Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal services. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to property management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.

When a landlord is renting their property out to a tenant in Tennessee, there is always the possibility that they will have to legally remove a tenant. A landlord can expect the Tennessee eviction process to take anywhere between four to eight weeks depending on the violation committed.

The eviction process in Tennessee can take longer should their tenant file an appeal or any other landlord-tenant law infringements take place. With this in mind, we at Brentwood Square Management Service have put together the following is a guide to the eviction process that both landlords and tenants in any rental should be aware of.

Legal Reason

A landlord has to have a legally justifiable reason to remove a tenant from a unit they rent and start the eviction process or they could face an eviction lawsuit. According to Tennessee eviction laws, these reasons include:

  • If the tenant fails to make rental payments
  • If the tenant violates the terms of the rental agreement
  • If the tenant commits housing code or safety violations
  • The absence of a rental or lease agreement
  • For lease violations involving the tenant’s safety and health
  • Illegal activity

Other than for these reasons, it’s illegal according to Tennessee law for a landlord or a property manager to proceed with evicting a tenant. Additionally, retaliatory evictions by a landlord are illegal.

Written notice of eviction

Eviction Notice

Once a landlord has a legal justification to evict a tenant from their rental unit, a landlord has to serve the tenant relevant notice. The written notice must be specific to the lease violation they have committed. Tennessee eviction laws also state that the notice must tell the tenant what they must do within the notice period if they want to avoid eviction.

Non Payment of Rent

For a tenant who stops paying rent, the landlord must serve them a 14-Day Notice to Pay if they wish to remove them from the rental unit. Rent payments become late after its 5 days past-due according to Tennessee law.

The notice gives the tenant the option to pay the unpaid rent within 14 days to avoid getting evicted. If the tenant chooses to continue not paying rent and still remains on the rental unit, a landlord can move to court through an eviction lawsuit.

Lease Agreement Violations

The Tennessee landlord-tenant laws also allow the landlord to remove their tenant due to violations committed against lease agreements. Some states categorize violations as either curable or incurable. However, this is not the case in Tennessee, as Tennessee eviction laws consider all lease agreement violations as incurable.

The only exception to this is if the lease violation involves property damage. If the tenant pays for the costs of repairs within the 14-day window, landlords must stop further eviction proceedings against them. All other lease violations lead directly to eviction.

There are different Notice to Quit periods a Tennessee landlord should be aware of. For repeat offenders in a six-month period, a landlord can terminate their lease with 7 days. Otherwise, the landlord must serve the tenant with a 14-day advance notice. This will give the tenant a maximum of 14 days to move out. If they don’t, you, the landlord, can proceed with the eviction action against them.

The following are examples of lease violations that you can use the 14-Day Notice for:

  • Rental unit damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Exceeding any rental limits (tenant volumes etc.)
  • Violating the pet policy/unauthorized pets
  • Committing health and safety violations
  • Violations of the Fair Housing Act

Illegal activity is a serious breach of the lease that belongs in a separate category.

Absence of a Lease or Rental Agreement

This usually occurs when a residential tenant continues living in the premises after their rental agreement has expired. Such tenants are said to be “holdover tenants”, and the landlord may take legal action to evict them. Before a landlord can evict the tenant, Tennessee eviction laws require that they serve them proper notice first.

Notice requirements state that for tenants who pay rent on a weekly basis, a landlord must serve them a 10-Day Notice to Quit. For those who pay rent on a monthly basis, as the landlord, the notice requirements are a 30-Day Notice to Quit. If the notice period ends and the tenant fails to vacate, the landlord can take legal action and file an eviction lawsuit. The court can help to forcibly remove the tenant.

a yellow sign that says lease with a house figurine and coins in the background

Material Health & Safety Violation

Landlords can also evict their Tennessee tenants for violating a habitability code. Examples of such violations include:

  • Tampering with the unit’s electrical wiring.
  • Letting trash pile up inside the unit.
  • Falsely claiming they are disabled.
  • Violations of the Fair Housing Act

In all these cases, a landlord must serve the tenant or tenants with a 3-Day Notice. This will give the tenants up to 3 days to vacate the premises or they risk getting evicted. Again, if the tenant refuses to leave within the 3 days, the landlord can proceed with the eviction process in Tennessee.

Illegal Activity

Tennessee considers illegal activities to include any of the following:

  • Drug related activity, such as the manufacturing, possession or sale of controlled substances.
  • Prostitution.
  • The willful or intentional committing of a violent act.
  • Threatening or endangering the health, welfare, or safety of others or property.
  • Creation of an unsanitary or hazardous condition that affects the health, welfare or safety of the rental property or tenants.

To start the eviction process in Tennessee against tenants involved in such, a landlord must first serve them the 3-Day Notice. In the written notice, make sure, as the landlord, you provide your tenant with details of the violation.

Summons & Complaint

The next step in the eviction process is for landlords to move to an appropriate court and file a complaint. You’ll need to pay filing fees, which normally costs around $200 depending on the county. Unlike an eviction notice, service of the summons and complaint must be done by a sheriff. They must do so in any of the following ways:

  • Serve the notice to the tenants in person.
  • Post the notice in a conspicuous place on the property for tenants to see.
  • Mail a copy to the tenant via certified mail.

a court room with a gavel and a legal balance on a desk

Court Hearing & Judgment

Once the sheriff or other law enforcement officials has served the summons and complaint to the tenant, the hearing must be held no later than 6 days after. Either party can request for an extension of this period to up to 15 days.

If the tenant doesn’t show up for the eviction hearing, the court will issue a default judgment in your favor. You’ll then be issued with a writ of possession and the eviction process will proceed.

Writ of Possession

This is a judgment by the court that allows a sheriff to remove the tenant and the landlord to change the locks. The writ gives the tenant the final notice to move out before they can be forcibly removed.

Typically, a writ is issued by a court 10 days after successful judgment. Be advised, at this point you may have to return or deduct the security deposit, should returning the deposit be viable.

Bottom Line

Understanding the Tennessee's eviction laws and the eviction process a landlord must follow is incredibly important for landlords. Even though you may never wish to evict tenants, the possibility of needing to perform an eviction is always there.

If you have any further questions regarding this or any other aspect of property management please don’t hesitate to contact us at Brentwood Square Management Services.