Most residential leases and rental agreements in Tennessee require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of Tennessee landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does Tennessee law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
No. In Tennessee, there's no statutory limit on security deposits at the state level, but check your city and county laws to see if your municipality has set a cap on security deposits for residential rentals.
To learn more about steps that tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in Tennessee for returning a security deposit?
Under Tennessee law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 30 days after the tenant has moved out.
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's chart Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit and Nolo's article Get Your Security Deposit Back.
Is there additional information that Tennessee landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in Tennessee?
Yes. In addition to complying with Tennessee laws on security deposit limits and how (and when) the deposit must be returned to tenants, landlords in Tennessee must provide tenants with advance notice before taking any deductions out of the security deposit, such as for the cost of repairs for damage to the property.
Also, Tennessee landlords must put deposits in a separate account and orally or in writing disclose the location of this account to the tenant.
Are there any exceptions to Tennessee security deposit rules?
Yes. The rule does not apply in counties that have a population of less than 75,000, according to the 2010 federal census or any subsequent federal census.
Where can I look up Tennessee law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up Tennessee law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at Tennessee Code Annotated § 66-28-301. Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in Tennessee. For tips on looking up Tennessee state and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research section.
You may also find useful information on tenant rights in the guide available at http://www.tn.gov/consumer/documents/LandlordTenantBrochure.pdf.