Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment and your lease

In California, every rental agreement contains the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment. ‘Implied’ means even if the covenant is not explicitedly stated in the lease it still exists. This covenant means that landlord cannot do two things. The landlord cannot lease the tenant’s unit to someone else. The landlord also cannot physically interfere with the tenant living in the unit, such as having extensive remodeling done in the apartment next door for long periods.

Usually the covenant does not protect sublessors because there is no lease between the landlord and the sublessee. In most sublease situations, there is only a rental agreement between the lessor (usually referred to as the master tenant) and the sublessee. However, if the landlord expressly agrees to the sublease, then there is a contract between the landlord and the sublessee. The sublessee can then sue the landlord if there is a breach of the covenant.

A tenant has remedies for the landlord’s breach of the covenant. For instance, if the landlord attempts to make the tenant move out of the apartment by threats or force, then a tenant who prevails in a lawsuit against the landlord is entitled to a civil penalty not to exceed $2,000. This penalty applies even in a small claims action.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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Courtney Brown
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