What is the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?

Written on May 7, 2015 by , updated on May 8, 2015

Implied Covenant of Quiet EnjoymentAt the core of every modern residential rental agreement, there is the “Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment”.

What is an Implied Covenant?

An “implied covenant” is a foundational concept built into every rental agreement, whether written or verbal, that gives the tenant certain rights.

The reason it is “implied” is because it doesn’t specifically have to be mentioned in the lease, and as far as I know, a landlord can’t force a tenant to waive this covenant.

What is “Quiet Enjoyment”?

“Quiet enjoyment” is one of two basic entitlements or covenants (the other being habitability) that the tenant is buying with his or her monthly rent.

The term is difficult to define because each situation is different and everyone has a varying opinion on what “quiet” and “enjoyment” mean.

According to Nolo, this covenant (or promise) means that the landlord will not do anything to disturb the tenants’ rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space—and that the landlord will act in a way that allows for peaceful use.

Essentially, it is the tenant’s right to reasonably occupy the dwelling peacefully, and without recurring disruption.

With every lease, a tenant gets the following rights:

  1. Privacy: A reasonable expectation of privacy;
  2. Peace & Quiet: Including the freedom from unreasonable and recurring disturbances from the landlord and/or other neighbors;
  3. Right of Use: Exclusive right of use, except for landlord’s reasonable right of access;
  4. Safety & Security: A premise & dwelling that provide adequate security and are free of bodily hazards;
  5. Basic Utilities: Access to basic services such as electricity, heat and hot water, which are also part of the implied warranty of habitability.

With that said, it doesn’t supersede a landlord’s right to enter the property with proper notice or in emergencies, conduct showings, or make repairs in a reasonable manner.

Related: Landlord-Tenant State Laws and Regulations

Noises, Disturbances and Nuisances

new-york-times-sq“Quiet enjoyment” generally applies to anything that creates a legitimate nuisance.

In most cases, it is only relative to the tenant’s ability to access and enjoy the premise.

Further, it certainly doesn’t guarantee “silence” as the word “quiet” would suggest. If that were the case, every rental in New York City would be in violation of this basic covenant.

To some, the sound of distant crickets is too overwhelming, while others will not even hear the sound of a freight train barreling past the house.

The term is subjective, not clearly defined in any law that I’ve seen (though I’m not a legal expert or lawyer) and it is certainly not restricted to audible noises.

A Good Rule of Thumb

The best way to figure out the severity of the disturbance is to ask yourself:

Would    X    prevent an average resident from reasonably accessing and enjoying the rental?

If the answer is “yes”, then you should probably do something about it. At the very least, attempt to remedy the situation.

A True Story

Violating this Covenant

Similarly to the warranty of habitability, if the covenant of quiet enjoyment is continually or unreasonably broken by the landlord, manager, or owner’s agents, then the tenant can be relieved of his/her obligation to pay rent. Further, they could even terminate the lease.

That’s right, a tenant can terminate the lease!

In fact, this is the most basic concept in the landlord-tenant relationship: the tenant pays rent in return for a safe, habitable dwelling that he/she can enjoy.

Common Violations

A landlord or manager can be in violation of this covenant if he or she either creates or doesn’t remedy a legitimate issue. Lets examine some common violations to the covenant of quiet enjoyment:

Landlord or Agent:

  • Enters the unit too frequently or without proper notice;
  • Snoops through personal property;
  • Fails to control disruptive nuisances, noises or behaviors, within reason;
  • Harasses a resident in person or over the phone;
  • Restricts or terminates essential services, such as water or electricity;
  • Fails to repair items that affect habitability or items that were promised in the lease;
  • Prohibits reasonable enjoyment of the property, such as entertaining guests.

Tenant:

Your tenant is not allowed to infringe on the neighbor’s right to quiet enjoyment. Since you don’t have a lease with the neighbor, this disturbance is simply called a nuisance and though not covered under this covenant, it could be a lease violation.

A neighbor could call the police and file a nuisance complaint, and if enough complaints are filed, the city/county may  the landlord for the disturbances.

Your tenant, like every other citizen, it obligated to follow civil laws and noise ordinances.

Real Life Situations

COVENANT VIOLATIONSSIMPLE ANNOYANCES
Parties
Loud parties happening next door, every weekend, way too late into the night.
Dinner
Large dinner parties that end at 11pm.
Smoke Inside
Second-hand smoke entering the unit from the walls, floors, and outlets because the neighbor is smoking.
Smoke Outside
The neighbor smoking on his balcony, and the smoke stays outside.
Loss of Parking
Other cars parked in the tenant's dedicated parking spaces.
First Come, First Served Parking
Not enough spots in the lot for all tenants.
Threats/Harassment
Landlord legitimately harasses a resident in person, over the phone, or performs drive-by's regularly.
Asking for Rent
Asking for overdue rent, multiple times in a week.
Extreme Wildlife
Failing to keep the wildlife under control, such as bears, loud frogs, and raccoons.
Common Wildlife
The existence of small seasonal wildlife, rabbits, crickets, birds, etc.
Wrestlemania
The neighbors above are teaching their kids to wrestle in the evening or late at night.
Footsteps
The neighbors above, simply walking around their apartment, at any time.
Noisy Pets
Dogs barking next door, all... day... long.
Normal Pets
The occasional bark
Unattended Alarms
A neighbor who goes on vacation and their smoke alarm goes off for 3 days straight.
Occasional Alarms
The neighbor who's smoke alarm go off every time she cooks, but she quickly turns it off.
Unattended Repairs
A ceiling that just won't stop dripping water. Tenant constantly has to clean it up.
Cosmetic Repairs
Any cosmetic issues, such as a water stain on the ceiling from a previous drip that has since been fixed.
Ongoing Improvements
Major improvements that don't really need to happen while a tenant is living there. For example, adding a 1,000 sq. ft. addition, just because.
One-time Improvements
1-2 day fixed that require heavy machinery and/or the disconnection of utility service

Related Reading:

photo credit: IMG_4473 via (license)

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83 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • West

    Question on quiet enjoyment, to wit; Covenant Violation or Simple Annoyance. Complained repeatedly to landlord next door tenant comes home from bar early morning hours and engages in conversation over phone with friends at 2:00 am or 2:30 am or 3:00 am. This goes on quite a bit. Landlord states maybe tenant is just getting off work at that hour and is simply winding down after a long hard day and that’s when they converse. Landlord states they cannot tell a person not to talk in their apartment. I agree, but there is such a thing as common decency and most people I know are asleep at 1:00 or 2:00 or 3:00 am unless they work. Not trying to be a prude here, is this a covenant violation or a simple annoyance getting woke up night after night.

    • Brony

      I work third shift and spend my home time quietly and respectfully. It’s not my fault I have to live on opposite time from my downstairs neighbor. I walk softly, use earphones, almost never have guests… but I definitely walk in my home, eat in my home, shower, flush the toilet, NORMAL LIFE THINGS. I get knocks on my floor multiple times a day and my neighbor banged on my door and told me I was a horrible person. When I asked what noises were bothering him so We could live more peacefully he said change your hours. Honestly my anxiety over this has ruined my home time. I’m an owner he’s a tenant I wish he would move. If you live on first floor get over it or leave. If I was being out of line it would be different. Just trying to live.

      • Keira Hume

        It’s your place and it sounds like you’re really trying to be considerate. I live in a townhouse with people on both sides of me. They allow their children to constantly run up and down the stairs, thump and bang and scream. The walls are so thin. Very rarely are children supervisor around here they’re bouncing balls off the side of the building, and cars. Playing in the parking lot/street. The place has been taken over by refugees and management is afraid to have the race card played against them and be sued if they try to evict them. They throw food out that attracts the seagulls. Nothing’s done by management just excuses made for this Behavior. I have severe anxiety and my life has been pure hell living here.

  • Ann

    My spouse and I rent a 2nd flr apt in a 2 Family home in NYC, the owners’ son lives downstairs. For over a year now, he has been harassing us about our footsteps. He is saying we are walking too loudly and it’s disturbing his sleep(he sleeps during the day as he works nights) Finally, it all came to ahead yesterday and he viciously screamed at us saying we’re being inconsiderate, that he’s trying to sleep and we’re banging around, stomping & talking too loud. We are walking and getting ready for work, we’re not stomping, we’re not slamming things around, we’re simply going about our day. It’s an old building, everything creeks. Just because he sleeps during the day and is the owners son does he have a right to speak to us like this?

    • Michael

      Tell him to use the foam earplugs. I use them and they work great. Up until my upstairs neighbor drops something very heavy on the floor deliberately. I try to sleep @ 6pm.

  • Alexis

    I’m 23, a young girl, who just moved to the other side of the state. I recently began renting what I thought was a beautiful home in an area that could use some TLC. I knew the area had a reputation for high crime, but I was lead to believe that this specific neighborhood was “fine”. Over the course of the last two weeks, my room mate, who is also a girl in her 20’s, and I experienced two separate shootings in front of our home. Multiple surrounding homes including the house directly next door, and across the street, were hit. One resulted in a dead body in the street 40ft from our front window. It took a week for the blood to get off of the pavement. I cannot sleep, focus, or just live life as normal any more. Can I break my lease per QE?

  • Nayda dagatan

    Hi I rented one bedroom and I am in between 2 be with my landlord lady and landlord man.the lady has dementia and shouts at night and the old man talks by himself and keeps shouting too..what is the best move should I do?

  • Jaidewalker

    I just started renting a 2 bedroom duplex back in April (now July). We had 2 inspections that were actual inspections in the first month. The third time we were told it was an inspection but when I answered the door it wasn’t the usual handyman, there were two men one a real estate agent and a buyer. I had no idea the property was even up for sale. I let them in to do their business. And that was 2 weeks after the 2nd inspection. Then every two weeks we were told there would be an “inspection” when it was actually for a walkthrough for potential buyers. I want them to sell the property so I can be done with this BUT they have come into our apartment every two weeks. 7 “inspections” total and 8 tmrw. Is this in violation for quiet enjoyment?

  • SuperXNovaX

    If I were a renter.. my landlord is expected to guarantee my right to live in a peaceful nuisance free environment!

  • Leslie Lee

    My border is strung out .major no no. There is no lease but a few rules. All broken. How do I get her gone????

  • Pippi L Patton

    My spouse & I are older ,I’m disabled & we live in the bottom apt. About 2 mths. ago a family moved in on top of us & the NOISE IS UNBEARABLE & CONSTANT. The stomping bouncing & throwing of balls-loud tv ,fighting ,running ,the indoor gymnastics ,the crying of a younger child, they run the washer & drier almost 24/7. IT’S UNBEARABLE! I went up stairs & tried to speak with them about it -I was very nice but made no head way. Have reported it to the management a couple of times seems to have only made it worse! But in the meantime my spouse has had to make 2 extra trips to his md to get his B/P under better control-we use ear plugs too.Not sure what to do want to break our lease & move. Elder Abuse?

    • Michael

      I call the police and write complaints to the landlord and keep it all documented. Is this a 2 family house? I live in a 3 story apartment complex and called the police 23 times in 2 years. The lanlord doesn’t want to evict the tenant who has 2 other people (a mother and 4-5 year old) Yes, they are overcrowding for it is a 1 bedroom apartment.

      I figure the landlord wants me to move so he/she can get higher rent. I will hopefully early next year by evicting myself. My b/p is up 20 points also.

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