What do noisy neighbors and cigarette smoke have in common?
These are both examples of possible violations of a landlord’s duty to provide a tenant quiet enjoyment.
This covenant is implied in every lease, whether verbal or written, and it cannot be avoided, regardless of any limitations that may be stated in the lease agreement.
Understanding this illusive right to quiet enjoyment is an important aspect of property management. Not only do violations of the covenant lead to costly lawsuits, but protecting the right is good business, as it will increase tenant retention.
What does this covenant mean for landlords and property managers?
A violation of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment is a breach of the lease agreement. If the landlord commits a breach, the tenant may be excused from future performance, including payment of rent. In addition, an injured tenant may be able to claim the right to compensation.
Secondhand smoke and unscheduled landlord visits are common ways the covenant is breached, along with barking dogs, rowdy parties, trespassers, construction and other tenants.
Landlords and managers have a duty to resolve tenant concerns and to anticipate possible violations of quiet enjoyment. The landlord must intervene and not leave it up to a tenant to resolve the problem.
This covenant stretches beyond just other tenants or the rental property itself. If there is something going on in adjacent properties, like unmanaged tenant parties or grow-operations, landlords must do what they legally can to minimize the nuisance.
Getting to know neighbors in the area, and exchanging phone numbers can make the task of managing complaints much easier. If a phone call cannot fix the problem, then it is a good idea to follow up with a letter or notice, setting out possible consequences if the problem continues unresolved.
Participation in a local Crime Free Multi-Housing program is another way to minimize these risks. The programs offers a property risk assessment and that can include ideas for dealing with known issues within a neighbourhood. Also, the program offers social networking opportunities with other property owners in the area, and that can foster cooperation if trouble occurs.
Be careful who comes onto the property. Always screen tenants and ask previous landlords about past problems. Prohibit tenants from carrying on business on the property that may be intrusive. Screen contractors and supervise these workers closely while they are on the property. Maintain a guest policy that reduces the risk of annoying other tenants.
Always take tenant concerns seriously. The key is to treat tenants fairly when they complain, and then stay in touch as you work to resolve the issue. Let them know what is happening, that you are on their side, and that you will protect their rights.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in 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.