Some landlords think that because they “own” the rental unit, they can make all sorts of demands on the tenant. They think that they can enter the apartment any time they want and not even knock. They think that they can monitor the tenant and constantly tell the tenant how to behave and act. A landlord who acts in this manner does not understand the nature of the landlord-tenant relationship.
A lease or a rental of residential property essentially makes the tenant the owner of the property during the tenancy. The landlord is no longer the owner of the property. The agreement between the landlord and tenant in which they agree that the tenant will rent the property gives the tenant exclusive possession of the real estate. This essentially means that the tenant is the owner. The ownership by the tenant is not as broad as other types of ownership of real estate. The nature of the landlord-tenant relationship is that both parties have duties to the other. The duties are established by law and by the contract between landlord and tenant. At a minimum, the tenant owes a duty to pay rent and the landlord owes a duty of quiet enjoyment to the tenant.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment in simple terms means that the landlord won’t interfere with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of his property. The landlord can’t enter the property any time he wants. The landlord can’t enter without knocking. The landlord can’t demand changes to the rental agreement after the tenant takes possession. While the landlord may be able to establish rules for the tenant to follow before the rental agreement is established, he can’t create rules after the tenant takes possession.
What is a tenant to do if the landlord violates the covenant of quiet enjoyment in Massachusetts? A tenant can go to the local court and seek a restraining order against the landlord to compel him to stop violating the covenant of quiet enjoyment. While the tenant should expect to pay a filing fee and pay to serve the court documents on the landlord, if the tenant is desperate, it should be worthwhile to seek court assistance. The tenant may also consult with an experienced real estate attorney before seeking court involvement.