Some tenant rights may not be explicitly put into writing, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. If you want to be a meticulous landlord, you must take the time to learn about implied covenants such as the "implied covenant of quiet enjoyment." The covenant focuses on making the tenant comfortable in your rental space.
By honoring this implied covenant, you increase the chances of having long-term renters. This is ideal because it means you will earn a steady income for years to come.
What is an "implied covenant"?
An "implied covenant" is a right extended without conditions that's guaranteed and automatically granted. The lease may not mention or detail the "implied covenant" but it doesn't eliminate its existence. As a landlord, you must fulfill this duty even without it being specifically stated in the leasing agreement.
What is quiet enjoyment?
Discussing quiet enjoyment can take on different meanings. Commonly, it refers to providing your renters with a habitable living space. That is, a space that has basic utilities such as hot water and electricity to power up the lights.
Quiet enjoyment can also refer to respecting a renter's privacy. This means preventing unnecessary noise and disturbances, not opening a renter's personal mail, and not entering a renter's unit without notice.
What constitutes a breach in the covenant of quiet enjoyment?
As tough as qualifying breaches to the covenant of quiet enjoyment may be, we can outline some examples below:
1. Lack of basic utilities
Shutting down the water and electric services violates the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
2. Invasion of tenant privacy
If you place surveillance cameras inside the rental unit without the renter knowing, you're violating the renter's privacy and thus, their right to quiet enjoyment.
3. Unreasonable restrictions
As a landlord, you can't disallow a renter from accepting visitors or hosting parties in the rental unit. So long as the party ends at a reasonable time and the noise doesn't disturb other renters, this freedom shouldn't be curtailed. Renters have the right to enjoy their rental space the way they see fit.
What is the extent of a landlord's liability?
Some situations are beyond your control, so you wouldn't be liable for them. For instance, if there's a neighbor playing rock music in the late hours, you can't do much about it. However, if there are situations you can control, such as a fellow noisy tenant, you can be liable.
If you don't take action, the renter can ask for a full or partial refund of the rent. This is because you are expected to resolve this situation. By not taking action, you are guilty of not providing quiet enjoyment to your renters.
What situations are considered as disturbances?
- Lack of notice upon entering a renter's premises.
- Snooping through a renter's personal mail.
- Unresponsive action to maintenance and repair request.
- A dog repetitively barking every night disrupting a renter's sleep.
What situations are considered as mere annoyances?
- Hearing occasional footsteps from the above rental unit.
- A neighbor smoking outside.
- Sound of crickets at night during a certain season.
- A dog barking occasionally.
What can a tenant do when quiet enjoyment is breached?
A tenant has several options to choose from depending on the gravity of the situation.
The tenant can perform the following steps:
1. Furnish a letter to the landlord.
This is to inform the landlord about the disturbance the tenant is experiencing. It lets you know the renter's perspective and the effect of the disturbance.
As a landlord, you can then rectify the situation. It's also a good way to respond to the letter and detail action plans to remedy the disturbance. This lets renters know that you're paying attention to their comfort.
2. Contact the police.
If the disturbance requires police authority, such as an out-of-control individual, then this is a viable solution. Violent people can be hard to reason with. It's always good to prioritize everyone's safety. Further, the police have the training to intervene and control dangerous behavior.
3. Ask for a full or partial rental refund from the landlord.
If the disturbance has caused too much physical and mental stress, the renter can also request for a refund of the rent.
4. Perform a self-eviction.
When the situation persists and a renter sees no consistent resolution, then they can choose to move out. There are consequences to this action, but if they want peace of mind, this can be reasonable.
5. File a lawsuit.
Even if the covenant of quiet enjoyment is simply implied, you must do your best to fulfill it. Tenants deserve to live in a habitable space where they can enjoy their privacy. The rental property must be free from disturbances. You must also prioritize the wellbeing of a renter since they trust that you'll provide a peaceful environment for them.