A tenant has an implied right to “quiet enjoyment” of a leased premises. Quiet enjoyment is described, by the Massachusetts Superior Court, as a tenant’s right to freedom from serious interference with his tenancy, or acts or omissions that impair the character and value of the leasehold. “The interference need not arise from the landlord’s conduct directly; a landlord may incur liability as a result of conduct of third parties, if serious interference with the tenancy is a natural and probable consequence of what the landlord did, what he failed to do, or what he permitted to be done. A landlord’s failure to repair defects in the premises of which the landlord has notice can give rise to liability, if such defects result in a serious interference with the tenancy. The conduct of the landlord need not be intentional, but it must be at least negligent.”
The right can be breached by nearly any major disturbance that prevents the tenant from using the property as he or she intended. Thus, failing to provide for heat, having a property that doesn’t live up to the health and safety standards of the state or is otherwise uninhabitable, or a landlord’s failure to take action against other tenants who make loud or excessive noise at unreasonable hours include breaches of the right to quiet enjoyment. Quiet enjoyment can also be violated if the tenant fails to provide proper security in an area of high crime.
A tenant can sue a landlord for breach of the quiet enjoyment. If a tenant is successful, the tenant is entitled to the difference between the rent and actual value of the tenant’s unexpired lease term – thus, if a tenant is forced to move out because of the disturbance, the landlord is liable for the entire rent.