Implied in both residential and commercial leases is the covenant of quiet enjoyment. This means that implied in every rental agreement is the landlord’s promise to allow a tenant quiet enjoyment of the property during the rental term. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1927; see also Erlach v. Sierra Asset Servicing LLC (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1281, 1300 (hereafter Erlach).) Additionally, the landlord impliedly promises not to commit any act or omission that would “interfere with a tenant’s right to use and enjoy the premises for the purposes contemplated by the tenancy.” (Erlach, supra, 226 Cal.App.4th at p. 1300.) In essence, this means that a landlord cannot interfere with a tenant’s possession of the property, nor can any third party assert rights to the same property during the terms of the lease. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1927; see also Nativi v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 261, 308.)
Accordingly, the landlord does not personally have to be the perpetrator. A tenant can still bring an action against the landlord for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment when there is a substantial inference by someone under the landlord’s control. (Andrews v. Mobile Aire Estates (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 578, 590.) However, the covenant of quiet title does not run to sub-tenants of the property.
In order to bring an action against a landlord for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, the landlord’s acts or omission must “substantially interfere with a tenants right to use and enjoy the property” during the lease. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1927; Andrews, supra, 125 Cal.App.4th at p. 589.) It follows that “minor inconveniences and annoyances are not actionable . . .” (Andrews, supra, 125 Cal.App.4th at p. 590.)
A tenant has a number of options if there has been a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. A tenant may choose to either “stand upon the lease, remain in possession and sue [the landlord] for breach of contract.” (Andrews, supra, 125 Cal.App.4th at p. 590 citing Kulawitz v. Pacific etc. Paper Co (1944) 25 Cal.2d 664, 670.) In the alternative, the tenant can surrender possession of the premises, in which case “the tenant is relieved of the obligation to pay rent and may sue for damages, or may plead damages as a way to offset in an action brought by the landlord to recover any unpaid rent that accrued prior to the surrender of the premises.” (Ibid. citing Petroleum Collections Inc. v. Swords (1975) 48 Cal.App.3d 841, 847.) Of course, choosing to terminate the lease can be risky proposition and a tenant should consult a qualified real estate attorney before making such a decision.
If you have questions about your rights in connection with the covenant of quiet enjoyment ––contact Schorr Law, APC for a consultation.