Buying a rental property is one of the best investments you can make. This house, condo, or apartment can help you reach your retirement goals if you’re able to manage it effectively, but the process isn’t without its problems.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of owning an investment property is dealing with tenants. Conflicts can arise, particularly if you have multiple people living within a building, and you must ensure you understand local laws and your responsibilities to avoid legal troubles.
Every tenant who leases property from you has the right to unimpaired quiet enjoyment of the land while residing there. This guide examines the covenant of quiet enjoyment and what it means for landlords and tenants in the D.C. area.
What Is the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?
The term covenant of quiet enjoyment refers to a real estate law ensuring a landlord can’t restrict a tenant’s use of a property. You can’t disturb the tenant when they’re using the property for its intended purpose, and in return, the tenant must treat the property respectfully.
This implied covenant of quiet enjoyment also applies when you buy a property with a tenant already living there. You must follow the terms of the lease until it expires and avoid interfering with the people who occupy the unit.
Landlords are responsible for handling any problems that arise in a multi-unit property. Noise complaints are the most common issue that occurs under these circumstances, and it’s up to the property owner to ensure all residents follow the rules and don’t disrupt others.
Rights the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment Protects
Landlords should thoroughly understand the rights the covenant of quiet enjoyment covers. Researching these protections can help you avoid problems in the future. The five primary protections are the following:
You must leave the tenant alone. The gist is that you can’t show up unannounced and walk into the home, as you only have legal permission to enter the property under specific circumstances or with the renter’s consent.
2. Peace and Quiet
Landlords must attempt to resolve any noise complaints between neighbors to ensure all residents have peace and quiet. Constant noise interrupts a tenant’s peace and quiet and constitutes a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
3. Freedom From Discrimination
The tenant has the right to use the property how they wish without discrimination as long as they don’t violate the lease agreement, break the law, or disrupt other renters. You also can’t discriminate against a tenant because you don’t agree with their lifestyle choices or based on gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion.
4. Safety and Security
Your tenants have the right to feel safe on the property. You must do everything possible to protect them from hazards and can’t threaten them for any reason. You’ll also have to intervene and provide a solution if another tenant threatens a resident.
5. Basic Utilities
You must provide tenants with electricity, water, and heat under these laws. The renter is permitted to seek damages from the landlord if you don’t offer these necessities throughout their tenancy.
A breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment rules could land you in hot water and make you financially responsible for damages. Understanding your responsibilities makes it easier to stay on top of them and provide a solution when problems arise.
Four Things That Can Happen After a Breach of the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment
You should know how the process works when you fail to meet your obligations as a landlord. Every situation is different, but most breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment scenarios involve four steps. These steps include the following:
1. Tenant Delivers Written Notification
A tenant might first discuss the situation with you verbally. The next step is to provide a written covenant of quiet enjoyment letter informing you of the breach. You’ll need to take this letter seriously because it’s the first step in escalating the situation.
2. Landlord Fixes the Problem
Your responsibility after receiving a covenant of quiet enjoyment letter is to remedy the situation. Your course of action will depend on the problem at hand, as it could be as simple as speaking with other tenants about the noise on the property or making some repairs. Failing to fix the problem within a predetermined period, typically 30 days, could lead to further escalation.
3. Tenant Can Break the Lease
The first thing that could happen if you don’t address the problem at hand is your tenant legally breaking the lease. This scenario is considered a constructive eviction where the landlord makes the property unfit for occupancy, forcing the tenant to leave. You won’t have much recourse if the tenant provides you with a letter beforehand and gives you time to address the problem.
4. Tenant Can Sue
Your tenant can sue you for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Damages could cover things like moving expenses as the tenant relocates to a property with a more favorable living environment. The tenant could also seek reimbursement for any legal fees that arise throughout this process.
Having a tenant exit the property unexpectedly could put you in a challenging financial situation, and facing a lawsuit could create even more challenges. It’s best to stay on top of any issues at your rental properties before they get to this stage.
Get Help With Your Tenants
Managing tenant relationships can take significant work, and it’s easy to inadvertently escalate the situation if you don’t have experience with these scenarios. It’s often best to seek professional assistance with your rental properties to ensure your tenants are happy and able to use these homes as they see fit.
Nomadic Real Estate offers property management services in D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia. We understand how to de-escalate problems between tenants and know both landlord and renters’ rights, ensuring we don’t breach any laws as we manage your properties. Contact Nomadic Real Estate today to learn how our professional management team can minimize your stress as a landlord.