There’s a legal term called “quiet enjoyment” that is always a part of lease agreements. This means that it’s a landlord’s duty to provide tenants with a quiet environment.
Bad neighbors, barking dogs, a passing train are in direct violation of the lease agreement. In many cases, these factors are usually beyond your landlord’s control. Nevertheless, it may give you the right to break your lease.
If your neighbors are violating your right to quiet enjoyment, your landlord must intervene.
However, there are certain criteria that the noise must meet before the courts can intervene.
The courts will apply a test to determine if the noise is bad enough. Will the disturbance deprive someone else of their right to quiet enjoyment of life?
Shouting neighbors may qualify as a violation of your right to quiet enjoyment. The exact law, however, depends on where you live.
In such a situation, you can move out and not pay any further rent. The landlord will have to return your security deposit.
Alternatively, you could stay in the unit and sue the landlord for compensatory damages.
So What Does Quiet Enjoyment Really Mean?
The idea behind ‘quiet enjoyment’ can be a bit difficult to define. Every situation is different, after all.
Take for example people living near a busy street. The sound of traffic may disturb one tenant, but go unnoticed by another.
This means we have to take a more realistic approach to the issue.
Some good examples of persisted disturbance include things like:
- Noisy neighbors
- Landlords harassing the tenant
- A tenant infringing on a neighbor’s right to enjoy quiet enjoyment
- Unnecessary improvements or upgrades taking longer than necessary
- Ongoing disruptive nuisances such as barking dogs and loud music
The Rights of a Tenant
There are no federal laws dictating a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. That said, all rental lease agreements contain language addressing it, even if it’s implied verbally.
Don’t worry if your lease does not include the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. This is because courts don’t waive this right if it’s not written in the agreement.
As mentioned above, the exact laws depend on the area you live in. Make sure to refer to your state laws for specific information related to quiet enjoyment.
This includes any legal or financial consequences that apply when a warranty is void. Specific rules and regulations, including penalties, differ from state to state.
For example, the California Civil Code has provisions for the right to quiet enjoyment. Landlords may be required to provide tenants with a full or partial refund under void warranties.
But first, the tenant must notify the landlord of a disruption of quiet enjoyment. This requires keeping detailed records documenting possible violations.
When Do My Neighbors Have to be Quiet?
A well thought out lease will designate certain periods as ‘Quiet Times’. These hours usually lie between 9 PM at night to 7 AM in the morning. This is when most people are trying to get sleep.
If your neighbors cause disruption during these hours, then you should complain to your landlord.
Your landlord, in turn, has the obligation to address the problem.
What Should I Do to Address the Noise Problem?
The best thing to do is to contact your landlord about the problem. Landlords should take every possible step to stop noise disruption.
This may also give them legal grounds to evict the noisy neighbor. If so, this solves all your problems.
It may be helpful if you can get more tenants to join in and report. There is more power in number prompting your landlord to address the issue quicker.
Start by recording disruptive behavior by your neighbors (if it doesn’t violate the rules). Your lease agreement has rules about quiet times.
Try to note how often and when your neighbors break the rules. This will prove your case should it reach court.
However, there’s not much you can do if you just hate your neighbors. In this case, you should ignore them or avoid them.
Talking to Your Neighbors
It is advisable to seek a resolution with your neighbor before elevating things. Of course, being loud isn’t the only way your neighbor could annoy you.
They may have a bad smell coming out of their unit. They may leave track dirt in front of your unit. Or they constantly take your parking spot. The list goes on.
Try to approach the neighbor, gently, and let them know what’s going on.
Tell them that your peace is disrupted and their behavior violates the lease agreement.
However, if they continue to have disregard for you, reach out to the landlord. Give your landlord all of the evidence and they’ll do the talking themselves.
Wait for a Solution
The next step is just a waiting game. The landlord will do their own research and talk to the neighbor. They’ll try to see if the neighbor is indeed violating the terms of the lease.
If that happens to be the case, they’ll likely issue a warning first. The next step would be to evict them if they don’t heed the warning.
The resolution should only take a few days but may stretch on for months. The timeline depends on various factors and your landlord’s commitment to you.
If it’s taken long enough, get in touch with your landlord for an update.
If your landlord decides to evict the noisy neighbor, they’re no longer your problem. If the landlord decides nothing was wrong and the neighbor persists – things could become difficult.
Let Your Landlord Know of Your Intentions to Break the Lease
If the issue persists and the landlord ignores it, inform them of your intentions. Of course, each lease is different, so see what the penalties are for breaking one.
One way to evade fees is to let the landlord show the apartment to others.
Once the apartment is filled, you can leave (without paying fees and penalties).
Even though your neighbors and landlords may be uncooperative, you should always keep your cool. Cooler heads prevail, as they say.
More importantly, keeping your composure will look good on you if the case reaches court. Be straightforward and show your landlord that you know your rights about breaking the lease.
Many times, just because you were polite, you may get the landlord on your side.
In many cases, this is the best possible arrangement.
Getting a Doctor’s Note
If you’re really suffering from mental anguish, try to get a note from your doctor.
The note could get you out of the lease without legal repercussions. But first, your doctor has to be satisfied that you have indeed suffered problems due to the nose.
Is Your Landlord Responsible for Disruptive Neighbors?
The landlord is not responsible for your neighbors. But they are responsible for providing you with a habitable rental.
It is implied that “Quiet Enjoyment” is part of the lease in exchange for rent.
It is an implied condition of the lease, even if it’s not explicitly mentioned. Kind of like it’s implied that you shouldn’t be robbed or assaulted in your apartment.
Refusing to handle the noisy neighbors is in direct violation of the lease. If your landlord doesn’t address the issue soon enough, you could withhold rent.
After all, they’re not living up to their end of the bargain, why should you? You’re not paying for the low quality of life or disturbance.
The landlord is responsible for providing you with the opportunity for a peaceful life.
The Legal Specifics of Withholding Rent Due to Noisy Neighbors
The courts will view the withholding of rent as a violation of your rental agreement. You have to prove that the noise was a direct threat to your daily routine.
If you fail to prove your case, you will be held liable for not paying.
Things should never get this bad. But if it does, you should ask your landlord to release you from the lease. If that doesn’t work, you may have to contact an attorney to see your options.
Landlords always prefer to keep things stable and quiet because it affects their livelihood too.
If things get to this point, they’re probably working hard to control the noise. Or they may be willing to release you from your lease.
After all, there’s no point in simultaneously fighting noisy tenants and disgruntled tenants in court.
At the end of the day, we recommend you to pay your rent on time. If you don’t, this makes you look like the bad guy.
The focus will shift from the landlord to you. While you can get the court to review your case if you’re not paying.
Can I Contact the Police for Help?
Before you go down this route, take a step back, and reanalyze the situation. Will this issue resolve itself or do you really need police help?
If your landlord doesn’t help, this may be the only option left. In many ways, this could be beneficial for your case should it reach court.
It shows that you did everything in your power to get help.
Local ordinances in most communities prohibit unnecessary and unreasonable noise.
This takes us back to the ‘quiet hours’. If the noise exceeds a certain decibel level, you can call the police to intervene. Make sure to learn about your municipality’s noise rules first.
How to Break the Lease Due to Noise
If nothing works and you want to break the lease, here’s what you can do.
Notify the landlord of your intentions and give them a reason for your actions. This is an essential step prior to vacating the premises.
Unless you fear retaliation from the landlord, do not leave the premises.
Give the landlord written notice as far in advance as possible. In the letter, you should cite that the noise levels void your lease agreement.
Do keep in mind, however, that you may need to pay a fine. But if you have enough documentation with you to support your case, you may move out easily.
It’s why we recommend lawyering up to cover your tracks should things go south.
Tie Up Any Loose Ends
The written notice to your landlord and adequate documentation will give you a distinct advantage.
Once all your efforts at seeking a resolution fail, you can lawfully break the lease due to bad neighbors. Following the above steps, giving prior notice, and having clear intentions will strengthen your case.
If you do everything right, you’ll be immune to legal action taken by your landlord.
The Consequences of Breaking the Lease Early
You could face consequences for breaking the lease if your reasons are not justified.
You could face the following consequences:
Having trouble renting in the future
When you apply to rent a property, your landlord may contact the previous landlord.
They will also check your tenant screening report to view your rental history. If they find out that you broke the lease, they may not approve of you.
Your landlord may turn your rent debt over to collections
This is the part that is really concerning. Suppose you ‘broke’ the lease and left without paying your rent.
The landlord may sell your ‘rent debt’ to collection agencies. If you don’t pay the collection agencies, they may be able to take you to court. And that is a completely different ballgame.
You’ll have to prove that you didn’t owe any debt to your landlord. This is a long, drawn-out process that isn’t worth your time.
This is why we recommend clearing things out with your landlord before moving out.
It Could Hurt Your Credit
Landlords can report unpaid rent to credit bureaus. Even if they don’t, the collection agency most certainly will.
Collection accounts can stay on your report for 7 years and really hurt your score.
Even if you’re in the right, your account could still end up in collections.
So What Are My Options?
At the end of the day, it is possible to break your lease due to bad neighbors without consequences. However, this is a legally complex situation that is best handled by a professional.
We recommend speaking with a professional or lawyer before you decide to break the lease due to bad neighbors.
If you get the go-ahead from an attorney, you can leave the apartment.
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