When a new tenant signs a lease agreement with their landlord, there are certain rights to be enjoyed and obligations that need to be met. These terms are understood by both parties and most of them are outlined in the lease document.
However, there are certain fundamental freedoms that may not be mentioned in the lease agreement but are still relevant. An example of such is the “Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment”. Implied covenants may not be expressly stated, but they are legally binding and will hold up in court. In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the meaning of this covenant for a tenant and try to understand the implication it may have on landlords.
What is an Implied Covenant?
An implied covenant is an agreement between two or more parties that is not expressly stated in writing. Implied covenants are understood by the parties involved and it is clearly demonstrated by their actions.
The implied covenant of quiet enjoyment may not be in writing but it still needs to be upheld. Implied covenants are binding in landlord and tenant relationships and a landlord cannot force a tenant to waive this condition.
What Amounts to Quiet Enjoyment?
The phrase “quiet enjoyment” might be a bit subjective, but it generally refers to certain rights that a tenant enjoys in relation to a property. A tenant is basically entitled to live in a safe and habitable environment and to enjoy some peace and quiet.
In a lease agreement, tenants can expect to enjoy the following rights:
- The exclusive use of the property. As a tenant, you have the right to allow or deny someone from accessing your premises, except under certain circumstances such as scheduled maintenance.
- The right to enjoy some peace and quiet. A tenant is entitled to peace and privacy within their premises without unreasonable interference from the landlord or other tenants.
- A well-maintained residence. A tenant has the right to enjoy the comfort of a property that is maintained in good condition.
- A safe and secure residence. Safety is paramount when renting a property. A landlord can be held liable if their property is unsafe.
- The right to access basic services such as heating and electricity. These services are necessary for a property to be habitable.
How is a Tenant’s Quiet Enjoyment Violated?
There are several ways in which a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment may be violated. In some cases, a landlord may be held liable when they are committed. Some common examples of violations to quiet enjoyment include the following:
- Gaining access to the premises without providing adequate notice. This infringes upon the tenant’s right to privacy and exclusive use of the property.
- Too much noise and disruptions that interfere with the tenant’s peace and quiet
- Going through a tenant’s personal belongings
- The failure to provide access to essential services such as heating and electricity
- Harassment of a tenant by the landlord or other tenants
- The failure to maintain a property
- The landlord not providing items or services that were specified in the lease agreement
- Not taking the necessary action to ensure a tenant’s safety in the premises
What are the Consequences of Violating a Tenant’s Quiet Enjoyment?
A tenant can take various measures of recourse in response to their quiet enjoyment being violated. They include:
Tenants may refuse to pay their rent. In some states, a tenant is legally allowed to withhold rental payments when their right to quiet enjoyment is interfered with.
Some tenants may choose to take legal action. As a landlord, not honoring your tenant’s rights may leave you exposed to legal liability. Such cases may end up in a small claims court and you may be required to pay for damages.
A tenant may decide to terminate their lease agreement. The tenant would be within their rights to terminate the lease when a landlord fails to uphold their side of the agreement. Generally, leases may be terminated due to a breach of contract or either party’s failure to meet their obligations.
Acceptable Disturbances to Quiet Enjoyment
In some instances, it may be acceptable for a landlord to interfere with a tenant’s quiet enjoyment. Some examples of such include:
- When a landlord calls or visits the tenant to demand their rent payments
- Scheduled maintenance work. A landlord may provide adequate notice to carry out repair and maintenance services according to the lease agreement or when emergency repairs are needed.
- Property inspections. Move-out inspections may be carried out by a landlord when a tenant vacates the property. These are meant to assess any possible damage to the premises.
- To fulfill a court order
- To provide an eviction notice. In this case, the landlord should be accompanied by a law enforcement officer.
- To check on the property if a tenant abandons it
- When the landlord needs to show the property to buyers, lenders or prospective tenants
Under such circumstances, the landlord needs to provide notice on the time for the visit, which is usually during the day in most states. However, a landlord may be allowed to show up without notice in the event of an occurrence that affects the property’s safety or one that threatens the welfare of other tenants.
The Bottom Line
Even though some lease agreements may not contain this clause, the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment is still legally binding. Any infringement on the rights under this covenant may be a legal nuisance.
As a landlord, it is therefore essential to uphold the covenant of quiet enjoyment to keep your tenants happy. Violating this covenant not only exposes you to legal action from a tenant, but it also threatens your rental income in case the tenant decides to leave.
To avoid this situation, you may want to consider the services of a reputable property management company. At Bigham & Associates, we have highly experienced professionals who are dedicated to protecting your investment and maximizing your returns. Reach out to us today for unparalleled property management services in Austin, Texas.