No matter if you rent or own your property, everyone has an expectation that they’ll feel comfortable when they’re in their own home. Of course, what makes someone feel truly “at home” is dependent on the person—some feel at home when they can get creative in the kitchen, others just need a place where they can plop down and watch Netflix. We can all agree, however, that home is a place where we shouldn’t be disturbed, whether that’s by extremely noisy neighbors or an overbearing landlord.
When you lease a property to a tenant, it is with the understanding that there are certain obligations you have to provide throughout the duration of their lease: a unit that is both habitable and private (or without unreasonable disturbances). This obligation to provide privacy is referred to as the “quiet enjoyment clause” or the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.”
Let’s go over what the quiet enjoyment clause is, how you can ensure you are not in violation of it, and what is not a violation of this clause.
What is the Quiet Enjoyment Clause?
Landlords and property managers have several protections in place to have agency in the leaser/lessee arrangement such as a standard rental application, tenant screening, collecting rent deposits, and being able to evict tenants for violation of the lease. For tenants, one of the biggest protections they have is the quiet enjoyment clause.
So, what exactly is it, and what does it mean for property owners? According to Nolo, quiet enjoyment means, “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 other words, landlords need to reasonably provide a home to their tenants where they don’t feel disturbed by outside forces. Most importantly, they should not be disturbed by the property owner/landlord.
Quiet enjoyment is sometimes included in leases in the form of a clause, but often it is what is considered an “implied covenant,” or an agreement that is implied and not written down. This doesn’t mean, however, that a violation of the clause wouldn’t have any legal ramifications.
What Violates the Quiet Enjoyment Clause?
Though Mr. Roper’s nosy antics were funny on “Three’s Company,” his nosy nature and constant drop-bys might have made him in violation of the quiet enjoyment clause. But because everyone’s definition of what is peaceful to them is different, it can be difficult to establish what exactly violates the quiet enjoyment clause. A good rule of thumb is asking yourself if a behavior would prevent someone from living peacefully at home. If the answer is yes, then you might want to rethink your behavior.
Still not sure what is in violation? Here are a few examples:
- Harassing a tenant either in person or over the phone
- Entering the apartment for frequent, unannounced inspections
- Having a disruptive maintenance project that is unnecessary or that takes much longer than anticipated
- Cutting off essential services like water or electricity
- Preventing a tenant from reasonably enjoying the rental (such as barring them from having guests)
What is Not a Violation of the Quiet Enjoyment Clause?
Just as a rental application and a tenant screening are reasonable demands to make of a tenant, there are reasonable reasons why you might need to disturb a tenant’s day-to-day life occasionally.
Here are a few examples of what doesn’t violate the quiet enjoyment clause:
- Entering the rental for scheduled routine maintenance, such as changing the air filter or fixing a leak
- Repeatedly asking for a rent check either in person or over the phone if the rent is late
- Entering the rental for emergency repairs
Bottom line: Be Reasonable
It’s easy to second guess yourself when there are potential legal consequences looming. The most important thing to remember when it comes to the quiet enjoyment clause is just to be reasonable.
Even if you happen to have a tenant that seems to be dissatisfied or complain no matter what you do, as long as you are being respectful of their space and let them know ahead of time when you plan to enter their unit, you should be well within your rights as a property manager/owner.