When a tenant rents a property from a landlord or property manager, he or she is given the right to enjoy the property undisturbed under the “implied warranty of quiet enjoyment” or “implied covenant of quiet enjoyment”.
According to Nolo, quiet enjoyment is “The right of a property owner or tenant to enjoy his or her property without interference. Disruption of quiet enjoyment may constitute a legal nuisance. Leases and rental agreements often contain a “covenant of quiet enjoyment,” expressly obligating the landlord to ensure that tenants live undisturbed.”
In this article we will explore what it the implied warranty of quiet enjoyment means for tenants, including examples of violations of this covenant compared to an acceptable disturbance to a renter’s peace and quiet.
Laws Regarding a Renter’s Right to Quiet Enjoyment
While there is no specific federal law regarding a renter’s right to quiet enjoyment, all rental lease agreements should include language regarding a renter’s right to quiet enjoyment, under an implied warranty or covenant. In most cases, courts will uphold a renter’s right to quiet enjoyment even if it is not mentioned in the lease agreement.
Renters and landlords can turn to their state laws for specific information about the covenant of quiet enjoyment, including legal or financial consequences for failing to uphold the covenant. For example, according to California Civil Code section 1927 landlords can be liable to tenants for a partial or full refund of rent paid for the period during which the landlord was notified of the offending activity that disturbed a renter’s quiet enjoyment but failed to remedy it.
Understanding the Implied Warranty of Quiet Enjoyment
Most people want to live in their home peacefully and with distribution to their home life and day-to-day activities. This is exactly what the covenant to quiet enjoyment is meant to protect for renters.
One of the issues with enforcing a renter’s right to quiet enjoyment is the subjectivity to what is considered a disruption to a person’s quiet enjoyment of their home. If you live in a busy city street, the sound of traffic outside might bother one person but go unnoticed by another resident. And at what point does it become a landlord or property manager’s job to deal with a disruption to one of their tenant’s quiet enjoyment in the rental property.
Below is a list of examples of disturbances to a renter’s implied warranty of quiet enjoyment that a landlord or property manager might be responsible for fixing. We will also give a few examples of what might be considered acceptable or one-time disturbances that wouldn’t be considered a violation of a renter’s right to quiet enjoyment.
Examples of disturbances to Quiet Enjoyment
- A landlord harassing a tenant or tenant’s guest in person or on the phone
- Frequent or unnecessary visits or inspections of the property
- Constantly barking dog
- Unnecessary remodeling work, or maintenance work that takes longer than initially proposed
- Upstairs neighbor who works out or plays loud music late at night
- Vermon or pests in the walls making disruptive noises
Examples of Acceptable or One-time Disturbances
- A landlord calling repeatedly or knocking on the door to inquire about overdue rent
- Routine inspections, especially those outlined in a lease agreement
- Emergency maintenance or repairs
- Scheduled maintenance or repairs, however, proper notice must be given to the tenant before entering the property
- Footsteps from neighbors living above a downstairs tenant
- Smoke alarm going off when a neighbor cooks dinner, that is turned off right away
- Common wildlife like crickets or birds making noise outside
What to do if you feel like your right to quiet enjoyment has been violated
It’s always advisable for a tenant to take detailed notes whenever he feels like any of his renters’ rights have been violated, including his implied warranty of quiet enjoyment. It’s a good idea to take pictures, video, or record sound if possible. Inform your landlord or property manager of the disturbance and ask what will be done to remedy the situation and when it will be taken care of. Keep in mind that things like traffic noise or loud neighbors might be out of your landlord’s control.
Check your local laws regarding noise disturbances, this can be especially helpful when dealing with an excessively barking dog or loud neighbors. You might need to call the police to report a problem. In some cases an issue might be out of your landlord’s control, but if the problem persists, the landlord or property manager might allow you to break your lease agreement early and without consequences. Keep records of all your reports to the police department, city, and conversations with your landlord.
After you notify your landlord or property manager, and the issue is still not remedied, you need to inform your landlord that your right to quiet enjoyment has been violated. The best advice I can give you, is to work with a local attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your area, you can help you draft this official notice. Working with an attorney might be more affordable than you think and will ensure you are going about the situation in the best way possible.
Your notification should reference your state law or lease agreement that refers to the warranty of quiet enjoyment and detail how you feel like your right has been violated. Let your landlord know if you would like to break your lease, stop paying rent, or would like a rent refund as a result of the violation, depending on what your state law allows.
Be prepared for your landlord to respond, either positively or negatively to your notice. There is a chance that your landlord will take you to court if you move out or stop paying rent. If your landlord refuses to acknowledge your rights or issue you a refund, you may be within your rights to take your landlord to court. Again, it’s highly advisable that you seek out the assistance of a licensed attorney.