Tennessee landlords must follow specific rules and procedures when evicting a tenant (see the article How Evictions Work: What Renters Need to Know, on this site). The state forbids landlords from taking the law into their own hands. Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity—all of which may be the basis for a tenant suing a landlord. A court in Tennessee may award a tenant actual and punitive damages. If a tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return the entire security deposit. A court may also award a tenant court costs and attorney fees in Tennessee.
If you decide to sue your landlord for an illegal eviction, check Tennessee law (you’ll find Tennessee rules prohibiting self-help evictions at Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-504). See the Laws and Legal Research section of this site for advice on finding and reading statutes.
It’s also a good idea to get advice from a local tenants’ rights group in Tennessee. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website includes information on tenant advocates for each state.
Finally, consider consulting an experienced tenants’ lawyer. See the article Tips on Hiring and Working With Lawyers on this site for advice.
For a wide range of other articles of interest to tenants, see the Renters’ and Tenants’ Rights section on this site.