An implied warranty of habitability is a part of every lease agreement in New Jersey. This is a general warranty from the landlord that the unit is free of problems that would unreasonably inhibit the quiet enjoyment of the property. The ‘covenant of ‘quiet enjoyment’ restricts…
“any act or omission of landlord . . . which renders the premises substantially unsuitable for the purpose for which they are leased, or which seriously interferes with the beneficial enjoyment of the premises is a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment and constitutes a constructive eviction of the tenant.”
The covenant of quiet enjoyment cannot be waived under any circumstances, even if there isn’t a written lease in place. In other words, you are required to maintain your property in habitable condition and respond to problems that reduce livability no matter what kind of lease agreement you have. If you fail to do so, you should be aware that tenants have the option of suing landlords for breach of quiet enjoyment.
You should do your best to avoid damages from a breach of the quiet enjoyment clause. The information that we’ve provided below may help.
Understanding your tenant’s rights
To avoid breaches of quiet enjoyment, take your tenant’s communications seriously, and evaluate every problem that might hamper their appropriate use of the property. Even then, the issue can be complicated because these rights are built out of case law. Instead of a law passed by legislature, these rights developed because tenants made cases against landlords. Therefore, there is no specific list of actions you can take to protect yourself from a claim against you.
In several of the cases that involve tenant’s rights, the court clarified the way it evaluates violations of this clause. In a case titled Berzito v. Gambino, 63 N.J. 460 (1973), the court chose to create a list of conditions to help them determine if a condition of the property was acceptable. They asked…
- Has there been a violation of any applicable housing code or building or sanitary regulations?
- Is the nature of the deficiency or defect such as to affect a vital facility?
- What is its potential or actual effect upon safety and sanitation?
- For what length of time has it persisted?
- What is the age of the structure?
- What is the amount of the rent?
- Can the tenant be said to have waived the defect [by its actions]?
- Was the tenant in any way responsible for the defective condition?
Consider all of these questions before making a decision on whether you are going to respond to a complaint. If you are held responsible, the tenant can claim monetary damages, including the deposit to pay for repairs.
How to respond when you’ve received a quiet enjoyment letter
A letter is the first step in the formal complaint process. You now have a limited time to respond to the request (whether it is valid or not). If the costs are the tenant’s fault/responsibility, you may want to hire a lawyer at this stage. You want to be prepared if the tenant attempts to take you to court.
Our lawyers can assist you with quiet enjoyment clauses. Request a consultation, today.