covenant of quiet enjoyment

Primary tabs

In property law, the covenant of quiet enjoyment is an implied term in every lease that the tenant shall have quiet and peaceful possession of the leased premises against the lessor. The covenant ensures that the landlord is bound to refrain from action which interrupts the tenant's beneficial enjoyment. The covenant is implied in both commercial and residential leases. 

Generally, a breach of the covenant requires more than just minor inconveniences and is found where the landlord alters or interferes with some essential aspect of the premise as to substantially interfere with its enjoyment or make it unsuitable for the purposes for which it was leased. Some jurisdictions have required that the breach amount to actual or constructive eviction. For example, where a landlord's construction activities cause dust, debris, and noise to force a tenant to evacuate their leased apartment, an action for breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment can be supported. Still, an alternative action for breach of the implied warranty of habitability may also be asserted by tenants for issues that are significant but not amount to a cause to vacate.

Remedies for a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment vary. Under California law, a tenant who surrenders a premise due to a breach is relieved of the obligation to pay rent and may sue for damages. Alternatively, a tenant may also remain in possession and sue for breach of contract damages as well as for injunctive relief. Damages are generally calculated as lost rental value, or the difference between the value of what the lessee should have received and the value of what he or she actually received. 

There are a number of defenses to an action of a breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment. Notably, the covenant is predicated on the tenant's covenant to pay rent, therefore where the breach is in response to nonpayment of rent, there is no breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Furthermore, a defendant may assert an assumption of risk defense, or that the tenant knew of the issue or potential issue but nonetheless accepted the lease. 

[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]