When a landlord is renting their rental unit out to a tenant, there is always the possibility that they will have to legally remove a tenant.

Generally speaking, a landlord can expect the eviction process in Tennessee to take anywhere between four to eight weeks depending on the violation committed. But the process 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:

Legal Reason

A landlord has to have a legally justifiable reason to remove tenants from a rental unit. According to Tennessee law these reasons include:

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

Other than for these reasons, it’d be illegal for a landlord to remove their tenant. Additionally, retaliatory evictions, by landlords are illegal.

Written notice of eviction

Eviction Notice

Once a landlord has a legal reason to evict their tenant from their rental unit, a landlord has to serve the relevant tenant notice. The written notice must be specific to the violation they have committed. The notice must also tell the tenant what they must do within the notice period or else they would get evicted.

Nonpayment of Rent

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

The notice gives the renters the option to pay the late rent within 14 days to avoid getting evicted. If the tenant chooses to ignore the notice and still remains on the unit, a landlord can move to court.

Lease Agreement Violations

The Tennessee landlord-tenant laws also allow landlords to remove their renters due to violations committed on the lease agreement.

Some states categorize violations as either curable or incurable. However, this is not the case in Tennessee, as the state considers all lease violations as incurable.

The only exception to this is if the lease agreement violation involves property damage. If the tenant pays for the costs of repairs within the 14-day window, a landlord must stop further eviction proceedings against them.

There are different Notice to Quit periods Tennessee landlords 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 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
  • Exceeding any rental limits (tenant volumes etc.)
  • Violating the pet policy
  • 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 renters are said to “holdover”. Before a landlord can evict them, the state’s eviction laws require that they serve them proper notice first.

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, you must provide them a 30-Day Notice to Quit.

If the notice period ends without the tenant moving out, you can move to court for further help.

lease absence

Material Health & Safety Violation

A landlord can also evict their Tennessee tenant 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 with a 3-Day Notice. This will give the tenant up to 3 days to vacate the premises or they risk getting evicted.

Again, if the tenant refuses to leave within the 3 days, you can proceed with the eviction process in Tennessee.

Illegal Activity

Tennessee considers illegal activities to include any of the following:

  • Manufacture, possession or sale of controlled substances.
  • Prostitution.
  • The willful or intentional committing of a violent crime.
  • 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 property or tenants.

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

Summons & Complaint

The next step in the eviction action is 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 in person.
  • Post the notice in a conspicuous place on the property.
  • Mail a copy to the tenant via certified mail.


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 action will proceed.

Writ of Possession

This is a judgment by the court that allows a sheriff to remove the tenant and the owner 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 it be viable.

Bottom Line

Understanding the Tennessee eviction process is incredibly important for landlords. As, even though you may never wish to evict a tenant, the possibility 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.

Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. Also, laws change, and this information may not be updated at the time you read it. For expert legal advice, kindly get in touch with us.