The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment

The covenant of quiet enjoyment protects tenants against serious and unreasonable interferences with the tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises. Although a breach of a tenant’s “quiet enjoyment” is fact specific, more serious violations include the right to basic services such as heat and running water.

Under G.L. c. 186 § 14, if a landlord is in violation, you may sue him/her for damages, which is your actual damages or 3 times your rent, whichever is more. A judge may also fine the landlord between $25-$300 per violation and put the landlord in jail for up to 6 months.

In Massachusetts, if a landlord interferes or fails to make repairs which result in an interference with your right to use and enjoy your apartment, this may be a breach of quiet enjoyment. The fact that you might owe rent does not prevent you from bringing this type of lawsuit.

The money damages the court awards you will be equal to either 3 months’ rent or your actual damages, whichever is greater. Your actual damages might include the diminution in value of your apartment due to a defective condition which your landlord failed to remedy in a timely manner, monetary damages for money spent to fix a bad condition or emotional distress.

If you win your lawsuit, you are also entitled to the costs of filing the lawsuit and attorney’s fees. A court may award you attorney’s fees even if you are not paying the lawyer.

Some examples that violate your right to the quiet enjoyment of your apartment are:

  • Breach of the warranty of habitability;
  • Breach of the security deposit statute;
  • Repeated flooding of your apartment because of a plumbing problem that is not adequately repaired;
  • The landlord’s failure to provide adequate heat;
  • The landlord’s failure or refusal to fix the furnace or boiler;
  • Excessive noise from other tenants under the landlord’s control;
  • Emotional distress caused by the landlord’s miscalculation of rent and attempt to evict the tenant for non-payment;
  • A ringing fire alarm that continues for a 24-hour period;
  • Failure to provide hot water or heat;
  • Shutting off your electrical or heating services;
  • If your landlord transfers the responsibility for payment for the utility to you without your consent;
  • If your landlord attempts to lock you out or move you out of your apartment without first taking you to court;
  • If the landlord in any way intentionally interferes with your “quiet enjoyment” of your apartment.

If you believe your landlord has violated your rights under the covenant of quiet enjoyment, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney who knows the law and will fight for your rights. It is not uncommon for the court to order that the landlord is responsible for the tenant’s attorney’s fees in the appropriate circumstances. Therefore, you may not have to pay your attorney anything to take on your case. We have had much success in this area of our practice. Call our office at 508.407.8338 to set up a free consultation. We can also be reached at Alternatively, we can be reached on the after-hours line 24/7 at (508)-579-8333.

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