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CA "Quiet Enjoyment" question.

Perris, CA |

I need clarification -
My wife and I were forced out of our apartment due to neighbors drug use (smoking pot), shouting matches at all hours of the night, and littering daily into our "private" patio space. I'm most likely going to have to go to small claims for the bad faith usage of our security deposit (the management co is using our dep to upgrade/remodel the unit for the next tenant according to receipts supplied & pics sent by other neighbors to me) but want to know if I should mention CA's "quiet enjoyment" to attempt to get my money back.
We left the apartment in better condition then we moved in and have tried to work with the leasing office only to be ignored and now severely overcharged. They are saying we owe them money! Please give me a bit of advice. I'm reading the Handbook

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Attorney answers 1


Yes, you could if the basis (or one of the bases) for withholding your security deposit is non-payment of rent since Civil Code section 1950.5 allows the landlord to apply the deposit to unpaid rent. However, you should know that It is generally very difficult to win based upon constructive eviction.

Under California law, all leases have the implied covenant of "quiet enjoyment". (California Civil Code, § 1927). The landlord (and management company) has the duty to preserve the quiet enjoyment of all tenants. (Davis v. Gomez (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1401, 1404.)

The concept of a “constructive eviction” exists under the rubric of a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment that is implied in every rental agreement. (Stoiber v Honeychuck (1980) 101 Cal.App.3d 903, 925–926.)

Substantial interference is required to establish a breach of quiet enjoyment. An interference by the landlord "by which the tenant is deprived of the beneficial enjoyment of the premises amounts to a constructive eviction if the tenant so elects and surrenders possession, and the tenant will not be liable for rentals for the portion of the term following his eviction." (Kulawitz v. Pacific Paper Co. (1944) 25 Cal.2d 664, 670.)

Minor inconveniences and annoyances are not actionable breaches of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment. To be actionable, the landlord's act or omission must substantially interfere with a tenant's right to use and enjoy the premises for the purposes contemplated by the tenancy. (Petroleum Collections Inc. v. Swords (1975) 48 Cal.App.3d 841, 846.)

So the factual question which the judge will have to determine will be whether the conditions were so bad that it actually forced you to move out.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.



My wife was put on migrain meds as the smoke was making her ill (have the documents), and we even asked the co to have us move into a different unit until our lease was up, they refused. Since we left, she has been removed from the meds as the smoke is gone and she no longer suffers. I'm assuming, since we paid rent even after we left to avoid an eviction on our records, that it places us in good faith in relation to our lease. Also, no where in our lease does it state the landlord or management co can charge for painting or remodeling, but they are anyway. Thank you for your advise.

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