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Tennessee Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations

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Tennessee Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations

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Tennessee Landlord-Tenant Law: An Overview

  • Tennessee landlord-tenant law is the legal framework that governs the landlord-tenant relationship in the state of Tennessee.
  • These laws cover various aspects of renting, including lease agreements, rent increases, security deposits, and eviction procedures.
  • Landlords must comply with Tennessee rental laws, which include providing habitable living conditions, maintaining their properties, and adhering to specific notice requirements for rent increases and eviction proceedings.
  • Tenants in Tennessee have certain legal protections, such as the right to privacy and the right to challenge evictions in court. 

Tennessee landlord tenant law

Tennessee Landlord-Tenant Law: FAQs

How much can I charge for rent?

The state of Tennessee does not restrict the amount of rent a landlord is permitted to charge. Additionally, there is no established rent control or stabilization.

May I charge a late fee?

According to Tennessee landlord-tenant law, there shall be a 5 day grace period between the day the rent was due and the day a fee for the late payment of rent may be charged. If the last day of the 5 day grace period occurs on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the landlord shall not impose any charge or fee for the late payment of rent, provided that the rent is paid on the next business day. Any charge or fee, however described, which is charged by the landlord for the late payment of rent shall not exceed 10% of the amount of rent past due.

Please Note: No charge or fee for the late payment of rent due from a tenant in a public housing project shall exceed $5.00 per month. No late charge or fee shall be assessed such tenant unless more than 15 days have elapsed since the rent was due.

May I charge a returned payment fee?

Under Tennessee landlord-tenant law, the service or handling charge may not exceed $30.00.

Is it required to register as a landlord?

Yes, a landlord’s registration is required!
Landlord’s who own 1 or more dwelling units are required to furnish the following, to the agency or department of local government that is responsible for enforcing building codes in the jurisdiction where the dwelling units are located:
1. The landlord’s name, address and telephone number, or the name, address and telephone number of the landlord’s agent.
2. The street address and unit number, as appropriate, for each dwelling unit that the landlord owns, leases, or subleases or has the right to own, lease, or sublease.

Please Note: This information shall be furnished on a form provided by the agency or department responsible for enforcing building codes. The agency or department is authorized to collect from a landlord filing the form a fee not to exceed $10.00 per year.

Important: Any landlord who fails to register as required may be assessed a fine in the amount of $50.00 per week by the agency or department of local government that is responsible for enforcing building codes in the jurisdiction where the dwelling unit(s) are located.

Is there a limit on the amount I may collect for a security deposit?

There are no stated regulations regarding a limit on the amount that may be charged for a security deposit, however, it should not be an amount that may be considered unconscionable.

Under Tennessee landlord-tenant law, the security deposit must be held in a separate account, in any financial institution regulated by the state of Tennessee or any agency of the United States government and tenants shall be informed of the location of the separate account.

After my tenant has moved, how long do I have to send the security deposit back?

After landlords request for a tenant to vacate or within 5 days after landlord receives written notice that tenant is vacating the premises, the landlord may issue the tenant a notice to let the tenant know that he/she may be present for a rental unit inspection. The landlord may request that this inspection be completed on the day the tenant moves everything out of the rental unit or within 4 days after the tenant completely vacates.

After a tenant vacates from the rental unit before ANY work is done to prepare the premises for the next occupant and within 10 days, an inspection must be completed.

Under Tennessee rental laws, the tenant has the right to be present for this inspection unless certain conditions apply such as:

If after the inspection, damages are found:
1. Tenant is present at the inspection: Both landlord and tenant should sign the inspection report. This provides proof that both landlord and tenant are in agreement. If tenant does not agree with any damages, the tenant may bring suit against the landlord.
2. If tenant is not present during the inspection If no damages are found and no money is owed to the landlord by the tenant then the landlord should return the full deposit to the tenant.

What is a common problem where security deposits are concerned?

It is very important to follow ALL regulations and laws surrounding the handling of a security deposit from receiving it to returning it. Failing to do so, can be a large problem for a landlord.

What are the rules for ending a lease agreement?

Week to Week Tenancies: The landlord or tenant must give the other at least 10 days notice prior to the termination date specified in the notice.
Month to Month Tenancies: The landlord or tenant must give the other at least 30 days notice prior to the termination date specified in the notice.
Fixed Term Tenancies: The landlord or tenant must give the other at least 30 days notice or notice as specified within the lease, prior to the termination date or if no notice is given, the lease ends at the end of the term and the tenant must vacate.

Beware: Landlords must provide 60 days notice to increase rent.

How much notice do I have to give a tenant in order to evict them?

Under Tennessee landlord-tenant law, 14 days’ notice by a landlord shall be sufficient notice of termination of tenancy for the purpose of eviction of a residential tenant, if the termination of tenancy is for one of the following reasons:

  • Tenant has not requested an inspection;
  • Abandonment of the rental unit;
  • Eviction;
  • Not responding to the landlord’s notification of the mutual inspection;
  • Not showing up to the mutually agreed upon inspection or is not available for the landlord to contact.
    • (1) Tenant neglect or refusal to pay rent that is due and is in arrears, upon demand
    • (2) Damage beyond normal wear and tear to the premises by the tenant, members of the household, or guests; or
    • (3) The tenant or any other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent willfully or intentionally commits a violent act or behaves in a manner which constitutes or threatens to be a real and present danger to the health, safety or welfare of the life or property of other tenants, the landlord, the landlord’s representatives or other persons on the premises.
    • (4) For all other defaults in the lease agreement, a 30 day termination notice from the date such notice is given by the landlord shall be required for the purpose of eviction of a residential tenant.
I have sent my tenant an eviction notice; he has not complied. What do I do next?

If the tenant does not remedy the breach or make payment of arrearages, the landlord may bring suit in court for possession and damages.

Please Note: If the landlord accepts rent without reservation and with knowledge of a tenant default, the landlord by such acceptance condones the default and thereby waives his/her right and is then prevented from terminating the rental agreement as to that breach.

How long does it usually take for eviction?

It depends and varies, but could take approximately 4-6 weeks to obtain possession.

What must I do to inspect my property? Do I have to notify the tenant?

The tenant shall not unreasonably with-hold consent to the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers or contractors.

Under Tennessee landlord-tenant law, the landlord may enter the dwelling unit without consent in cases of emergency. “Emergency” means a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action.

Do I have the right to enforce no smoking in my rental property?

A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by providing so in the lease.

Can I require my tenants to obtain renter’s insurance?

There are no statutory regulations regarding the requirement of a tenant by a landlord to obtain rental insurance.

I want to create a Lease Purchase for my tenant; do I need to know anything?

The State of Tennessee has specific laws and criteria for Lease Purchase Agreements. Information may be found at:

Aside from the lease agreement, are there any additional documents necessary?

If the leased premises was constructed prior to 1978, the landlord must provide all tenants with the Lead-Based Paint EPA Disclosure and the Lead-Based Paint EPA Pamphlet.

Is Tennessee a landlord or tenant-friendly state?

Tennessee currently has a low number of landlord-friendly rent control laws, making it a state that is considered to be somewhat landlord-friendly. It may also be regarded as tenant-friendly in specific circumstances because of the numerous laws that provide tenants power in dispute situations.

What are tenants’ rights in Tennessee?

Tennessee landlord-tenant law guarantees tenants the right to occupy a habitable home that complies with fair housing laws. They also have the right to be treated without prejudice, regardless of the motive. A tenant may speak with the landlord to ask for repairs in order to offer and maintain suitable living circumstances (if needed). Tenant rights give them the option to pursue alternative remedies, such as their repair if the landlord doesn’t make these repairs within 14 days.

What should be there in a Rental Agreement in Tennessee?

The Tennessee Code Annotated (Title 66) and the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act both include the rules that apply to renters and landlords in Tennessee. While a landlord is free to incorporate as many terms as they see necessary, there are several broad rules that are always applicable.

In Tennessee, a rental agreement should generally contain the following:

  • Describe the rented property
  • Information about every person connected with the lease
  • Rent restrictions (Late fees, grace period, increases, etc.)
  • Security deposits
  • Provisions that the landlord wants added
What a landlord cannot do in Tennessee?

As a landlord in Tennessee, there are several things that you cannot do according to Tennessee landlord-tenant law. Here are some examples:

  • Discriminate against tenants: Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, or any other protected class under federal or state law.
  • Retaliate against tenants: Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants for exercising their legal rights, such as complaining about housing code violations or requesting repairs.
  • Enter the rental unit without notice: Landlords must provide reasonable notice before entering a tenant’s rental unit, except in emergency situations. In Tennessee, the notice must be at least 24 hours in advance, unless the tenant agrees to a shorter notice period.
  • Withhold security deposits without reason: Landlords must return a tenant’s security deposit within a certain time frame (usually within 30 days of the end of the lease), and they cannot withhold any portion of the deposit without a valid reason, such as unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear.
  • Evict tenants without following proper procedures: Landlords cannot evict tenants without going through the proper legal procedures. In Tennessee, this typically involves providing notice of the eviction, filing a complaint with the court, and obtaining a court order for eviction.
  • Charge excessive late fees: Landlords can charge late fees for unpaid rent, but these fees must be reasonable and cannot be excessive. In Tennessee, late fees are generally limited to 10% of the rent.
How much notice does a landlord have to give to raise the rent in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, landlords must provide a written notice to tenants before raising the rent. The amount of notice required depends on the lease agreement between the landlord and the tenant.

If the lease agreement specifies a set term (such as one year), the landlord cannot raise the rent during that term unless the lease agreement specifically allows for it. After the term is up, the landlord must give the tenant at least 30 days’ written notice before raising the rent.

If the lease agreement is month-to-month, the landlord must give the tenant at least 30 days’ written notice before raising the rent. The new rent amount can take effect no sooner than 30 days after the notice is given.

It’s important to note that the notice requirements may be different if the tenant is protected by certain federal or state laws, such as the Fair Housing Act or the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. In any case, the landlord should carefully review the lease agreement and applicable laws before raising the rent.

At what point does a guest turn into a tenant in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, a guest becomes a tenant when they start living in a place regularly, like they live there all the time, not just visiting. Also, if they pay rent or help with expenses, or even get their mail sent there, they can be seen as a tenant. It doesn’t matter if there’s no written agreement, they still have rights as a tenant.

Do landlords have to paint between tenants in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, landlords are not required by law to paint between tenants. However, they should ensure the rental property is in good condition and safe for the new tenant. Painting may be done at the landlord’s discretion or if it’s necessary to maintain the property’s quality.

Can a landlord break a lease in Tennessee?

Under Tennessee landlord-tenant law, a landlord can only break a lease if the tenant violates the lease agreement. If the tenant pays rent on time and follows the rules, the landlord cannot end the lease early. Both parties should stick to the terms agreed upon in the lease until it expires.

How long does a landlord have to claim damages in Tennessee?

As per Tennessee landlord-tenant law, the landlord has up to 30 days after the tenant moves out to claim damages from the security deposit. They must provide an itemized list of deductions and return any remaining deposit to the tenant within this time frame.

Can a landlord work on the property without notice in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, landlords generally need to give notice before entering the rental property. However, they can work on the property without notice in case of emergencies, like fixing a burst pipe or addressing a safety issue. Otherwise, they should inform the tenant before entering the premises for repairs or inspections.

Security Deposit

Tennessee landlord-tenant law allows for an unlimited amount of security deposits as long as the tenant is cooperative. The amount of the security deposit must be agreed upon by both the landlord and the tenant and must be included in the lease agreement.

Tennessee law mandates that the landlord keep the security deposit in a separate account with a bank or lending organization (that is regulated by the United States government).

Tennessee has no legislation governing the techniques used to hold security deposits and the interest earned on them.

Deductions and Returns

The terms and conditions for security deposit deductions must be disclosed to the tenant in accordance with Tennessee landlord-tenant act.

Tennessee landlord-tenant law permits deductions from security deposits for the following reasons:

  • Property damage brought on by the renter, occupants, or tenant’s visitors’ negligence, abuse, or maltreatment/
  • Costs and losses experienced by the landlord as a result of the tenant’s breach of contract.
  • Rent is due

Within five days of leaving the rental unit, the tenant and landlord may conduct a joint inspection of the property for damage. Tenant forfeits the right to contest any deposit deductions for property damage if they fail to show up for the property inspection after the landlord has notified them to do so.

Due to damage from “normal wear and tear,” the landlord is NOT permitted to deduct money from the security deposit. The natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) as a result of regular, everyday use is known as normal wear and tear.

The landlord is required to notify the tenant of a list of security deposit deductions when the tenant vacates or abandons the property and to return any money that was withheld from the deposit within 30 days. Each item on this list needs to be listed separately, including any damages and unpaid rent.

Tennessee Eviction Laws

Eviction Notice

Tenants must be given the notice to vacate for at least the following number of days in accordance with Tennessee landlord-tenant law or act.

14 days’ notice should be given if:

  • The tenant or a connected party damaged the property.
  • The rent wasn’t paid by the tenant, 
  • On the premises, the tenant or a relative put others in danger.

30 days’ notice should be given if:

  • The tenant violated the lease agreement.

Lastly, 3 days’ notice should be given if:

  • The tenant intentionally engaged in violence.
  • Behaves in a way that poses a genuine and immediate risk to the health, safety, or welfare of the lives or property of other tenants or visitors to the property.
  • Creates a risky or unclean environment on the property that has an impact on the health, safety, or welfare of other tenants, visitors, or anyone using the space.
  • On the property, the tenant engaged in illicit drug-related activities.

You must handle situations properly whether you are a landlord evicting a tenant or a renter facing eviction.

Top Reasons for Eviction

  • The tenant or a connected party damaged the property.

The landlord may give the renter a written 14-day notice to vacate the premises if the tenant, members of the tenant’s household, or a guest of the tenant damaged the property.

The nature of the property damage(s) must be specified in this written notice. The tenancy shall continue if the tenant fixes the damage(s) within 14 days.

The landlord may terminate the lease with a written 14-day notice citing the violation(s) and the termination date if the renter (or a relative) damages the property similarly again within six months. The tenancy will have to end in this situation.

  • The rent wasn’t paid by the tenant.

The landlord may give the tenant a 14-day written notice to vacate the property if the rent was not paid on time. This notification is required to include the amount of rent due and the information that the rental agreement will end if the rent is not paid within seven days.

The tenancy will continue if the rent is paid within seven days.

Within six months, if the tenant is late paying rent once more, the landlord has the right to terminate the lease by giving the tenant a written 14-day notice outlining the violation (late rent) and the date of termination. The tenancy will have to end in this situation.

  • The tenant violated the lease agreement.

The landlord has the right to give the tenant a written 30-day notice to vacate the property if the renter seriously violates the terms of the lease (in a way that endangers their health and safety).

In accordance with Tennessee landlord-tenant legislation, the tenant must respond to this notice within 14 days to address any violations, failing which the rental agreement would expire after 30 days.

Unlawful Eviction

The landlord cannot take ownership of the property without a court hearing by turning off the utilities (electricity, water, gas, and sanitation), changing the locks, or forcibly evicting the tenant.

The renter has two options if the landlord unlawfully moves them out or cuts off their utilities either reclaim ownership of the property or cancel the renting contract

The landlord must reimburse the tenant for all prepaid rent and deposits (cut any deductions) if the tenant decides to end the lease.

In addition, the tenant has the right to sue the landlord for real damages, exemplary damages, and legal costs.

Landlord Rights in Tennessee

Landlord rights in Tennessee include the right to evict tenants who violate the lease agreement or fail to pay rent, the right to charge a security deposit and withhold it for damages, the right to enter the rental unit for necessary repairs and inspections with proper notice, and the right to terminate a lease agreement upon its expiration. Tennessee law also allows landlords to charge late fees and provide notice of non-renewal at least 30 days before the lease expires. However, it is important to note that these rights are subject to certain limitations and requirements under Tennessee law, and landlords must follow proper legal procedures when exercising their rights to avoid violating tenants’ rights.

Landlord Responsibilities in Tennessee

In order to avoid future disputes, landlords must ensure that their tenants have access to a habitable housing unit that is always in compliance with health and safety laws. On the other hand, if the tenant asks them, the landlord must make the necessary repairs. These repairs need to be made right away (usually within 14 days of notice).

In order to keep the property in a fit and habitable condition, the landlord is also required to maintain adequate trash disposal bins in addition to adhering to local building and housing rules.

Disclosure: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.

Please feel free to ask any questions about Tennessee leasing laws in our expert landlord forum, and review further Tennessee rental resources here.

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