Experienced Real Estate Attorneys Fighting for the Rights of Tenants in Tacoma
Washington State real estate law, like that of virtually all other states, is a “descendant” of English common law and, as such, it uses some odd and old-fashioned terms. When it comes to landlord and tenant law, one of the most confusing of those is the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.” Whether actually present or not, it is essentially written into every residential or commercial lease within the state. Believe it or not, “quiet enjoyment” has nothing to do with decibels.
Mind Your Own Business!
Generally speaking, the covenant of quiet enjoyment requires a landlord to provide the tenant or tenants with undisturbed use and enjoyment of the property. It carries with it an affirmative obligation, on the part of the landlord, to refrain from any act that hinders or destroys such peaceful use. For example, with regard to a residential lease, it means the landlord cannot pay unannounced visits to the property, make surprise “inspections,” or otherwise interfere with the tenant’s legitimate use of the property. Yet the landlord must do more than merely leave the tenant alone.
Additional Requirements of Quiet Enjoyment
Providing privacy to the tenant isn’t sufficient, however. The covenant of quiet enjoyment includes a general requirement that the property be kept in a habitable or usable condition. For example, the landlord must:
- Make repairs in a reasonable and timely manner.
- Provide reasonable access to the building. For example, sidewalks must be maintained and stairways may not be obstructed.
- Provide basic safety and security for the tenant. While not an absolute insurer of the health and well being of the tenant, the landlord must take reasonable steps to secure the premises. This generally includes working locks, secure exterior doors, and, depending upon the circumstances, other safety measures.
- Provide for adequate trash removal.
- See to the removal of rodents and other pests.
- Provide electrical service, heat, and HVAC.
- Assure that elevators, if present, remain in good working order.
Landlords Must Sometimes Act as Referee
One of the most difficult tasks facing the landlord is how to manage squabbles and disputes among tenants. Landlords should be aware of the fact that failure to curb one tenant’s disruptive or abusive activity can constitute a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment to other tenants. As some residential real estate experts say, that is one of the “joys” of renting apartments.
Regrettably, Often There Are No Clear-Cut Rules
Often, when it comes to quiet enjoyment issues, there are no clear-cut rules. Generally speaking, the law employs a reasonable person rule. A tenant has a right to reasonable enjoyment of the property and, while a landlord need not react to every whim of a tenant, if a reasonable tenant would be harmed by the condition – lack of heat, uncollected trash, etc. – then a court will likely conclude the landlord has failed to meet the landlord’s obligation to supply quiet enjoyment.
Landlord and Tenant Law is Complex
Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. has provided landlords, business owners, and developers with comprehensive real estate legal services for more than 30 years. We have helped landlords who own just one or two residential units and we have provided legal counsel to others with large complexes. We work closely with all our clients – large and small – resolving matters as quickly and economically as possible. We work collaboratively – sharing strategies, ideas, and experience. Our team of attorneys and staff is big enough to handle your matter, yet we are small enough to provide you with the most personal legal service possible. We pride ourselves on designing the simplest, most effective solution for your legal issue. For assistance with any sort of real estate issue, contact us on the web, or call our office at 253-272-2997.