What Does Quiet Enjoyment Mean in Real Estate?
November 1, 2023
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The Covenant Of Quiet Enjoyment
All landlords and tenants are responsible for complying with the lease and the law. This includes the warranty or covenant of quiet enjoyment of a property.
Quiet enjoyment is an implied term in every lease agreement. The right to quiet enjoyment is the right to fully access, use, and enjoy your home and amenities without interference. It means that tenants have the right to ask you to do something about nuisances, such as loud, persistent construction equipment or aggressive neighbors.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment is especially relevant in multifamily housing, where multiple tenants or families often live closely together in the same building. In this article, we’ll talk more about this covenant and identify what landlords need to know about it.
What is the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?
The covenant of quiet enjoyment is an implied right that all tenants have. It means that landlords and property owners are legally obligated to guarantee their tenants full access, use, and enjoyment of the property they’re renting. Every person has the right to live peacefully in their home.
The right is implied because there is no specific U.S. law that guarantees it. But while quiet enjoyment is not necessarily codified, it may be defined in some states’ code of laws and is consistently held up by the U.S. courts, which means a judge will uphold a tenant right to quiet enjoyment in most scenarios.
So why does quiet enjoyment exist? The covenant of quiet enjoyment is based on the fact that tenants are paying rent, in part, for the right to fully utilize all that is included in the lease and everything a rental property has to offer. They should have free use of all amenities and utilities that came with their lease, as well as the right to live in a quiet and safe environment without unreasonable disruptions.
Whose Responsibility is Quiet Enjoyment?
In general, quiet enjoyment is the responsibility of the landlord. Landlords must make sure that each of their tenants can reasonably enjoy their home without interference.
However, it’s obvious that some of the factors that may influence the quiet enjoyment of your tenants are out of your control. You can’t control the behavior or noise level of other tenants, for instance, nor can you always make the maintenance team work faster in repairing an appliance that the tenant pays for. What counts as an unreasonable disturbance is also highly subjective—for instance, your tenant may complain about loud trucks outside waking them up at night. But you can’t control which vehicles pass by at night, and it’s arguably under the tenant’s control anyway, as they chose to live next to a busy street.
You can, however, assure that you respond to these interferences quickly, reasonably, and as gracefully as possible. It’s yours or your property manager’s job to placate concerned tenants, enforce rules, minimize conflict, and adjust your own activities to meet tenant rights regarding quiet enjoyment.
Quiet Enjoyment Tenant Rights
Here are a few examples of unreasonable “disruptions” that might interfere with the quiet enjoyment tenant rights guaranteed to renters:
- Neighbors continually playing loud music late at night
- Property managers or the landlord showing up and requesting entrance to the unit without warning or at unreasonable times
- Continued health and safety code violations that aren’t promptly addressed
- No access to hot water, or no heat during the winter
- Being bothered or harassed by other tenants or people on the property
- Neighbors smoking in a no-smoking community
Should You Include a Quiet Enjoyment Clause in Your Lease?
Whether or not you include a quiet enjoyment clause, your tenants are guaranteed the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Your tenants can still demand this right and use it as a defense in court, even if it’s not mentioned in the lease.
However, you still may wish to include a quiet enjoyment clause in your lease for the purpose of explaining to new tenants what is expected from them regarding others’ quiet enjoyment. For instance, you can remind tenants that their neighbor’s right of quiet enjoyment includes being able to fully use and enjoy their home without disturbances, nuisances, etc. Include a statement warning tenants that violating others’ right to quiet enjoyment of their homes will result in lease violation warnings, penalties, or even eviction.
What To Do When a Disruption Interferes with Tenants’ Quiet Enjoyment of the Property
As a landlord, one of your jobs is to preserve your tenants’ quiet enjoyment of the property. Here’s what you can do to ensure your tenants are getting what they’re paying for:
- Respond to maintenance concerns and arrange repairs in a timely manner.
- Address disruptions of essential services (heat, water, plumbing, etc.) immediately.
- Give tenants appropriate notice before entering (determined by state laws).
- Respond to tenant complaints promptly and fairly.
- Enforce all community rules, such as smoking or noise policies.
- Communicate with tenants during renovations, inspections, or construction, and ensure these activities pose minimal interference with tenants’ daily lives (e.g., restrict loud equipment to certain hours, etc.).
If a disruption or nuisance is the result of another tenant, it may start to feel like you’ve assumed the role of mediator as you attempt to find a solution that makes everyone happy. One strategy for dealing with tenant complaints is to codify policies regarding tenant behavior, noise, activities, etc. If a situation comes up that isn’t addressed in the lease, that’s when it falls to you to communicate with both parties, evaluate whether one tenant’s request interferes with another tenant’s quiet enjoyment, and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment is often poorly understood, due in part to a broader lack of understanding of landlord-tenant rights in general. The important thing to remember about quiet enjoyment is that ensuring your tenants have it generally leads to higher tenant satisfaction and retention as well. It’s in your best interests to respect this covenant and ensure your tenants are treated fairly and reasonably in all circumstances.