If you ever find yourself confronted with tenant complaints about the presence of too much noise and disturbance, avoid ignoring them. Why? Tenants have a basic right to quiet enjoyment.
This may not be explicitly stated in a contract, but this is considered an implied covenant. That may initially sound vague, but this article will go into further detail regarding the meaning of the “implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.”
To prevent the neglect of landlord responsibilities, you need to know about this covenant. You can then respond well to the complaint against quiet enjoyment. Thus, preserving your good relationship with your renters.
How does one define an “implied covenant”?
When we say “implied covenant” it does not need to be clarified or written in the leasing agreement. This is automatically guaranteed to every renter. You can’t take this away from the tenant on a whim.
It’s not a privilege given only to a selected few. It’s a basic right to be enjoyed by every tenant, even without a direct agreement. If a landlord and tenant have a conflict, the landlord will still adhere to the implied covenant.
How does one define “quiet enjoyment”?
Quiet enjoyment may look different for each renter. Commonly, part of quiet enjoyment is being provided a habitable rental unit to live in. By habitable, it means renters are provided with utilities such as clean water and a heater, especially during cold weather.
Another expectation of renters would be living in properly maintained and clean living quarters. For a tenant to enjoy his space, prompt attention to maintenance requests is expected from a landlord. Habitability is closely tied with quiet enjoyment. After all, who would enjoy residing in a place that’s unfit for occupation?
Quiet enjoyment can also be defined as being able to live in a space that’s free from disturbance. A tenant is granted the privacy of his own space. They’re given an acceptable degree of peace and quiet from the external noises outside the unit.
When is the covenant of quiet enjoyment breached?
Since quiet enjoyment can mean different things to different people, it’s definitely challenging to assess when it’s broken.
Below are some areas to be mindful of that can be signs of breaching of this covenant:
1. Issue on privacy
If a tenant discovers that the landlord has been coming and going in his rental unit without proper notice, then this is a sign of invasion of privacy. A tenant has a right to privacy and has the power to restrict or refuse entry except for special cases. Other forms of a breach of privacy by landlords would be reading private letters, spying, harassing and pronouncing threats.
2. Non-provision of basic utilities
If a tenant finds that the landlord has not attended to a broken heater or paid-up utility dues, there is a breach. When utilities are shut down due to non-payment or conflicts, the landlord is accountable.
Part of providing quiet enjoyment is the use of basic utility services. This also includes access to common areas such as a recreation center, swimming pool or gym.
How do we define a landlord’s liability?
As a landlord, you are accountable for situations or disruptions you have not resolved. Is the situation beyond a landlord’s control? If yes, then they’re shielded from the accusation of a breach in the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
For example, a neighbor regularly holds loud parties in the middle of the night. The source of the noise is beyond the direct power of the landlord. Thus, if you’re the landlord in this scenario, the landlord is exempt from being guilty.
A landlord can only be liable for breaching the covenant if it’s within the landlord’s scope of authority to resolve the issue, and there was no action taken. The tenant must also provide proof of the disturbance. There may be instances when the event can be construed as a simple annoyance instead of a major disturbance.
How to deal with a broken covenant of quiet enjoyment?
Before resorting to the court of law, a tenant has several available options to try. Exhausting other means before filing a lawsuit will save more money, time and energy. If either the tenant or landlord finds that the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment is repeatedly breached, they can do the following:
1. Send a letter referring to the covenant of quiet enjoyment
This informs the recipient that there has been a breach in the covenant. The issues will be outlined, and a detailed explanation of the outcome will be provided.
As a landlord, responding to this letter shows that you’re aware of the issue and taking steps to resolve it.
2. Stop paying the rent (tenants)
Before choosing this method, a tenant must check the local and state laws to ensure it’s a legal move. Seeking legal advice is also a good decision before taking this action. Withholding a rental payment might backfire on a tenant if the law forbids it.
3. Constructive eviction
A tenant may opt to self-evict if a landlord refuses to cooperate and perform his responsibilities. The breach in the covenant of quiet enjoyment can be grounds to do so.
Tenants may face consequences such as paying penalties and not receiving a refund of their security deposit. A landlord might even take legal action against the tenant. Still, if there is a major breach of covenant and enough time given to fix the problem, then constructive eviction is an alternative solution.
Lastly, if all else fails, taking the matter to court would be a final step.
Knowing and understanding the covenant of quiet enjoyment will serve the best interests of both landlords and tenants. This provides clarity, creates boundaries and defines the acceptable level of quiet enjoyment. It also prevents escalation into lawsuits and saves everyone’s resources. This may be an implied covenant, but it’s essential to keep in mind when managing a rental home.
If you need a professional property manager for your rental properties in Georgia, contact Haas Properties now at (770) 928 4910. To find out more information, visit www.haasproperties.com.