Tenants Can Break Lease Over Bad Neighbors

by Chris on May 13, 2013

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.

tenant screeningThis 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.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

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.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda May 27, 2013 at 9:18 am

I have had to call the cops on my upstairs neighbor serveral times due to noises and shakes my windows and walls, one time it resulted in the banging on my door and a altercation (I have witnesses and recorded it) the second time they threaten to get me evicted, but it didnt work we are good tenants and tried to talk to them about problems we were having with noise and it did know good. Now they have decided to tell people we are bad parents and leave our kids alone /unattended all the time to smoke (a neighbor who is a friend of mine, her kids approached me and said this, while we were talking) which it completely untrue my oldest is 6 and autistic and my youngest is 10 months. They have also my threats whenthey knew we could hear them, telling there kids “you know whats gonna happen to those noisey neighbor who run and tattle dont you?’ This is causing my family alot of stress making living our life harder. can they be evicted for this? they are disturbing our right to quiet and enjoyment of our home. we live in tennessee. -Amanda

stephanie March 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm

i rent a house, my neighbors do not rent they own the home next to use, we dont have connected homes per se, but the houses touch and join (not a row home two totally separate homes/properties) we have a chain link fence between the properties and one two occassions the neighbors have climbed over into our yard to fix something that they could totally fix by being on their property they do passive aggressive things to push our buttons, in the summer we cant be in our yard too long bc they let their dogs poo in their yard and it smells bad when it gets hot out (all summer), with our windows open on our first floor we can smell their cigarette smoke IN our house, we bought two air conditioners just so we wouldnt have to open our windows in the summer, they are loud usually yelling/screaming for their kids, our landlord made us aware that they tried to get his info to complain about us having cop cars here and asked us to not give it to them should they try to ask for it (we have had cops here twice because of their dogs barking outside in nov 2010 from the hours of 4am-7am, another time the same thing, different date different hours) we have heard fights next door where it was a physical fight and it sounded like whoever was fighting was gonna come right through our kitchen wall bc it was shaking, its a living nightmare we want to know if we can break our lease should it get worse anytime during our lease

Joy May 31, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I have lived in this same townhouse (all are rented in this complex) for 5 years but for probably 9 months now I have had the neighbors from hell. They have a TV with a surround sound in their bedroom (ahem, on the other side of my HEAD when I’m in my bed trying to sleep) and they BLARE it. I run a fan and sleep with earplugs and I can STILL hear it. In top of this they have parties some weekends where music blares for hours. Their yard is below my bedroom window and they speak, laugh really loudly at 7 am on Sunday mornings. They prevent me from falling asleep and wake me up early several times a week. Over Memorial Day weekend they have family over and a kid on a pogo stick jumped on the hard wood deck outside my living room window on and off for hours, I couldn’t even hear my own TV between that and their music blaring. I can’t enjoy my own bedroom, I’m having trouble sleeping because it will be quiet one minute and all of a sudden blasting again, so I can’t relax enough to sleep knowing I’m probably going to be woken up again any minute. They are just driving me insane. Finally the landlord started sending letters telling them they need to quiet down. That very Saturday after they got the letter, they turned their TV on at 8AM louder than ever before and nearly gave me a heart attack as it woke me up, then they started LAUGHING about how loud it was. I went outside in my yard and could hear the TV perfectly from there, too and they laughed even harder seeing me outside in my PJs and knowing they woke me up. I called the landlord again and he said he would send the property manager over to talk to them. Not sure if that ever happened, but 9:30 pm that night: blaring TV again. I’m a graduate student and I can only get wireless connection upstairs for some reason, so I was on my bed reading an article and trying to study and I can’t even think straight because of the noise. I finally called the cops and let the landlord know I did. Thing is, I’ve complained so much I think the landlord hates me now too, but it’s messing with my right to enjoy and SLEEP in my own home!!!!! I heard the boyfriend, who is from some JAIL outside cursing and screaming after the cop left. I park my car right in front of my door instead of in my parking spot because I’m scared of retaliation. Either they need to go or I do…My lease is not up until October…I can’t stand not being able to sleep and not knowing if they are going to do something vindictive anymore. I have a TV in my bedroom, but it doesn’t have surround sound, it’s on the opposite side of the room from the wall I share with them and at night I never put the volume above just what I need to barely hear it myself. These people have NO common decency at all…What to do?

Scared December 18, 2014 at 7:30 pm

We have scary neighbours that threaten us every day and I’m scared for our (my husband, my dog and my) lives.
We’re trying to move out ASAP but not having much luck.
I don’t want to but I’m tempted to just dump this place and leave as the Real Estate I’m with DONT care and I’ve tried to talk to them several times…

Dawn Crouse, Life Time Fitness April 23, 2016 at 1:57 am

You people are seriously crybabies with these comments. If your renting and can’t stand it, then cough up the two month’s rent penalty and go on with your life.

I can’t f-ing stand people that complain all day, everyday. I would know, I have to deal with them every single day!

Jill June 27, 2016 at 7:00 am

Dawn Crouse, you clearly have a place to rest your head at night, a place to read a a book, have a conversation, eat a quiet meal, or just relax. It is a right every person who pays rent or a mortgage should have. But not everyone is so lucky. Let me change that: “Not everyone’s rights under their legally binding leases are honored,” because that’s what we’re talking about here. You try having someone stomp on top of your head until 1:00 AM Monday through Sunday on an un-covered hardwood floor in new construction when you KNOW they don’t have to do so because they sometimes FORGET TO DO IT. You try telling a grieving friend not to come over and cry with you because the place is too damned noisy and upsetting to be in. YOU try getting a last-second hotel room for a visiting relative on a holiday weekend because now way will you be able to visit peacefully in your own house.

It is time for people to develop an awareness of what’s going on out here, and exactly how COMMON it is nowadays for people to be unspeakably rude. Time was when it was only the “all-around” rude person that was insensitive. Now it is the NORM, not the exception for otherwise “respectable” people to not give a flying darn about other human beings. This fact stuns and stymies landlords. They say, “Well, this person is a professional,” or whatever, and then they freeze. Eventually, they blame the complainer because that’s just easier to do. They aren’t prepared for what is now almost ubiquitous bad behavior, and don’t realize they have to have VERY SPECIFIC rules spelled out in advance, and enforce those rules. “Do unto others” means nothing to these “everyone gets a trophy,” self-absorbed androids that pass for humans now.

Lillia Murphy October 3, 2016 at 4:10 am

Wow Dawn Crouse, Life Time Fitness, it’s obvious that you’re rich and can just throw away money willy nilly. Most of us can’t afford to just pay up and leave!

Samantha February 3, 2017 at 6:12 pm

I have a neighbor that as soon as i come home ckmes out of his house and yells at me for parking my car in front of my house. He evens follows me and my young kids up to my door yelling waving his arms and saying unnecessary things. I have caught him looking in my windows and even showed the police his hand prints on my windows. I planted new grass and he went and dug it up to put some plastic stuff on my side of the property. He tore down bushes that were 3 feet onto my property causing the whole femce tp fall down that was next to it. This led to us having to fix right away as i have dogs in my backyard. I have him constantly screaming and yelling at me for no reason on camera. I have called cops, i have notified the owner of the house, and even spoke with the property management but nothing has been done. I had to have the cops tell him to stay off my property period and not talk to me and he still does it. I want to move because i dont feel safe. I dont feel like my kids are safe here the way he acts. Is there a way to get out of my lease without paying the rest of the term as no one has been able to control him. He has even gone as far as telling the neighbors that im a drug lord tp stay away from me.

francis May 18, 2017 at 3:21 pm

I contacted the apartments office and the homefront security because, I have been harass and discriminated by the tenants under my apartment. The manager and the homefront security said my best option is to move out as I wanted to. So, I will be moving out after I get my paper work done at the SSA.
I am on the Section 8 program so, my housing specialist is letting me move out if the manager give her a letter to show that I am moving out.

Rachel June 27, 2017 at 7:58 pm

I am a dissabled Veteran that has issues with depression and anxiety. I just moved into an apartment one month ago and have losts many nights sleep due to the tenants below me. I hear and feel the vibrations from their system as early as 6:30am to late hours from 10pm all the way until 2-4am. I have sent emails, phone calls etc.
The propety manager gave me the number to their security and have had to call twice in three days.
Needless to say, due to the lack of sleep and having the irritating sound and vibrations of the bass and tremble be the first thing that wakes me to the last that I hear trying to fall asleep, my anxiety and depression has dramatically worsened and I can take it anymore.

I spoke to the property manager today and she said that I would owe roughly $4,000 to break the lease (2 months rent as a 60 day notice policy, $1,500 as a fine and other charges).
When I mentioned my right to “peace and quiet” she said that although I made the complaints, when security walked to the apartment he could not hear load noices.
I need to move out ASAP before my state of mind and quality of life/work get any worse but I cant afford $4,000.

Is this right?

Thanks.
Rachel S.

Katherine Monk July 21, 2017 at 4:34 am

I’ve lived in my apartment for 7 yrs I’ve gone through 2 good tenants in the past but so called family members which are more than should be, they drink & do drugs everyday they do not work as they live off the government, mind you I’m 61 with lots of health issues, my 24 yr old son lives with me as well, he has some mental health issues, I’m getting help with section 8 in the past 7 yrs due to not able to work my husband passed when he was 39 & my youngest of 4 kids was 3 I have managed for many years without help of government assistant of any kind but due to illnesses I’ve needed some help, year & half ago is when neighbors from hell moved in I have tried to ignore for many months but my health issues are getting worse due to these people constantly banging on the floors, running up & down the stairs most likely on purpose because I have complained to landlord & had to call police a few times but when the police leave they are right back to it again, I also fear for me & my sons welfare, they have some shady people coming here, I was threatened by some & also they wanted to beat my son up, I need to get out but have no money, I’m even at the point of sleeping in my car which I also fear they may inflicted damage to, I fear the night because I know we will be getting NO sleep, yes I have tried to talk to them during the day when they may possibly be sober but do not answer their door, I am lost in what to do, my son & I are becoming very I’ll from stress & lack of sleep.

Brandy Deason June 14, 2018 at 6:15 am

What if my Bad neighbor is my landlord?

Cath June 23, 2018 at 8:30 am

My car hit one the neighbor’s car while . Now that neighbour
And the police was called and filled police report as well
We notified the insurance co.
But that neighbor keeps harassing me, comes to my comdo
Knocking at my door and banging on my window
Every other day also scare me as he wait in front of my car garage and
In my morning when I’m trying to go work and same
When I come back from work . I became terrified and please
Advise will a good reason to break my lease cause I really
Wants to move cause of his harassment daily . Thanks

Freda Rivers November 2, 2019 at 11:04 am

Excuse me ! I end up moving next to this Columbus Ohio who so happen to be the previous landlords who I put court papers on 03102016 family members or friends. This neighbor and their visitors is always at the wall and stairs that next door to my living room. It feel like their stun gunning because when I move from the area I do not feel it.

So when I go up stairs 5 or 10 minutes later this neighbor comes up stair , then 10 minutes I’m feeling like I’m stun gun. The walls our paper thin. Columbus Ohio police officer be call but neighbor do not answer the door. I mean if they shoot off guns 05132019 yes 911 was called I gave 2 addresses one was this neighbor. I let rental office manager in a letter 06112019 and 10062019 . This neighbor has got from following me around next door. Now doing something like having their associates to shoot off guns. Plus Columbus Ohio police I called 11012019 the CPD’s dispatcher 614 645 4545 goes off after I told her why this neighbor harassing she hung up on me 10:14 am . What am I to do . So I put it on facebook what this neighbor and their visitors harassing and threading me.

Karen January 25, 2020 at 10:32 am

Just bought a 2017 Mobile Home in a Mobile Home Park Spent upwards of $45,000 with house, remolding and fees. There is R/R’s which I studied carefully before buying. 1 Dog, pick up feces, no large vehicles and must be quiet. After I bought house and before I moved in I noticed dog feces up and down whole lawn right next to my house. ( I lease 3 feet of lawn next to neighbors house. Long story short, through complaints to the manager, about them not picking up Feces (12-20 piles left on their lawn at weeks at a time, we are 5 feet apart) Revving their 2 loud vehicles with awful exhaust smells from 5:30 A.M. 3 A.M. and threatening my son, we had to call sheriffs. 9 Months later we are forced to sell and move. Do I have a case against the Park for reimbursement for park fee, water until we sell and all costs for me to buy another house? (We are in contract phase)

Samantha March 22, 2020 at 2:36 pm

@Dawn you must be that self entitled neighbor that lives upstairs with the blasting music and throwing large objects on the floor and you don’t stop there. You make that extra effort of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and stomp your way from one room into another just to wake people up. Then you get offended when people ask you to keep it down or call the police, but you’ll show them. You’ll turn up the music for an extra 2hrs and keep awake till 5a.m. You know what that is called? A Psycho. So you stop with your tantrums and grow up.

LuLu March 31, 2020 at 2:57 pm

OMG! Samantha, you described what my neighbor sounds like! I found this website because I just moved on 1st floor in NJ apt Mar 1st, and haven’t had 2 or 3 hours of sleep yet. A woman upstairs is stomping and beating on floor with a hammer all night, I mean all night! Got to be a PSYCHO! Never sleeps day or night. Since we are working from home, I hear her all day too. Landlord got security money, so acting nonchalant and uncaring! About to report to police, cannot take it. If necessary I will get the hell out of these apts and will give them a bad review and advertise the uncaring landlord all over the area. Did some research, you can sue landlord for this!

Maddie April 6, 2020 at 1:42 pm

I just moved into a 4 place apartment in the beginning of February. I have a coworker/friend that lives above me and I cannot hear her at all but the neighbor I have on the other sides of my walls I can hear plain as day so I always keep a fan running so that I don’t hear him. I came home one night from work(I work 2nd shift) and opened my closet and all of a sudden there was 3 hard bangs on the wall. I was very confused so I brushed it off. Then as time progressed, it was constant banging all the time. Even when I was just lying in bed on my phone. I’ve had friends over and we could be talking in almost a whisper and he’d be pounding on the wall. I contacted my landlord and she was in the process of evicting him and now it has to be postponed since the whole COVID-19 thing is going on. He says he has voice recordings of yelling and fighting coming from my place but usually I am at my boyfriends because I don’t want to deal with the pounding on the wall for no reason. I know the people that lived here before me and they said that they had the same problem with him. He’d pound on the wall so hard that all their stuff on their dresser would fall off. They called the cops but they couldn’t do anything since it’s private property. I have no idea what to do at this point and I can’t break my lease unless I found a super good reason to:(

Celene April 20, 2020 at 4:00 pm

I wanted to add my story because of the time and angst I went through over the smoking tenants that lived below me. For over four months, both marijuana and cigarette smoke permeated my bathroom through the vent, bedroom through the windows, and balcony; making the whole apartment stink. The complex does allow cigarette smoking on the balconies, but marijuana smoking is not allowed on the premises. Smoking is not allowed inside of the apartments at all and is grounds for eviction. After multiple in-person and email complaints to the apartment managers, they informed me that without proof they could not impose a fine on the tenants. The tenants below reported to the apartment managers that they were not the ones smoking marijuana. When COVID 19 began and many of us started working from home, the smoke problem became unbearable and my allergies reacted from the smoke in my apartment. I was waking up in the middle of the night from the smoke coming in my bedroom windows. It disturbed my sleep. Because of this, I withheld my April rent, not because I lost my job, but because the apartment had become uninhabitable. The managers did not question my decision. I started putting in applications for houses to rent.
Finally, today, one of the tenants in the apartment below came home and smoked marijuana during the daytime. I immediately called the manager and had her come over. She walked out onto my balcony, smelled the smoke, and verified that indeed the tenants were smoking marijuana and it was strong! Now it is no longer my word against theirs! The manager offered me another apartment to relocate to if I wanted, but I told her after this long, I was already in the process of looking for another place to move. She said she understood.

Samantha April 27, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Honestly feel like I’m adding to these comments just to vent but I’m currently surrounded by the worst neighbors I’ve ever had in my entire life. My long term boyfriend, his brother, and myself moved into a small first floor apartment together in March 2019 and had problems from the get go with our land lord. First we had an infestation of roaches that he constantly promised to fix but took over 4 months to get an exterminator. When he finally sent one we had already taken care of the problem, spending over 100$ of our own money to bug bomb our home and pay for traps, spray, etc. As if that problem wasn’t disgusting enough we then began to hear our neighbors next door standing out front of their apartment door (which sits directly in front of our living room window) smoking and talking really loudly till insane hours of the night. Soon it turned into loud drunken nights coming home from the club and even physical domestic violence taking place outside my front window. When I reported this to the landlord he apologized for their behavior, advised me to call the police next time, and said he would be talking with the neighbors, letting them know that their tenancy would be jeoprodized if they continued this behavior. GREAT I thought. Finally things would be handled. However things only got worse. A few months later friends of my neighbors next door moved in the apartment above mine and for the past 8 months have turned our peaceful apartment into a nightmare. They party all night long from 8 at night till 7 the next morning sometimes. They smoke cigarettes, throw parties and do cocaine off their table in front of their apartment (mind you this is in the main courtyard of our apartment building that is a shared space). When confronted they act as though they understand our concerns and wish to have better communication, however the parties happen just about everyday now, especially with COVID19 keeping everyone home. The upstairs neighbors scream at the top of their lungs, singing or sometimes just yelling for god knows what reason. I’ve reported both sets of neighbors 4x to my landlord, who always takes my side on this but can never seem to get my neighbors to stop. And with current circumstances due to the virus eviction is not an option. It has also been made clear due to literal drunken threats we’ve heard outside our front door about how the noise and partying will continue because this is “her f*cking house too and she can do whatever the f*ck she wants” and “f those f’ing people”. I feel unsafe. Uncomfortable to step outside due to verbal altercations this neighbor has had with us before. I want to move so badly and nothing is getting better. Is it possible to break a year long lease early and not be charged due to problems of this magnitude? I’m so ready to just up and leave this dump.

Roel S October 18, 2020 at 10:08 am

Can I break my lease over noisy neighbors? I have called the police but they don’t show up. I have brought it up to the landlords attention and he’s doing what he can to help. But if there is no resolution. Can I break my lease and leave in good terms? Pls help

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