Breach of Quiet Enjoyment
Serving You and The State of Florida
The Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act grants both landlords and tenants certain rights and responsibilities concerning both the management and occupation of a property. Tenants have a responsibility to uphold your rental agreement and abide by any restrictions outlined in the occupant contract.
Likewise, property managers or landlords are required to respect a tenant’s legal rights to occupancy, abide by the contractual agreements outlined in the rental contract, and give fair notice before entering a rented space. Landlords who disregard these policies may be subject to legal action.
Quiet Enjoyment Of The Premise
A landlord must provide a premise that allows for quiet enjoyment. In a rental agreement, there are certain rights that both tenants and landlords maintain. As a tenant, you have the right to quiet enjoyment, meaning that landlords are required to ensure undisturbed use of the property. While this covenant does not necessarily address noise outside of specified quiet hours, it does include:
Use of the property without interference
A landlord cannot file for eviction without reasonable cause or otherwise interfere with your ability to reside in your property as outlined in Florida’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. This implies the right to reliable access to your property as well as the upholding of anti-discrimination policies as outlined by Florida’s Fair Housing Rules.
The full benefit of the property as outlined in the occupancy agreement
Landlords are required by law to rent properties that are fit be to be lived in. Providing habitable property means that tenants have a right to running water, heat, electricity, plumbing, structural integrity, fundamental security, and free from pests. Additionally, landlords should comply with local health and safety codes and provide essential maintenance throughout the renter’s occupancy.
Freedom from damage to the property
Due to a tenant’s right to a habitable living area, any property damage from construction or maintenance should result in swift and necessary action by the landlord. However, a landlord will likely not be held responsible for unexpected interferences with the use of the premises, including fires or water leaks that cause extensive damage. So long as the damages were unintentional or caused by a contractor who maintains liability, the tenant may not be entitled to pursue legal action.
Quiet enjoyment is a right that also applies to business properties. Should a landlord interfere with a neighboring business through construction or any other disturbance of normal operating abilities, they may be held responsible. If the disruption is severe enough, the business may also be entitled to lost profits due to the breach.
What Are Some Examples Of Disturbances To Quiet Enjoyment?
In addition to a landlord or property manager interfering with your ability to access or live within your residence, several disturbances may qualify as a breach of quiet enjoyment, including:
- A particularly noisy neighbor who repeatedly violates quiet hours as designated by your lease agreement or local regulations
- Persistent pest infestations
- Constant construction work or maintenance that is not complete within the proposed timeline
- A pet that frequently causes disturbances, including incessant barking or a neighbor who does not clean up after their animal
- Frequent or unnecessary visits to your residence
- Any form of harassment from the landlord or property manager, except in the case that you are actively violating your lease agreement
A breach of quiet enjoyment does not include:
- Routine inspections
- Emergency maintenance
- Repetitive attempts of contact due to unpaid rent
- Reasonable noise from neighbors or construction that is abiding by quiet hours
- An increase in noise from nearby traffic
- Scheduled repairs with provided notice of entry
Due to the subjectivity of disturbances, it is critical to assess whether the breach of quiet enjoyment is due to circumstances outside of a landlord’s control or is within a property manager’s jurisdiction. Outside noise and inconveniences may bother one individual more so than another, so while it can be helpful to bring these disturbances to your landlord’s attention, consider that the issue may not be prevalent enough to warrant immediate action.
When Is A Landlord Allowed To Enter My Property?
The landlord cannot simply enter the unit whenever they like without first giving proper notice. A landlord is only allowed to enter the property for particular reasons, such as making necessary repairs or showing the property to upcoming tenants. Unless it is an emergency, Florida requires landlords to give their tenants a 12-hour notice before entering a unit.
In general, landlords cannot enter a rented property or investigate the premises unless they are:
- Showing the rental property to new tenants
- Following direct orders from the court
- Needed in an emergency
- Conducting inspections or carrying out repair requests
- Reclaiming the unit after a renter has evacuated the premises
Additionally, the landlord’s time to request to enter the property must be reasonable, meaning they cannot enter your living area at 4 am to do repairs.
What Qualifies As A Breach Of Quiet Enjoyment?
For a landlord to be held liable for a breach of quiet enjoyment, their actions must be one or more of the following:
It should be evident that the landlord’s actions were intentional and even planned. This means that a property manager would be purposefully interfering with a tenant’s ability to access or maintain expected use of their property or otherwise inhibiting an occupant from enjoying a reasonable living environment. If the disturbance is unavoidable, such as accidental structural damage due to facility maintenance or other repairs, it would not be considered a breach of quiet enjoyment.
Interferes with “Expected Use”
When a tenant agrees to a rental contract, there is a certain amount of expected use that is legally protected by Florida state law. For example, if the rental property comes with appliances or features that are suddenly inaccessible due to construction or other disturbances, this interferes with the expected use. Even if it is not explicitly written in the contract, if a tenant feels their expected use of the premises is denied or negatively affected, they can sue for breach of quiet enjoyment.
Retaliation may occur if a tenant complains to an agency regarding a landlord’s management of the property, pursues legal action, or exercises their rights according to Section 83.682 of Florida’s landlord-tenant law. However, any form of retaliation, including a sudden increase in rent, an eviction notice, or refusing necessary repairs, is illegal and constitutes a breach of quiet enjoyment. Such retaliatory acts by a landlord would be subject to legal action.
Generally speaking, if a landlord can provide evidence that supports their attempts to prevent or stop disturbances from inhibiting your right to quiet enjoyment, they will not be held liable for any loss of use. For example, if construction must be done near your property, or improvements are being made to the infrastructure, and the landlord pursues all options to minimize the inconvenience or otherwise compensate residents for the disturbance, it may not be considered a breach.
Does My Landlord Have The Right To Evict Me?
An eviction is when a landlord or property manager forces a resident to leave the premises. Regardless of whether you take concerns to a local agency regarding a landlord’s management of the property or lack of habitable living arrangements, a landlord cannot evict you without reasonable cause. According to Florida’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Law, there must be a substantial reason for eviction, and they must pursue eviction through the correct channels.
You can be legally evicted by a landlord if you:
- Refuse to pay rent without just cause
- Cause excessive damage to the property
- Violate your contract, which would include keeping unauthorized pets or housing occupants outside of your lease
- Regularly disturb the peace
After receiving written notice from the landlord, tenants have seven days to address the complaint before a landlord can file for eviction. An eviction cannot be issued in retaliation to tenant complaints.
What Should I Do If I Experience A Breach Of Quiet Enjoyment?
If a landlord fails to uphold their duty to deliver quiet enjoyment, a tenant may be entitled to a cancellation of contractual occupancy. A tenant may be granted early dismissal of their lease or permitted a pause in rent payment until the issue is resolved. If you are experiencing a breach of quiet enjoyment, there are several ways to address the disturbance:
Document Repetitive Breaches
You are more likely to have a successful case for breach of quiet enjoyment if you can provide substantial evidence that the problem is persistent. Take videos, photos, or sound recordings when possible and label them with the date to provide a history.
Send A Notice Of Breach
Contact your landlord with any evidence you have collected to inform them of the disturbance and request a resolution. Ask for a proposed solution and a timeline for when the issue will be remedied. Maintain a record of complaints and any responses from your landlord. If the property manager fails to respond to or address the issue, work with an attorney to inform them that they are breaching your right to quiet enjoyment.
Check Local Regulations
Your residential area may have policies surrounding noise disturbances or other nuisances. Depending on the cause, you may consider calling the police to deal with the breach of quiet enjoyment. If the disruption is out of your landlord’s control, it may be more suitable to contact local authorities.
If a resolution is not met after obtaining evidence and contacting your landlord, consult with an attorney to pursue legal action. You may be entitled to the early release from your contract or damages depending on the severity of the impact on your business.
Can I Withhold Rent?
In Florida, residents can withhold rent if the landlord fails to meet their needs for a habitable living environment. According to the Landlord-Tenant Act’s warranty of habitability, property owners are required to provide renters a safe and secure unit. If they fail to do so, tenants may terminate their lease, move out, or remain in the building but withhold rent payments until the problem is resolved. However, tenants must abide by the legal process to effectively withhold their payments:
Notify The Landlord That You Intend To Withhold Rent Until The Issue Is Resolved
You should include a list of the problems that need to be addressed and the timeline in which they need to be fixed.
Allow At Least Seven Days For The Problems To Be Addressed
You must provide ample opportunity for the landlord to address the issue, including access to your residence within the seven-day window. In Florida, a tenant must provide seven days to the landlord if providing a verbal request with a witness. If a tenant is mailing a written request, it must be mailed at least 12 days before the rent is due.
If The Repairs Or Issues Have Not Been Addressed, You May Begin Withholding Your Rent
Withholding your rent, whether as partial payments or in full, should only be used in severe cases as it could result in an eviction notice or other legal actions on behalf of the landlord. Another option may be to request a formal housing inspection that can provide a quote for the cost of damages, which you may submit as evidence to the landlord or the courts.
If you are experiencing a breach of quiet enjoyment, consult with an experienced Tenant Attorney in St. Petersburg to determine your case’s severity and establish a remediation plan.
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