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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58 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Lauren

    I am full time in the Air National guard. I went on active duty orders for 105 days after I signed the lease but am now off of them with 6 months left on my 12 month lease. I love my roommate but our work schedule is opposite so she wakes me up just about every night because our walls are so thin, even when she is trying to be quiet. It is effecting my work. Also just lost a close friend/coworker to suicide and that is effecting everything I do and also my sleep. There is also a terrible spider problem in our unit and the floors are uneven. I really want to break my lease and rent somewhere by myself so I can be happy again and my roommate does too. Is there any way I can get out of this one?

  • Amy

    My neighbors have been shooting guns and now arrows at my property, livestock and their landlord will not do anything about it. Can I sue the landlord because his tenants are a nuisance/ safety issue for myself, kids and livestock. This has been going on for at least 5 years.

  • cris

    I am a new landlord and have tenants that verbally abuse each other. It is making other tenants complain I have filed for 30 day notice and will give 3 day. meanwhile everyone has to listen to this terrible noise and as a landlord I have found nothing beyond that I can do. Police have been called and fighting has started between tenants. There seems like beyond notices there is not much a landlord can do to help other tenants but wait it out for eviction.

  • Jason

    Hi Lucas, hope you can help. My downstairs neighbor plays his home theatre system loud and it shakes my floors and wall. I’ve called the police a few times so far and my property management company is helping to resolve the issue. Now my neighbors are hostile and run their noisy ceiling fan all day knowing it sounds like a machine shop in my bedroom. I’ve bought them a new ceiling fan and offered to have it installed but they refused. Now when I have a issue with their loud tv or music, they retaliate by leaving their noisy fan on. I live in a 2 bdrm and now sleep on the couch in the living room. The noise is so loud it can be heard through my pillow on my couch.The owner of their apt is different then mine. Can I file a nuisance complaint?

  • Deb

    Landlord says other tenants complained of “cat” smell from apartment. Landlord took tenant to Court for eviction but agreed that if carpets were professionally cleaned eviction would not be pursued.Cats have been removed and carpets have been professionally cleaned (with guarantee of smell removal). Now, landlord is coming in every other week (with 24 hour notice although sometimes they don’t show up until days after the 24 hours has expired) to inspect. Each time, they find something to complain about…a few dishes in the sink, some clothes on the floor in the bathroom. This unit is occupied by two early 20’s brothers. Landlord calls parents of tenants to complain about the “mess” and emails pictures. Violation of quiet enjoyment?

  • Brad Wolpert

    I just moved into a downstairs apartment 3 weeks ago in Tampa, Florida. I can hear every footstep of the neighbors above me and the floor creaks. I hear shutting doors and dogs barking as well. I told the office I want to move to an upstairs apartment and they told me I have to stay in this one for 90 days and there will be a $500 transfer fee. This is unacceptable. They have upstairs vacancies and I want to move ASAP. Is there anything I can do?

    Thank you!

    Brad

  • Alice

    In September, my landlord demolished and has since been renovating one of the bathrooms in his unit which is above mine. He is doing it because his partner wanted a new bathroom. In addition to the noise, he has put down cardboard to “protect” the hall steps which is pretty unsightly and frequently his contractor uses the front yard for his table saw, etc and uses the front entrance to the building for taking sheet rock etc up.

    Is this a violation of the covenant of peaceful enjoyment?

  • Laura

    Can I get some references to legal documents stating this information? That would be handy, thanks!

  • Amy

    The tenants next door are the ones who don’t understand the quiet enjoyment thing. They aren’t the noisiest group, but are pretty consistent pot smokers and it is not legal in VA. If you call the cops on them, A) they have cameras to see Officer Friendly coming to the door & B) they smoke heavier after the cops leave. The smoke comes through the common townhouse wall (which was probably damaged in some invisible way from the earthquake). Can they be evicted for repeated LEO visits? Any other ways to deal with them (sides an air cleaner)?

  • Julie

    We pay a quite high rent for a single family home. When we signed the lease, we were told there was a lawn service. They have been there weekly, but today the property owner showed up at 11am and said he wanted to lose weight, so laid the crew off for the summer. He has been here for over 6 hours mowing the lawn, and his wife even brought him lunch to eat on the patio.

    I have 3 college daughters who feel trapped in the house. Is this a violation

  • Crystal

    I live in on the first floor of a large apartment complex with two stories in each building. The complex management is renovating apartments as tenants move out, not evacuating a whole section at a time. The tenants above me moved out and they are renovating above my head, 7 days a week. I work at home and hear this everyday. They say they are working only during business hours, but so what. They are letting me out of my lease, but it takes time to find a decent place within budget. I know they have and are breaching my reasonable expectation to quiet enjoyment, but can I also withhold rent even though I have made it known I am moving asap?

  • cameron

    Quiet Enjoyment question. My landlord has time and again disregarded my request they don’t not enter my apartment to make minor repair when my son is home alone. Recently they failed to give me 24 hour notice of a minor repair and tried to pressure me into getting the work. my son is a high function autistic teen so i denied them entry on a short notice. not only did that enter my apartment the next day they changed my locks with out letting me know ahead of time. When i came home to check on my son i could not enter the unit and the manager was closed for the day. needless to the this has had a effect my sons emotion stability after a stranger entering the apartment. do i have any recourse ?

  • Bryan Boettcher

    Is the fact that the apartment that I am renting was not built on a foundation and because of that I’m beginning to have uneven floors a good argument for why my rent should be lowered?

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