A Tennessee landlord must follow the Tennessee eviction process in evicting a residential tenant. Only some of the state’s counties, however, are covered by the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA), which has different notice requirements and other items relating to the landlord-tenant relationship.
The 10 counties in which landlords must adhere to the URLTA are Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Madison, Montgomery, Shelby, Sumner and Knox.
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Self-Eviction is Unlawful
A landlord who attempts to forcibly remove a tenant without obtaining a court order may be sued by the tenant for damages. Self-eviction includes acts outside the judicial process that designed to expel a tenant including shutting off essential services like heat and electricity, removing the tenant’s personal property, changing the locks or padlocking the unit or threatening the tenant.
• 30-Day Notice
For the 10 counties covered by the URLTA, a landlord must give a 30-Day eviction notice to a tenant who either has not paid the rent or who has violated some other provision in the lease. This Tennessee eviction notice must advise the tenant of the rent amount owed or the specific lease provision in violation and that the breach can be remedied within a 14-day period or the lease will be cancelled in 30-days and legal action will begin.
The notice of nonpayment may be implied if it is written in the lease agreement. For example, it may state that failure to pay the rent after a certain date constitutes the 30-day notice to vacate.
In cases where there is no written lease, the landlord still must give 30-days notice but no reason needs to be given so long as it is not for a discriminatory reason.
Should the tenant remedy the violation but commits the identical violation again within 6-months of the initial breach, the landlord need only give a 14-day notice to cancel the lease. The landlord need not give the tenant an opportunity to remedy the violation in this instance.
For counties not covered by the URLTA, landlords need only give a a Tennessee eviction notice of 14-days for nonpayment of rent, for committing property damage or for health and safety violations. Other violations such as having unauthorized persons or animals still requires a 30-day notice to quit or comply.
In egregious cases where the tenant has substantially damaged the property or assaulted the landlord or another tenant or has threatened physical violence, or another person living in the household has committed such acts constituting a danger to the health and safety of others, the notice period to vacate is 3-days and Landlord must serve a 3-Day Notice.
In any of these cases, the lease may contain provisions relating to whether notice is implied and what actions will warrant eviction. The provisions must still be reasonable and may not waive any statutory or constitutional rights of a tenant.
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Service of Notice
Any of the Tennessee eviction notices may be served by the landlord personally on the tenant, on a co-tenant, by posting it to the door or by certified mail.
Should the tenant refuse to comply and does not vacate the property, the landlord must go to General Sessions Court or Circuit Court in the county where the property is located to obtain a Detainer Warrant. The warrant is served by the sheriff or process server and may be served personally or by posting it on the rental property door.
If the landlord is requesting money damages along with possession, the Detainer Warrant must be personally served.
The Detainer Warrant advises the tenant of a court date and time, which may not be less than 6 days after service on the tenant, though the parties may request that the trial date be extended. The tenant’s failure to appear on that day will result in a default judgment for the landlord.
An eviction hearing is a trial before a judge. The landlord has the burden of proving that the tenant did not pay the rent when due or that he or she violated a specific provision in the lease. Proper notice must also be proved. Evidence may be presented by providing copies of the lease, notice provided and proof of service, rent receipts, repair estimates, police reports, or witness testimony.
A tenant in the Tennessee eviction process may assert any of the following defenses:
- The breach of a lease provision is not substantial enough to warrant an eviction.
- The lease provision allegedly violated is unreasonable.
- The allegations are false.
- There was improper service.
- The notice period was improper.
- The landlord waived eviction by accepting any part of the rent.
- The landlord had knowledge of the violation but did not complain.
- The landlord failed to remedy a condition hazardous to the tenant’s safety or health or which is in violation of the housing code after having been an opportunity to repair it.
- The eviction is in retaliation for the tenant having filed a complaint regarding the condition of the property or for joining a tenant’s rights organization.
- The eviction is based on the tenant’s religion, race, sex, national origin, creed, age, family status, or disability.
Judgment/ Writ of Possession
If the landlord wins at trial or by default and is granted possession, the tenant has 10-days to vacate the property. The tenant may appeal the decision within the 10-day period. If the tenant still remains after 10-days, the landlord may request the court to issue a Writ of Possession to give to the sheriff to remove the tenant’s property without notice to the tenant on the 11th day after the order was issued, unless it falls on a weekend.
The sheriff does not actually remove the tenant’s possessions, which must be done by the landlord or his or her representatives, but supervises the event and ensures the peace.
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