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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