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Blackett v. Olanoff

    Brief Fact Summary. A landlord rented property to a tenant running a lounge in an area that was residential. The lease required the noise not disturb others, but when it did, the landlord did not correct the situation.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A tenant’s implied covenant of quiet enjoyment is violated when the landlord leases property to another tenant, and the lease gives the landlord the right to control the level of noise, but the landlord does not prevent the undesirable conduct.

    Facts. Landlords (Plaintiffs) leased a property to be used as a lounge in an area where they leased premises for residential purposes. A provision in the lease stated that the entertainment in the lounge had to be conducted in a way so that it could not be heard outside the building. The residential tenants (Defendants) objected to the noise, and when landlords complained, the lounge became quieter from time to time. The noise caused Defendants to move out. Plaintiffs brought suit for nonpayment of rent against Defendants, who raised the doctrine of constructive eviction. Judgment for Defendants.

    Issue. When the acts of one tenant prevent the other tenants from enjoying their premises, will the landlord be liable when the lease prohibits the tenant from disturbing others?

    Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
    Occasionally, a landlord has not intended to violated a tenant’s rights, but a breach of the landlord’s covenant of quiet enjoyment still occurs which flowed as the natural and probable consequence of the landlord’s actions, inactions, or what he permitted to be done. The landlord’s conduct, not his intentions, is controlling.
    Plaintiffs had the ability and right to control the noise, which caused Defendants to vacate their apartments because of the provision in the lease that regulated noise.
    Even though Plaintiffs only knew that there would be a potential noise problem at the time they gave the lease, experience demonstrated that an acceptable music level at a lounge is unacceptable for residential tenants.
    Because the disturbing condition was the natural and probable consequence of the Plaintiff’s permitting the lounge to operate in that location, and since they could control the actions of the lounge, they should not be able to collect rent for the residential premises that were not reasonably habitable. Tenants in these situations should be able to bring a claim against the landlord.

    Discussion. The covenant of quiet enjoyment, which is implied in every landlord-tenant relationship, holds that the landlord promises not to disturb the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of his premises. As seen in this case, the landlord will be liable when the disturbance comes from another tenant.


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