Everyone needs quiet space now and then. After a long day at work, it can be tough to go home and hear dogs barking or construction noise. Particularly now, with many people working at home due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s essential to carve out some time for peace and tranquility.
Landlords need to understand this as one of the unspoken rights of a tenant. Normally, it’s termed as an “implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.” This covenant isn’t necessarily broadcasted in leasing agreements since it’s understood to be part of the deal.
This article will focus on what “quiet enjoyment” is all about and how it’s violated. Some tips on addressing it will also be discussed.
Breaking Down What the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment Includes
How Does One Define an Implied Covenant
The term “implied covenant” is understood to mean that a right is granted without the necessity of documenting it in a lease or in property listings. This is similar to how you understand that you should not cut in line in front of someone at the grocery store without reading rules that prohibit doing so.
Every renter has the right to enjoy the benefits that come with this implied covenant. No matter if a rental unit is expensive or affordable, each landlord needs to fulfill the implied covenant to the best of their abilities.
What Does Quiet Enjoyment Mean?
The term “quiet enjoyment” has several facets. Each one of us will define “quiet enjoyment” in different ways. Our need for quiet will be relative to our sense of comfort, and our own expectations about noise and privacy.
One of the key parts of it is staying in a livable rental home. This means you have access to clean water whenever you need it. It means having a heater at home so you don’t freeze during the coldest day of winter.
Aside from that, tenants will also find quiet enjoyment in a living space that has proper maintenance. This is the reason the habitability of a rental home is interlinked with quiet enjoyment. A renter can only find “quiet enjoyment” in an area that’s clean and functional, with no obvious defects.
A renter will also appreciate quiet enjoyment when privacy is observed. The right to privacy means receiving notice from the landlord when a property inspection is needed.
Being left to one’s own devices is another aspect of quiet enjoyment. There should be no surprising disturbances such as sudden visits by the property owner.
How is the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment Violated?
Although it’s tough to define quiet enjoyment in a singular, all-encompassing way, there are areas a landlord can focus on to ensure this is preserved.
Here are examples of actions where quiet enjoyment is not observed:
Ignoring the State of Basic Utilities
Say a tenant discovers that a pipe has burst and affected the water supply, and the landlord chooses not to do anything about it even if the issue has been brought forward.
In this situation, the landlord is guilty of not providing quiet enjoyment to the renter. The renter is left with no water source—a basic utility vital to living in comfort—and will have to make other arrangements.
Disrespecting Tenant Privacy
In this example, a tenant finds out that their landlord has been regularly spying on them. When the tenant is not around, the landlord has been entering the rental home without permission or notice, though no emergency has also occurred to justify the entry.
In this situation, a violation of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment has occurred. The landlord has no right to overstep the boundaries of privacy without reasonable cause or justification.
What are the Limits to Landlord Responsibility?
A renter who is experiencing disturbances can report the matter to the landlord. But how is a landlord accountable in an external situation that isn’t directly under their control?
Let’s say a neighbor’s dog barks continuously late in the night. Because the landlord does not have any power over the neighbor’s dog the landlord isn’t guilty of violating the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
On the other hand, if a fellow tenant living next to you is playing loud music and making a racket, the landlord has the duty to take control of the situation. If the landlord disregards your complaint and the ruckus continues, the landlord is accountable.
Several solutions are available to tenants as long as the event is properly proved as a disturbance rather than simply an annoying act.
What are Examples of Covenant Violations Vs. Simple Annoyances?
- Frequent loud parties that end late would be a violation, while occasional small gatherings that end at a reasonable hour could be slightly annoying.
- A repair request reported to the landlord but unaddressed—such as a roof leak—would be a covenant violation, while mild ceiling water stains after a leak has been fixed could be a simple annoyance.
How Should Tenants Handle a Broken Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?
As a landlord, it’s important to know the steps that are available to your tenants to remedy violations of their right to quiet enjoyment of their home. Here are some steps tenants may take.
Inform the Landlord by Letter
The tenant can send a letter to the landlord and provide details of the situation. This builds awareness and leaves the ball in the landlord’s court.
Either a response will be made or not. This will inform the tenant before proceeding to the next step.
The tenant can refuse to pay the rent until the violation of quiet enjoyment has been addressed properly. This step can be tricky if the tenant cannot provide that a valid violation has occurred. As such, drastic steps of this nature should generally be avoided.
Any form of eviction can be filled with difficulties and conflict. The tenant can decide to self-evict if the landlord does not settle the issue at all. There are risks to this strategy as well, if it is determined that no violation has occurred.
Breaking the lease can be expensive, and a tenant may need to pay for the penalties. In fact, the tenant may not be refunded the security deposit.
Often when a tenant self-evicts, possessions are left behind, which can be annoying and time-consuming to deal with as a landlord. That’s all the more reason to avoid such situations by respecting tenants’ quiet enjoyment of their homes.
Filing a Case
If all solutions have been exhausted then a tenant can proceed to file a lawsuit against the landlord. This should be reserved as a last step though.
The Bottom Line
Quiet enjoyment may be an implied covenant, but many relationships are formed on the basis of unarticulated rules.
Respecting a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment forms the basis of building a good relationship between a landlord and a tenant.
If you want to keep your tenants for the long run, be proactive in providing quiet enjoyment to them. Always be prompt in tackling repair issues and reduce disturbances in your rental unit.
If you’re looking for help with your tenants or any other aspect of property management, get in touch with the expert team at OmniKey Realty. We have extensive experience providing expert solutions to clients all over Texas.