Quiet Enjoyment is the right of a property holder to unimpaired use of the property. A property or land holder can be the owner of the property or land. It could also be a tenant renting the land or property from a landlord.
Quiet enjoyment is protected through what is known as a ‘covenant of quiet enjoyment.’ ‘Covenants’ are restrictions tied to land. They usually prevent land from being used in certain ways. Most states recognize an implied (meaning it is something expected or assumed) covenant of quiet enjoyment in all contracts for property.
This includes contracts for the sale or leasing of property. This covenant is ‘implied’ because a court will recognize this right even if it is missing from the fine print of the contract. Further, most courts will not recognize a contract that specifically removes or gives up the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
What Does a Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment Protect?
The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment is a broad protection for the user of land. However, it does have some limitations. In general, it simply means the use of land is untroubled by the actions of another. Some typical ways of enjoying land include:
- Privacy: Most Americans have privacy while they are in their home or on their land. Privacy means different things to different people, but generally it means being left alone.
- Things like trespassing, having pictures taken without consent, or excessively peeking over fences are typical violations of the right to privacy.
- The airspace above you can also be included. For example, if someone is flying a drone low over your property without your permission, then they could be violating the covenant.
- Peace and Quiet: Many people have experienced a neighbor who plays music too loud or something similar. Peace and quiet includes the neighbors not being a nuisance to a landowner.
- This means free from music that is too loud, music that is played late at night, offensive odors, or similar such problems.
- Use of Land: A landholder can use the property however they like, so long as it doesn’t violate terms of a contract or create a nuisance to others. What this means is even if a neighbor hates a certain sports team, they can’t prevent a landholder from putting up a decoration of that sports team on game day.
- Safety and Security: Property must be reasonably safe for sale or lease. Failing to disclose a hazard, or failing to fix a hazard, can be considered a violation of quiet enjoyment.
- Utilities: Water, electricity, and cable, all are protected under quiet enjoyment. Preventing the installation or maintenance of utilities would be considered a violation of quiet enjoyment.
If a landlord or neighbor is preventing a lawful property holder from any of these areas of use, then they are violating the covenant of quiet enjoyment. This can create a legal action on behalf of the property holder.
What Happens When a Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment is Violated?
Remedies for a quiet enjoyment violation depend on the relationship between the landholder and the person violating the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Landowners have different options than tenants for a violation of quiet enjoyment. The facts of the dispute are extremely important and can affect the outcome of negotiations or, if necessary, a lawsuit.
What if a Landowner Violates the Quiet Enjoyment Law?
If a neighbor is interfering with the right of quiet enjoyment of a landowner, then the landowner may file a private nuisance lawsuit. Nuisance is a civil suit seeking to stop the conduct that violates a covenant of quiet enjoyment. This could result in a money award or an injunction ceasing the disruptive conduct.
Nuisance does not include trespass, can be both a criminal and civil violation. A civil suit for trespass onto land typically does not require actual damage to the land, but this can affect any monetary award.
What if a Tenant Violates the Quiet Enjoyment Law?
In addition to suing for violating a covenant of quiet enjoyment, a tenant may have additional options if the landlord is the bad actor depending on local housing laws.
In general, however, a tenant could stop paying rent until the problem is resolved. The tenant could also move out of the property. In either situation, the landlord, if in violation of the covenant, could be required to pay the tenant and/or fix the property involved.
However, these options are not without risk. If a court instead finds the landlord did not violate the covenant of quiet enjoyment, then the tenant could be on the hook for rent money and/or breaking a lease early.
Certain intention actions by landlords can result in wrongful eviction, which is serious and should be discussed with an attorney.
Do I Need a Lawyer for an Issue with Quiet Enjoyment?
Property disputes between neighbors or landlords/tenants can be difficult to resolve. Hiring a real property lawyer might be necessary to fix the problem. A lawyer can represent you during negotiations to resolve any quiet enjoyment problems and to appear on your behalf before court. If you have concerns, speaking with a lawyer is a good idea.