Right to Quiet Enjoyment

What is the "implied covenant of right to quiet enjoyment"?

There are two terms we need to define: Implied Covenant and Right to Quiet Enjoyment (RQE).

Implied Covenant

An Implied Covenant is a promise, or responsibility, that is assumed by law, explicitly stated or not. Every lease in California contains two implied covenants. These are the warranty of habitability and right to quiet enjoyment. Warranty of habitability requires certain livability thresholds, and will be the subject of a later post.

Right to Quiet Enjoyment

A property owner or tenant's right to possess and use his or her property without disturbance, including by a person with superior title. A disturbance of an owner or tenant's possession or use may constitute a nuisance.

Legal Information Network

These rights have long histories, and derive from English Common Law. It can be difficult to define them in clear and explicit terms, as they are the result of a great deal of case law. A reasonable summary of a tenants rights under Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment:

  • use of property without unreasonable interference

  • reasonable privacy

  • freedom from unreasonable disturbance

  • exclusive possession

  • use of common areas for reasonable purposes without significant interference

What are you responsibilities as a landlord.

Many violations of a tenant's RQE are easy to avoid for a professional landlord. They involve unprofessional snooping in a tenant's private life and property. As landlord, you can violate someones RQE by:

  • Entering units without proper notice

  • Going through tenant's personal property without permission

  • Verbal abuse or harassment of tenants

  • Restricting use of portions of the rented property

  • Enforcing unreasonable rules that prevent enjoyment of the property. Example: a "No Guests" policy.

  • Not remediating violations between tenants.

Disputes between tenants are a common issue related to right to quiet enjoyment. They are also the hardest to prevent. Most common are noise disputes. Problems with harassment or disputes over use of property also arise. If a tenant complains about a violation of these rights, a landlord has a responsibility to act.

Steps to Take in Tenant Disputes

  1. Investigate. Some people are very sensitive, others are vindictive and complain from spite. Try to verify the tenant's complaint before moving forward. If you can verify the complaint...

  2. Evaluate the Complaint. Does this issue violate the tenants rights? Or is it a simple inconvenience? If it is a violation....

  3. Address the Offender. Talk to noisy or abusive tenants. Inform them that the behavior is not permitted and can result in eviction if continued. Write, and keep copies of, letters documenting the behavior and your response. If they don't stop their offenses...

  4. Evict. If a tenant continues to violate the rights of other tenants, they place you at legal risk. Failure to remediate the situation could result in:

  • Inability to collect rent from the offended party.

  • In some jurisdictions, may be liable for damages resulting from 'mental anguish'.

  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, treble (Triple damages) judgments are not unknown.

TL;DR As landlord, you have a responsibility to ensure your tenants can use their property, without unreasonable disturbance from you or your other tenants.

Kari's Law

Last year, Texas passed Kari's Law, which requires multi-line phone systems be configured to allow a user to dial 911 without requiring any extra key presses. The law was inspired by the murder of Kari Hunt, whose husband stabbed her to death in a motel. During the murder, their child tried to call 911, but was not aware that the motel phone system required her to dial a 9 first. A similar national bill has been passed by the house, and will likely soon become law. If this bill is passed, any business that operates a multi-line telephone system will be required to configure that system to allow direct 911 access, or to replace existing systems if they cannot be configured to do so.