Tenants Rights to Abandon a Lease

A tenant leases a residential or commercial space with the intention of using that space for a certain purpose that is stated in the lease. For example, people often rent apartments as places to live and commercial space for their office or store. The purpose of the rental is usually specified in the written lease contract and the law provides tenants with the right to occupy the rented space for the intended purpose without undue interference from the landlord. This is known as the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the property. 
The definition of quiet enjoyment is significantly different from state to state and from situation to situation but usually has little to do with noise or enjoyment. Generally, a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment allows a tenant to use and enjoy the premises without substantial disturbances. For example, a landlord cannot rent the same space to two different tenants simultaneously and a landlord cannot ignore problems in the heating system during the winter months that prevent tenants from turning on the heat. Either of these situations would prevent a tenant from enjoying the benefits of the lease contract and may present a constructive eviction since the leased property would be unusable.
Does a Tenant Have the Right to Abandon a Lease Because of a Lack of Quiet Enjoyment?
If a tenant has been denied the right to quiet enjoyment then the tenant may have a legally valid reason to end the lease early. However, it is usually beneficial to inform the landlord in writing of the specific problems and allow the landlord a reasonable time to rectify the situation. If the landlord fails to take the necessary action then, in some states, the tenant has the right to move out. The tenant can argue that the landlord’s failure to provide the tenant with his right to quiet enjoyment of the leased property resulted in a constructive eviction. If the landlord sues the tenant for breaking the lease then a court may find that the tenant was a victim of a constructive eviction and require the landlord to pay the tenant’s moving expenses and attorney’s fees. However, if the court finds that the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment was not breached then the tenant may be required to pay the landlord rent from the time of the move until the end of the lease period.
Remember, when state courts consider whether a tenant was constructively evicted from a leased property due to a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment the court does not consider, nor care, about the noise level or whether the tenant was enjoying the leased property. Instead, the court is considering whether the premises were habitable and appropriate for the purposes of the lease.    Even if the covenant of quiet enjoyment was not breached by the landlord, it is still possible that the landlord has breached the lease in other ways and that the tenant may be entitled to damages or to break the lease. Therefore, it is important to communicate with your landlord and with an attorney in your state if you are having problems with the use or enjoyment of your leased property.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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