There have been a number of cases reported recently where tenants have won monetary awards against their landlords for violation of quiet enjoyment.
The monetary awards in these cases have been significant. For instance, in the last six months, one tenant was awarded $8,000, another tenant $6,000, and a third tenant was awarded $4,500. Several others won rent abatement or nominal damages and the landlord was ordered to remedy the situation.
Because violating quiet enjoyment is such a costly mistake, it’s worth taking some time to consider how to avoid it.
Quiet enjoyment is a legal right of every tenant regardless of the language in the tenancy agreement. A landlord has a duty to provide a rental home that is free of substantial interference with everyday use and enjoyment.
Based on recent cases, the two most common violations of quiet enjoyment include:
Entering the property for showings, and
Remodeling or major renovations while the tenant remains in the unit.
In one case, an outdoor renovation project was plagued with delays and unexpected issues like asbestos. The tenants were subjected to hazardous dust, along with noise and loss of access of the balconies and other common areas, for the entire duration of the tenancy. Earlier in the year, tenants from that same building also won a judgement for breach of quiet enjoyment.
In another case, the tenants won monetary damages after the landlord entered the property frequently and without notice to show the rental to prospective tenants. At one point, the landlord allegedly moved items and cleaned up the unit before the prospect arrived. Tenants were awarded damages based on the violation of their privacy and the disruption of their everyday use of the property.
When deciding tenants’ damages in these cases, the tribunals look at the frequency and intensity of the interruption, along with the length of time the tenant is subjected to it. In some cases, tenants were awarded one-half of the rent for the entire duration of the lease. In other cases, the tenant was awarded damages based on the loss of use of a particular section of the property.
To avoid these costly claims, landlords could consider:
Planned vacancies to manage major renovations and repairs. Keeping properties rented during construction and losing thousands of dollars per tenant for violation of quiet enjoyment may not be the most cost-effective option.
When showing units, severely limit the number of applicants who will be allowed to tour the property. An applicant should be prequalified before touring an occupied unit. In addition, provide prior notice of the entry to the current tenant, and stay with the applicant on the tour to protect the tenant’s personal property and privacy.
While these interruptions are the more common complaints, there are a number of other actions that can lead to a claim of breach of quiet enjoyment:
An unreasonable number of landlord visits. Landlords should have a good reason for the visit. For instance, landlords are allowed into the rental property to make repairs or conduct inspections. However, the landlord should provide notice, usually 24 hours in advance;
Smoking. Secondhand smoke can cause of breach of quiet enjoyment of the property. While these cases are relatively rare, a monetary award for secondhand smoke exposure can be significantly higher than other claims because it is easy to prove the causal connection to tenant health issues; and
Chronic noise like barking dogs. House rules contained in the tenancy agreement should address unreasonable levels of noise, particularly repetitive noises that interfere with sleep or everyday enjoyment. Landlords not only are liable for breach of quiet enjoyment if the landlord causes the interference, but also if the landlord is aware of the annoyance and fails to take reasonable steps to stop it.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.