By Robert J. Bruss Special to The Times October 9, 2005
Joel Andrews and William Molyneux leased adjacent spaces at the Mobile Aire Estates mobile home park. Over the years, these neighbors made about 50 calls to the local police because of various disputes.
In January 2001, Andrews complained to the mobile home park manager that Molyneux had repeatedly splashed mud on his newly washed car, aimed a video camera into his living room and subjected him to racial epithets and other verbal abuse.
Andrews also alleged his neighbor drove down the middle of the park street, forcing him to swerve and nearly run his car into a mobile home. A month after the complaints were filed, the two had an argument about fencing that escalated into an altercation and battery upon Andrews.
Andrews sued Molyneux and the mobile home park landlord. The court ruled Molyneux was liable for $12,502 in assault damages to Andrews. But the landlord argued he should not be liable for damages because the park manager advised the neighbors to call the police when problems developed.
If you were the judge would you rule the landlord can be held liable for failing to act after repeated complaints involving these tenants? The judge said yes. When a tenant enters into a rental agreement, the judge said, there is an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment included. This means the landlord has a duty to prevent problems between neighbors, he said.
“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,” the judge said.
“The perpetrator of the interference with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment need not be the landlord personally,” he emphasized. A landlord can obtain an injunction against a tenant who is seriously disturbing another tenant, or the landlord can evict a resident who “constitutes a substantial annoyance to other homeowners or residents,” the judge ruled.
Although the landlord is not liable for the tenant’s assault, the landlord cannot disregard the conduct of a tenant who repeatedly disturbs the quiet enjoyment of a fellow tenant, the judge concluded.
Based on the 2005 California Court of Appeal decision in Andrews vs. Mobile Aire Estates, 22 Cal.Rptr.3d 832.