’t waive this right.
Quiet Enjoyment Does Not Guarantee Silence
The “quiet” in the implied warranty of quiet enjoyment includes the right to complain against noise. But it does not guarantee “silence.”
Some lease contracts have a lease provision about noise and quiet hours to protect all tenants. Depending on where you live, there could also be noise control laws.
In New York City, you canreport the noise from a barking dog which goes on for at least 10 minutes(5 minutes if it’s 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
Local laws like this one protect all residents.
But in reality, many people still violate lease contracts and local laws. Noise complaints are among the top 10 major issues tenants have with their rented properties.
Common examples of noise problems include noisy neighbors, constant calls from landlords, and unnecessary construction in the property.
If one of your tenants holds parties all night long for the whole weekend, you may be liable if another tenant complains and you don’t do anything about it. If someone files several police complaints about the disturbance, you may also be responsible if you don't reprimand the noisy tenant.
On the other hand, if the noise comes from an adjacent property that you do not own, your tenant can’t hold you liable for the disturbance.
Landlords Should Provide Notice of Entry
Under the covenant of quiet enjoyment, a tenant has a reasonable right to use the leased premises for any purpose as long as it does not violate the rental contract or the law.
So, you can’t prevent tenants from hosting guests unless your lease agreement has a no guest policy.
The covenant also covers landlord visits.
Even if you own the property, barging into a rented unit without proper notice violates a tenant’s right of use. Allowing anyone to enter the property without notifying the tenant is also a violation of the tenant’s privacy.
Most lease contracts should cover the landlord’s entry to the property. But if it doesn’t there could be state and local laws in place.
In Florida, a 12-hour notice is enough, in California 24 hours is reasonable while D.C. requires 48 hours.
Most states require landlords to notify the tenant at least 24 to 48 hours before entering the property. And these visits should also be within business hours or during times specified in the lease agreement.
But there are always exceptions to this rule.
The property owner may enter the rented property in emergency cases such as a gas leak. Another allowable scenario is when the landlord believes that the tenant has abandoned the property.
Other than those two cases, entering without advance notice will breach the covenant of quiet enjoyment. The tenant may also sue you for trespassing, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress.
Neglecting Tenants is a Breach of Quiet Enjoyment
Aside from quiet enjoyment, every rental agreement has the implied warranty of habitability.
This means that a tenant has the right to a safe and secure home—and this right extends to handling maintenance requests.
Every year, the average landlord gets about 6 calls to deal with repairs. And the top three maintenance requests are for broken appliances, broken windows, and toilets.
About 78% of renters call the landlord directly to fix some issues in their unit. And around 11% of renters called professionals to deal with the problem but the landlord must refund them for any repair expenses.
Neglecting issues with the rented property could affect your relationship with the tenant. And it could also violate the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
Some tenants may exaggerate about the needed repairs, but you still need to respond to their requests as soon as possible.
Self-Help Evictions May Lead to Big Trouble
The right to reasonable enjoyment applies to bad tenants as well. Even if a tenant fails to pay his utility bills or violates the lease, you cannot lock him or her out of the rented property.
Changing the rental’s lock is illegal.
And things could get ugly when your tenant arrives at the locked unit.
Tenants who get locked out could sue you for losing some of their belongings.
Moreover, most states have laws against landlords who resort to self-help evictions. Interrupting basic utilities to force tenants out could lead to legal troubles is not a valid option either.
Always keep a cool head and abide by the lease contract and the law.
Evicting a tenant through proper legal channels may be expensive. But it is still cheaper and less painful than getting sued for illegal eviction.
Always Handle All Tenant Complaints with Care
Protecting a tenant’s right to use the property without disturbance is your responsibility as a landlord. Always listen to reports of any disturbance and do the following.
Assure tenants that you will take action
Regardless of whether tenants inform you verbally or in writing, listen to their complaints and investigate if it is a legitimate issue. Inform the tenant of your next steps to address the problem and act on it as soon as possible.
If another tenant caused the disturbance, get in touch with that tenant, and listen to their story. Remind them about any possible lease violations if needed.
Pay for damages or losses if needed
If a tenant suffers damages or harm that you may have prevented, the most practical way to solve the issue may be to settle with him or her before the matter goes to court.
For instance, if you received a complaint about a defective entry lock door and you did not address the issue right away, you may be liable if the tenant’s unit gets robbed due to your negligence.
A tenant may be awarded compensation for personal property damage, hospital bills, pain and suffering, lost earnings, and emotional distress.
Evict problematic tenants
For landlords with a multifamily complex, it’s better to have a quiet hours policy. Remind tenants to be mindful of their volume and to observe noise ordinances, if applicable.
If the tenant continues being a nuisance to others, you may have grounds for eviction. But make sure that you have a reasonable cause for evicting the tenant.
Taking quick action to protect the rights of all your tenants is crucial to maintaining a professional rental business.
Bonus Tip: How to Tell if an Issue is a Nuisance
There are no strict laws to know if a situation is an inconvenience of a violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. But as a landlord, you need to put yourself in the tenant’s shoes and ask this question—will this issue prevent me from enjoying and accessing my rental?
Here’s a quick example.
If the tenant has a dedicated parking space but if another car parks in that spot, it’s a covenant violation. But if you have first-come, first-served parking it’s a mere inconvenience.
Cosmetic repairs like water stains from previous leaks are an annoyance. But if water seeps into the ceiling and drips it is a covenant violation if the landlord fails to address the issue in a reasonable manner.
Local Laws May Allow Tenants to Break the Lease
Tenants pay their rent with a guarantee that they can live in a peaceful environment. If you don’t do anything to resolve the issue, your tenant may take action.
Some tenants start with a letter to acknowledge the violation of their right of quiet enjoyment. If you receive this letter it’s crucial to respond in a reasonable time and provide a timeframe for addressing the issue.
If the issue persists, the tenant may stop paying rent or evict themselves voluntarily.
Tenants may withhold rent payments until you resolve the issue.
A tenant may move out in more serious situations because of the unlivable state of a unit or a broken covenant of enjoyment.
And here’s another serious consequence—tenants who leave sue for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment could seek monetary compensation.
If your tenant wins you may have to pay his or her moving costs, legal and filing fees, and damages.
At any point, it’s crucial to document the entire process in case the problem leads to a lawsuit. Always consult a lawyer to deal with tenant-related lawsuits.
Resolve Tenant Issues Without Delay
Your role as a landlord extends beyond providing a livable property to your tenants. It’s also essential to protect your tenant’s right to live in your property without disruptions and disturbances.
Keeping tenants happy is crucial in a rental business. And it could go a long way to attracting and retaining the best tenants.