The Eviction Process in Tennessee: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

An overview of Tennessee eviction rules, forms, and procedures.

In Tennessee, landlords must follow specific rules and procedures (set forth by Tennessee statutes) when evicting a tenant . If the landlord does not follow all the rules, the procedure may not be valid.

This article will explain the rules and procedures the landlord or property manager must follow when evicting a tenant in Tennessee.

Notice for Termination With Cause

A landlord who wants to evict a tenant before the tenant’s lease or rental agreement has expired must have cause, or a valid legal reason. The most common causes for eviction are the tenant failing to pay rent or violating the lease or rental agreement. However, the landlord can also evict the tenant 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 will be determined by the reason for the eviction.

  • Fourteen-Day Notice: The landlord can give the tenant a 14-day notice in the following situations:
    • failure to pay rent (see  Eviction Notices For Nonpayment of Rent in Tennessee  for more information)
    • damage to the rental unit (more than normal wear and tear), or
    • committing a violent act at the rental unit or threatening other tenants, the landlord, or other people on the rental unit property.

The notice must inform the tenant that the tenant has 14 days to correct any of the above behavior. If the tenant does not correct the behavior, then the landlord can terminate the tenancy and file an eviction lawsuit with the court (seeTenn. Code Ann. § § 66-7-109  and  66-28-505).

  • Thirty-Day Notice to Cure: The landlord can give the tenant a 30-day notice to cure for all other lease violations. This notice must state that the tenant has 30 days to fix the violation, or the landlord will terminate the rental or lease agreement. If the tenant does not fix the violation, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-7-109(b)).
  • Three-Day Notice: If the tenant has committed any drug-related activity on the premises of the rental unit, then the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice. This notice will inform the tenant that the tenancy will expire at the end of three days because of the tenant’s drug activity, and the landlord will file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant at that time (see  Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-7-109(d)).

Notice for Termination Without Cause

If a landlord does not have a legal reason to evict a tenant, then the landlord must wait until the end of the tenancy before expecting the tenant to move. In some cases, the landlord may still have to give the tenant written notice that the tenancy is ending on a certain date.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

If the landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy, then 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, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-512).  Tennessee Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy  has more information on this topic.

Fixed-Term Lease

If the landlord want to end a fixed-term tenancy, such as for one year, then 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.

Tenant Eviction Defenses

Even though a landlord may have legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant may 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.

Removal of the Tenant

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. That must be done by a law enforcement officer. The tenant can sue the landlord for damages if the landlord illegally attempts to force the tenant to move.  Illegal Eviction Procedures in Tennessee  has more information on this topic.

After the tenant has moved out of the rental unit, the landlord may 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 (seeTenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-405).

Rationale for the Rules

Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Tennessee law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction may not be valid. Although these rules and procedures may 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.

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