The 2022 property manager guide to the covenant of quiet enjoyment
The covenant of quiet enjoyment, also referred to as the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, is a tenant’s right to the tranquil enjoyment of their place of rent. Whether or not this is stated in your lease agreement, this tenant right to quiet enjoyment exists.
It is critical for real estate investors and landlords to understand this critical pillar of leasing, as it can have negative legal ramifications if ignored. For instance, if the covenant of quiet enjoyment is violated, tenants can have a legal justification to not pay rent or even break a lease. To avoid these pitfalls, let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
What is the covenant of quiet enjoyment?
Simply put, the covenant of quiet enjoyment means that landlords and owners have an obligation to ensure tenants have a peaceful place to live and are free from unreasonable disruptions.
Further, this legal requirement is described as ‘implied’, which means that nothing needs to be explicitly stated in a lease agreement about quiet enjoyment. This is a legal right tenants have whether or not it is in writing or discussed verbally.
So what qualifies as ‘quiet enjoyment’ as it relates to real estate investing and landlords? As with most legal principles, it’s not straightforward as the term quiet enjoyment can be relative. That said, there are a few examples of disruptions that can help situate our thinking.
- Showing up and entering a property unannounced
- Not allowing tenant guests on the property
- Health and safety code violations
- Violating terms of the lease (ex: not having a working washer and dryer when it’s promised in the lease)
- Unreasonably restricting services such as water and electricity
- Threatening or harassing behavior by the landlord
That said, there are a number of examples of disruptions that are beyond the control of landlords such as neighborhood nuisance, parties at neighboring properties, natural disasters, nearby construction, wildlife, emergency repairs, smoke alarms, and so on.
How best to adhere to the covenant of quiet enjoyment
Here are some key points that landlords and investors should internalize to ensure they aren’t in violation of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.
- Almost all states have laws surrounding the entering of a rented premise. Find yours, and understand the notification requirements and circumstances under which you can enter your rental property.
- Quickly address maintenance issues. Any unaddressed hazards or safety issues are violations of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
- Be communicative with your tenants and give them as much notice as possible around potential violations of quiet enjoyment like renovations, construction, or community events.
- Don’t snoop or show up unexpectedly to your rental property.
- If utility disruptions are expected or needed, then communicate this to the tenants as soon as possible. Do not arbitrarily shut off utilities.
- Minimize inspections and visits to the property.
- Address noise issues from other tenants immediately.
- Ensure any renovations or modifications are done in a timely manner.
As real estate investors we should always be continuing our education and improving our businesses and practices to ensure our customers, the tenants, are living in a safe and respectful environment. Our businesses depend on it!
Multifamily: How to ensure other tenants respect quiet enjoyment
For real estate investors with multiple units in one property, how do you ensure your tenants are respecting the covenant of quiet enjoyment of other tenants? According to most legal experts, landlords must act to address any issue between tenants at their property to come to a resolution.
The critical point is landlords must investigate and attempt to come to a resolution between the tenants. For example, if the downstairs tenant complains there is too much foot traffic noise above, perhaps your lease should require carpets in hallways to reduce the noise that surfaces below the floorboards. And, you should always direct tenants to the local city or county noise ordinance rules to set expectations. If one tenant is still not cooperating, landlords should consider posting a notice of lease violation (eviction notice) t for violating the quiet enjoyment for their neighbors.
Tenant drama is never fun, but as long as landlords can prove they’ve done their due diligence to enforce rules around the covenant of quiet enjoyment, then you’re mitigating your legal risks.
Whether you are a remote investor or a hands-on property manager, the covenant of quiet enjoyment is a pillar of tenant rights. This includes health and safety, as well as unreasonable disruption or harassment from landlords. This is why it’s critical for real estate investors to understand and internalize this concept that, whether or not explicitly stated, is a foundational legal concept of our businesses.
At the end of the day, everyone should be treated fairly and with respect. The implied covenant of quiet enjoyment is basically that. Tenants have the right to live in their place of rent without being disturbed on a regular basis. Not only is this their legal right, but it’s good business practice for landlords and real estate investors alike.