In legal terms, quiet enjoyment refers to a legal term contained in real estate laws where a property holder has the right to an unimpaired use of their property. Property or land holders can be either the owners of the property or land in question, or they can also be a tenant who is renting the land or property from a landlord.
As a legal right, quiet enjoyment is protected through what is known as the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.” A covenant is a rule or restriction that is tied to the land itself. Covenants either prevent the landowner from doing something or make the landowner do something. In the case of quiet enjoyment, the covenant of quiet enjoyment restricts the landlord from interfering with the tenant, while restricting a tenant’s use of the property.
The most common use of the covenant of quiet enjoyment is that a tenant must not be disturbed if there is a change in ownership of a rental property. For example, if the landlord sells the property to another individual, that new owner cannot interfere with an existing rental agreement or interfere with the tenant’s use of the rental property, until the lease expires.
What Is the Implied Warranty of Quiet Enjoyment?
Most states recognize an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment for all contracts concerning property. An implied covenant is a covenant that all parties assume to be true, and act in a certain manner. In the case of a landlord tenant situation, the landlord agrees not to disturb the tenant, and the tenant agrees to treat the property and act in a certain way.
Typically, all contracts for the sale of or leasing of property include a covenant of quiet enjoyment. As noted above, if there is not a specifically defined covenant, the covenant is often implied by state law. This means that a court will recognize the covenant regardless of it being specifically addressed in a sale of or leasing of property. Additionally, most courts will not recognize sales or lease contracts that specifically remove or attempt to remove the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
What Does a Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment Protect?
As mentioned above, the covenant of quiet enjoyment protects tenants from disturbance from a landlord, or an individual acting on the landlord’s behalf, by providing the tenant with the right to use the rental for its intended purpose. It is important to note that the covenant of quiet enjoyment is not a promise that the landlord will prevent all noise disturbances on the premises.
However, if the noise disturbance grows to a level where the tenant is unable to use the premise as a residence, then the covenant of quiet enjoyment may step in to provide them a remedy to force the landlord to help resolve the issue.
Generally speaking, there are five basic tenant rights that are protected by the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Those five basic tenant rights are:
- The Right to Privacy: In short, a tenant has the right to be left alone. The covenant of quiet enjoyment protects a tenant’s right to privacy by preventing a landlord from entering the property only for specific circumstances, or with the tenant’s permission;
- The Right to Peace and Quiet: Numerous tenants of rental properties often have complaints of a neighbor playing music too loud, or a landlord that constantly interrupts the use of the property. Under the covenant of quiet enjoyment, landlords must attempt to resolve issues of noise complaints between neighboring tenants, or other nuisances, so that a tenant may have peace and quiet;
- The Right to Freedom from Discrimination: A tenant has the right to use the property however they like, as long as it doesn’t violate the specified terms of the rental contract, or create a nuisance to other tenants. This means that the landlord cannot refuse to lease a premises based on a potential tenant’s gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected classes. Additionally, once a tenant is leasing the property, a landlord cannot prevent them from using the land however they’d like;
- The Right to Safety and Security: The property must be reasonably safe for the tenant. This means that the tenant’s use of the property should be free from threats from the landlord, other tenants, or hazards. Thus, failing to disclose a hazard, or failing to fix a hazard, may be considered a violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment; and
- The Right to Basic Utilities: Basic utilities, which include water, electricity, heat, and internet in some cases, are all protected under the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Therefore, if basic utilities are not provided, then the tenant may be able to break their lease and sue the landlord for the costs of relocation.
What Happens When a Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment Is Violated?
As can be seen, there are various ways in which the covenant of quiet enjoyment may be violated. In most situations, when the covenant of quiet enjoyment is violated, the landlord has an opportunity to fix the violation.
It is important as a tenant to notify the landlord, in writing, of any issues concerning violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Once the landlord has been notified in writing of the alleged violation, the landlord will then have a reasonable time, in most cases 30 days, to fix the violation. If the landlord does not fix or remedy the violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, the tenant will then have the right to sue the landlord to fix the situation, or for costs related to their fixing of the situation. The tenant may also have the right to break the contract, and sue for the costs related to relocating to a habitable property that is free from any quiet enjoyment violations.
A tenant may also violate the covenant of quiet enjoyment. For example, if the tenant is playing loud music, has a loud animal, is smelling up the property, or otherwise interfering with other tenants, the landlord will have the right to address the situation. This means that the landlord can use their interference with other tenant’s quiet enjoyment to evict them from the property, while still holding them accountable for any past or future due payments on the property. The landlord must attempt to find another tenant at that time. Additionally, if a tenant is conducting illegal activities on their property, the landlord may also evict the tenant, or seek other judicial remedies.
As mentioned previously, the most common remedy for the violation of quiet enjoyment is fixing the violation. This means that the tenant turns down their music, or the landlord stops interfering with the tenant’s use of the property. However, there are also numerous other statutory remedies for violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
For example, in the case where a property has become uninhabitable, there are certain specified remedies that a tenant may have. Additionally, there are numerous criminal statutes that also deal with illegal activities being conducted on a property, such as manufacturing illegal drugs.
Do I Need a Lawyer for an Issue with Quiet Enjoyment?
As can be seen, the covenant of quiet enjoyment encompasses a broad spectrum of legal protections for both landlords and tenants. When it comes to property disputes between tenants, or property disputes between tenants and landlords, the situations can become aggressive and are often difficult to resolve. Additionally, oftentimes a tenant may not have the funds necessary to address the issues related to quiet enjoyment, or be able to relocate to a new property.
If you are having an issue with the covenant of quiet enjoyment being violated, you should immediately consult an experienced local property lawyer. An experienced property attorney will be able to analyze the specific facts of your case, and provide you guidance on how to remedy the issues with quiet enjoyment.
In some cases, the attorney will be able to offer you legal representation at little to no cost, as they may be able to recover attorney fees if your case is ultimately successful. An attorney will also be familiar with the requisites required by your state regarding proper notification of the landlord and/or tenant. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent your interests in court, as necessary.