In Tennessee, landlords must follow specific rules and procedures (set forth by Tennessee statutes) when evicting a tenant. If the landlord doesn't follow all the rules, the eviction might fail, leaving the landlord no choice but to begin the process again.
This article will explain the rules and procedures landlords and property managers must follow when evicting a tenant in Tennessee.
A landlord who wants to evict a tenant before the tenant's lease or rental agreement has expired must have cause (a valid legal reason). The most common causes for eviction are the tenant's failure to pay rent or violation of the lease or rental agreement. However, landlords can also evict tenants for committing violent acts or drug-related activity at the rental unit.
The first step in the eviction process is for the landlord to terminate the tenancy. Usually, this is done by the landlord giving notice to the tenant. The type of notice required is determined by the reason for the eviction.
If the tenant can remedy ("cure") the situation, the notice must give the tenant 14 days to do so (or move out). If the tenant doesn't correct the behavior or move out within 14 days, the landlord can terminate the tenancy and file an eviction lawsuit. (Tenn. Code § 66-7-109 (2022).)
For situations where the tenant is committing a violent act or the tenant's behavior can't be remedied, the notice doesn't have to give the tenant the option of curing the behavior. Instead, the notice can simply tell the tenant they have 14 days to move out.
A landlord may also give a 14-day notice without a chance to cure when the tenant again commits the same act or omission which was considered a violation with six months of the first notice. For example, if a tenant who violated a no-pets policy gives up their dog after receiving the first 14-day notice, but then brings in a rabbit the next month, the landlord doesn't have to give the tenant the opportunity to give up the rabbit—the landlord can just tell the tenant to move out within 14 days.
When a landlord does not have a legal reason to evict a tenant, the landlord must wait until the end of the tenancy before expecting the tenant to move. In some cases, the landlord might still have to give the tenant written notice that the tenancy is ending on a certain date—usually when the lease specifies that the landlord will provide notice.
If the landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice that specifies the date on which the tenancy will end. If the tenant does not move out by that date, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Tenn. Code § 66-28-512 (2022).) Tennessee Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy has more information on this topic.
If the landlord want to end a fixed-term tenancy, such as for one year, the landlord will have to wait until the term expires before expecting the tenant to move. However, unless the lease specifically requires it, the landlord does not need to give the tenant written notice to move. The landlord can expect the tenant to move by the end of the term.
Even though a landlord might have legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant can still fight the eviction. The tenant could have a valid defense, such as the landlord retaliating against the tenant or discriminating against the tenant. The tenant's decision to fight the eviction could increase the cost of the lawsuit and increase the amount of time the tenant has to stay in the rental unit. Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Tennessee has more information on this topic.
The only legal way that a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental unit is by winning an eviction lawsuit with the court. Even after winning the eviction, the landlord is not authorized to evict the tenant—physical removal can be done only by a law enforcement officer. The tenant can sue the landlord for damages if the landlord illegally attempts to force the tenant to move.
After the tenant has moved out of the rental unit, the landlord might find that the tenant has left personal property at the rental unit. The landlord must notify the tenant of the landlord's intention to remove the property and dispose of it. The landlord must hold on to the property for 30 days to allow the tenant enough time to claim the property. If the tenant does not claim the property within the 30-day time period, then the landlord can sell it or dispose of it. If the landlord sells the property, then the proceeds can go toward unpaid rent or other damages the tenant owes the landlord. (Tenn. Code § 66-28-405 (2022).)
Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Tennessee law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction might not be valid. Although these rules and procedures can seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.