Tennessee Landlord Tenant Law

Looking for clear and concise information on Tennessee landlord tenant law? Get all your answers from this plain English guide to the Tennessee Landlord Tenant Act.

TN Landlord Tenant Law:

  • Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 66, Chapter 28 - Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Tenant Application

Application Fees

The landlord can ask prospective tenants for application fees to cover the costs of background and credit checks. The fee amount should be reasonable - We recommend charging around $30 per applicant. If the landlord did not run any tenant screening checks, the fees should be refunded.

Background and Credit Check

You can screen tenant applicants with a background check or full credit report from RentPrep.

A background check will show a person's history of addresses, evictions, bankruptcies, judgments and liens.

A full credit report comes with a basic background check, credit check plus criminal check. A basic background check shows a person's history of addresses, evictions and bankruptcies.

Landlords do not need the tenant or applicant's consent to run background and credit checks.  Fair Credit Reporting Act § 604(a)(3)(F)

Avoiding Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from discriminating against prospective renters based on their race, color, religion, sex, *familial status, national origin or physical/mental handicap.  42 U.S.C. § 3604

*Familial status - pregnant women and families with person(s) under 18.

In addition, Tennessee landlord tenant law prohibits landlords from discriminating someone as a renter because of creed.  T.C.A. § 4-21-601

Landlords must follow the above Fair Housing Act laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and is occupied by the landlord or landlord's family member.  T.C.A. § 4-21-602

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Tenancy Agreement

(also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement)

Whether you're a landlord or tenant, it's important to have a written lease agreement with terms and conditions that favors you and follows your state laws.

To save time and avoid mistakes, you can customize your own lease agreement at LawDepot. This site will ask you a set of questions related to your tenancy and create a state-specific agreement based on your answers.

Required for Tenancy Agreement

Tennessee landlord tenant law T.C.A. § 66-28-302 requires all tenancy agreements to contain the following details:

  • Name and address of person authorized to manage the property
  • Name and address or property owner or owner's agent (person authorized to act on behalf of owner)
  • Disclosure and information of lead-based paint in the property (for housing built before 1978)

Recommended for Tenancy Agreement

  • Name and address of tenant(s)
  • Number of people (occupants) staying on the property
  • Type of tenancy: month to month tenancy or fixed term lease
  • How much is the rent
  • When, how and where the rent is to be paid
  • When is rent is considered late and the penalties for late rent payment
  • How much is the security deposit and pet deposit (if any)
  • Who holds the deposit(s) and where will it be held
  • What utilities and services are provided and who pays for them
  • What are the landlord's and tenant's duties for property maintenance
  • Can the tenant sublet the property or assign the lease
  • When to inform the landlord if tenant will be away for a long time
  • Prohibited activities and items

Disallowed for Tenancy Agreement

According to Tennessee landlord tenant law, your lease agreement CANNOT:

  • make the tenant give up any legal rights or remedies under the Tennessee Landlord Tenant Act  T.C.A. § 66-28-201.(a)
  • permit the tenant to authorize another person to confess judgment (on a claim arising from the rental agreement)  T.C.A. § 66-28-203.(a)
  • dismiss or limit the landlord's liability when they have failed in their duties

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Security Deposit

As long as the tenant is agreeable, Tennessee landlord tenant law doesn't limit the maximum amount of security deposit the landlord can ask for. Both the landlord and tenant have to agree on the security deposit amount, and this amount must be stated in the written tenancy agreement.

Tennessee landlord tenant law requires the landlord to hold the security deposit in a separate account of a bank or lending institution (that is regulated by the United States government).  T.C.A. § 66-28-301.(a)

There are no Tennessee landlord tenant laws on security deposit holding methods and security deposit interest.

Deductions and Returns

Tennessee landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions.
  
Valid reasons for security deposit deductions (under Tennessee landlord tenant law) include:

  • Rent owed
  • Property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Costs and losses incurred by landlord due to the tenant failing in his or her duties - See Tenant Duties and Responsibilities below  T.C.A. § 66-28-401

The tenant can inspect for property damages together with the landlord within five days of vacating the rental unit. If the tenant did not attend the property inspection after being informed by the landlord, the tenant shall lose the right to dispute any deposit deductions due to property damage.  T.C.A. § 66-28-301.(b)(1)(A)

The landlord is NOT allowed to take money from the security deposit due to damage from *normal wear and tear. *Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) from normal everyday use.

Once the tenant vacates or abandons the property, the landlord must send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions and refund any remaining deposit within 30 days. This list has to individually account for all damages and rent owed in writing.

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Nashville, Tennessee TN

Tennessee Landlord Tenant Law

Rent

The tenant has to pay the rent without demand or reminders. As long as the landlord and tenant are agreeable, they can choose the time, place and method of rent payment.
   
By default, rent is payable once the tenancy begins and shall be paid at the beginning of every month. Rent is to be collected at the rental property and shall be pro-rated daily.  T.C.A. § 66-28-201.(c)

Late Rent

The landlord can only charge late fees if the tenant is at least five days late in paying rent. The landlord can charge late fees up to 10% of the amount of rent overdue.  T.C.A. § 66-28-201.(d)

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Property Maintenance

Landlord Duties and Responsibilities

The Tennessee Landlord Tenant Act requires the landlord to maintain the property in a safe and habitable condition [T.C.A. § 66-28-304.(a)]:

  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety
  • Repairs: Make all repairs to keep the property safe and habitable
  • Common Areas: Keep all common areas clean and safe
  • Waste Disposal: Provide outlets for waste disposal (in buildings with four or more units)

Tenant Duties and Responsibilities

Tennessee landlord tenant law T.C.A. § 66-28-401 also requires the tenant to keep the property in a clean and safe condition:

  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety
  • Cleanliness: Keep the property clean and safe (as far as conditions will allow)
  • Waste Disposal: Dispose all waste from the property in a clean and safe manner
  • Property Damage: Avoid property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by the tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Neighbors: Avoid disturbing neighbors and also disallow others from disturbing neighbors

If Landlord Fails to Maintain Property

If the landlord failed to maintain the property, the tenant can file a complaint with the building inspector or county public health department. They shall inspect the rental unit within 14 days and if it is found to be unfit for habitation, they will inform the landlord or landlord's agent to make repairs within 30 days.  T.C.A. § 68-111-104.(a)

If the landlord fails to fix the problem(s) within 30 days, the tenant shall pay all future rents to the county clerk (instead of the landlord).  T.C.A. § 68-111-104.(b)

These rent payments shall be returned to the landlord ONLY after repairs are made and the county clerk has received a certificate of compliance from the building inspector or county public health department.  T.C.A. § 68-111-104.(e)

If Landlord Fails to Provide Essential Services

If the landlord fails to provide an essential service (such as gas, heat, water, electricity, plumbing or sanitation), the tenant may give the landlord a written notice stating the problem and do ONE of the following:

  • Obtain the essential service and deduct the cost from rent
  • Sue the landlord for damages based on the property's drop in rental value (if the tenant continues staying on the property)
  • Move to substitute housing and stop paying rent until the essential service is restored  T.C.A. § 66-28-502

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Property Access

When Tenant's Permission is Required

According to Tennessee landlord tenant law T.C.A. § 66-28-403.(a), the landlord is only allowed to enter the property for the following reasons:

  • Inspecting property for damages
  • Performing property maintenance or repairs
  • Supplying essential (or mutually agreed) services and utilities
  • Showing property to prospective buyers, lenders, workmen or contractors

In the above situations, the landlord should inform the tenant at least 24 hours in advance before entering the property. The landlord should only enter the property with the tenant's consent and during reasonable hours.

When Tenant's Permission is NOT Required

According to Tennessee landlord tenant law T.C.A. § 66-28-403.(b),(e), the landlord may enter the property without permission in the following situations [T.C.A. § 66-28-403.(b),(e)]:

  • Emergencies such as smoke, fire, flooding or explosion
  • Court order granting landlord access to the property
  • Tenant has abandoned or surrendered the property
  • Tenant is dead, immobilized or arrested.

If any utilities are turned off and it's not caused by the landlord, the landlord is allowed to enter the property to inspect for damages and make repairs.  T.C.A. § 66-28-403.(c)

If Tenant Refuses Landlord's Valid Request to Enter Property

The tenant cannot deny access if the landlord has a valid reason to enter the property. Otherwise the landlord can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order that requires the tenant to let the landlord in OR
  2. terminate the rental agreement.

 In addition, the landlord can also sue the tenant for actual damages plus attorney fees.  T.C.A. § 66-28-513.(a)

If Landlord Enters Property Illegally

The landlord must have a valid reason and obtain the tenant's permission (whenever required by Tennessee landlord tenant law) to enter the property. If the landlord fails to do so or harasses the tenant, the tenant can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order that stops the landlord from entering the property illegally or harassing the tenant OR
  2. terminate the rental agreement.

In addition, the tenant can also sue the landlord for actual damages plus attorney fees.  T.C.A. § 66-28-513.(b)

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Subletting

There are no specific Tennessee landlord tenant laws on subletting.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • Is the tenant allowed to sublet the property? If yes, is the landlord's written consent required before the tenant can sublet?
  • Is the landlord allowed to screen and reject every prospective subtenant?
  • Can the landlord ask for additional rent and security deposit if the tenant sublets?

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Memphis, Tennessee TN

Memphis, Tennessee TN

Termination of Tenancy

Number of Days for Notice to Quit

Before terminating a tenancy, Tennessee landlord tenant law T.C.A. § 66-28-512 requires you to give the other party a written notice to quit in advance:

Week to week tenancy

10 days

Month to month tenancy

30 days

TENANT

If you are the tenant, the following are the minimum number of days for giving your landlord a notice to quit:

Landlord violated rental agreement or didn't perform duties

14 days

Property damage due to fire, disaster or unavoidable accident

Immediate

Landlord Violated Rental Agreement or Didn't Perform Duties

If the landlord violates the rental agreement or didn't perform duties (see Landlord Duties and Responsibilities above), the tenant can give the landlord a written notice stating the problem and giving the landlord 14 days to correct it.

If the problem isn't corrected within 14 days, the tenant can obtain a court order to make the landlord comply with the rental agreement and Tennessee landlord tenant law OR terminate the tenancy. If the tenancy is terminated, the landlord shall return any prepaid rents and deposits (after deductions to the tenant).

In addition, the tenant can also sue the landlord for damages plus attorney fees.  T.C.A. § 66-28-501

Property Damage Due to Fire, Disaster or Unavoidable Accident

If the property is badly damaged by fire, disaster or unavoidable accident (that is no fault of the tenant or related people), the tenant can immediately move out and stop paying rent. The tenancy shall terminate once the tenant moves out. The tenant must inform the landlord that he or she intends to terminate the tenancy within 14 days of moving out.

After the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit (after any deductions) to the tenant. The tenant won't have to pay rent starting from the date of the fire or disaster, so the landlord must also return any prepaid rent to the tenant.  T.C.A. § 66-28-503

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Eviction

According to Tennessee landlord tenant law T.C.A. § 66-7-109, the following are valid reasons for evicting tenants and the minimum number of days for giving them a notice to quit:

Tenant did not pay rent

14 days

Tenant or related person caused property damage

14 days

Tenant or related person threatened or endangered others on property

14 days

Tenant violated rental agreement (all other violations not listed here)

30 days

Tenant committed a violent act on purpose

3 days

Tenant was involved in illegal drug-related activities on property

3 days

Whether you are a landlord evicting someone or a tenant facing eviction, it's important that you handle matters correctly according to your state laws.

If you have any questions or doubts on eviction, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.

Tenant Did Not Pay Rent

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day written notice to terminate the tenancy. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if rent isn't paid within seven days.

If the rent is paid within seven days, then tenancy shall continue.  T.C.A. § 66-7-109.(a)(1)

If the tenant is late again in paying rent within six months, the landlord can terminate the tenancy with a written 14 day notice stating the violation (late rent) and termination date. In this case, the tenancy will have to terminate.   T.C.A. § 66-7-109.(a)(3)

Tenant or Related Person Caused Property Damage

If the tenant, tenant's household or tenant's guest caused damage to the property, the landlord can send the tenant a written 14 day notice to terminate the tenancy.

This written notice has to state what are the damage(s) to the property. If the tenant repairs the damage(s) within 14 days, then the tenancy shall continue.  T.C.A. § 66-7-109.(a)(2)

If the tenant (or related) damages the property in a similar manner again within six months, the landlord can terminate the tenancy with a written 14 day notice stating the violation(s) and termination date. In this case, the tenancy will have to terminate.  T.C.A. § 66-7-109.(a)(3)

Tenant Violated Rental Agreement

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement in a significant manner (that affects health and safety), the landlord can send the tenant a written 30 day notice to terminate the tenancy.  T.C.A. § 66-7-109.(b)

Tennessee landlord tenant law requires this notice has to state the tenant's violation(s) and that the tenant has 14 days to correction the violation(s) or else the rental agreement shall terminate in 30 days.  T.C.A. § 66-28-505.(a)

Unlawful Eviction

According to Tennessee landlord tenant law, the landlord CANNOT force the tenant to move out by shutting off utilities (electricity, water, gas, sanitation), changing the locks or taking possession of the property by force without a court hearing.

If the landlord forces the tenant to move out with unlawful methods or shuts off utilities, the tenant can EITHER

  1. regain possession of the property OR
  2. terminate the rental agreement.

If tenant chooses to terminate the rental agreement, the landlord shall have to return any prepaid rents and deposits (after deductions) to the tenant.

In addition, the tenant may also sue the landlord for actual damages, punitive damages plus attorney fees.  T.C.A. § 66-28-504

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Abandonment

When is it Abandonment?

According to Tennessee landlord tenant law T.C.A. § 66-28-405.(a),(b)(1), the tenant has abandoned the property when in ANY of the following situations:

  1. Rent is overdue and tenant has been absent from the property for more than 30 days without notice
  2. Rent is overdue for at least 15 days and tenant has removed most or all of his or her belongings from the property
  3. Rent is overdue for at least 15 days and tenant has deliberately terminated utility services

In situations 2 and 3 above, the landlord has to post a written notice at the rental unit and send a copy of it to the rental address by regular mail.

This notice must include the landlord's phone number, mailing address AND the following details:

  • Landlord believes that the tenant has abandoned the property
  • Landlord intends to retake possession of the property and remove the tenant's belongings unless the tenant contacts him or her within 10 days
  • After taking possession of the property, landlord intends to dispose the tenant's belongings within 30 days if the tenant doesn't claim them back  T.C.A. § 66-28-405.(b)(2)

Once the property is abandoned, the landlord may enter it, clean it, and re-rent it.

Dealing with Abandoned Belongings

The landlord has to remove the tenant's belongings from the rental unit and store them elsewhere for at least 30 days. If the tenant doesn't collect the belongings within 30 days, the landlord can choose to dispose or sell the belongings.  T.C.A. § 66-28-405.(c)

The landlord may use revenue from selling the belongings to pay for the following:

  • Cost of moving and storing the abandoned belongings
  • Cost of advertising and holding the sale
  • Any remaining rent owed or damages that the tenant is responsible for (after deducting from the security deposit first)
  • Attorney fees

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Resources

Tennessee Landlord Tenant Law: Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Tennessee Landlord Tenant Handbook: Your Rights and Duties as a Renter

Tennessee Landlord Tenant FAQ: Tennessee Healthy Homes - Renters FAQ

If you have any questions or need legal advice, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.

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