State Landlord-Tenant Laws For Tennessee

Overview

DEPOSIT

  • No deposit limt.
  • Landlords in Tennessee are required by law to store a tenant’s security deposits in a separate account.
  • Landlords can deduct repairs beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent and utilities and fees for early termination or cleaning.
  • Landlords must provide and itemized list of any deposit deductions.
  • Landlords are not required to pay interest.

RENT INCREASE LAWS

  • No rent control laws.
  • Landlords must give 30 days notice when increasing rent on a month to month lease.
  • Landlords must give 60 days notice when increasing rent on an annual lease.

NOTICES

  • There's no statute regarding notices before entry, but generally, landlords are required to give at least 24 hours notice before entering an occupied property.

RE-KEYING LAWS

  • No statute.

RENTAL AGREEMENT

  • Both oral and written rental agreements are accepted in Tennessee for leases of less than 3 years.
  • It is always advisable to have a written lease.

LATE FEES & GRACE PERIODS

  • The maximum late fee amount that a landlord may charge is 10% of the rent.
  • While not required, it is best practice to include late fees in the lease agreement.

SMOKING LAWS

  • No statute.

PET LAWS

  • Pet deposits, non-refundable pet fees, and/or monthly pet premiums are allowed.

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1. Tennessee Landlord-Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

Tennessee has some rights and responsibilities that are conferred on both landlords and tenants to govern their relationship during a lease agreement. These rights and responsibilities are defined in the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

Below is an overview of some of the landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities in the state of Tennessee. 

Tenant’s Rights and Responsibilities

Rights

  • Tenants in Tennessee are entitled to a quiet and livable property. 
  • Tenants in Tennessee are entitled to timely repairs, depending on where the rental is located, 14 days after giving written notification to the landlord. 
  • Tenants in Tennessee are entitled to a court order compelling the landlord to create a livable space or to sue for the expense of repairs. 
  • Tenants in Tennessee are entitled to a 24-hour notice from the landlord in case the owner wishes to exhibit the apartment in the last 30 days of the lease. 
  • Tenants in Tennessee have the right to file a lawsuit if the landlord breaks the terms of the rental agreement.
  • Tenants in Tennessee are protected from discriminatory or retaliatory evictions.
  • Tenants in Tennessee are legally permitted to end a lease early for acceptable reasons.

Responsibilities

  • Tennessee tenants are required to keep the rented space safe and free from dangers.
  • Tennessee tenants are expected to respect all housing and security laws. 
  • Tennessee tenants are required to observe the cleanliness standards set forth by the landlord. 
  • Tennessee tenants are expected to avoid involvement in illegal activities. 
  • Tennessee tenants are required to refrain from purposefully damaging or defacing any area of the property. 
  • Tennessee tenants are expected to avoid causing disturbances to other renters or neighbors. 
  • Tennessee tenants are required each month to pay rent on time and any late fines that may apply.  

Landlord’s Rights and Responsibilities

Rights

  • Landlords in Tennessee have the right to collect rent when it is due. 
  • Landlords in Tennessee have the right to enter the rental property for maintenance, showings, and inspections, with proper prior notice given to tenants. 
  • Landlords in Tennessee have the right to deduct as much of the security deposit as is permitted. 
  • Landlords in Tennessee have the right to evict a tenant; however, it must be done legally and in accordance with Tennessee eviction regulations. 
  • Landlords in Tennessee have the right to raise the rent without giving notice.

Responsibilities

  • Tennessee landlords are required to provide tenants with a safe and habitable space to live.
  • Tennessee landlords are expected to observe the eviction process and laws specified by Tennessee landlord-tenant legislation. 
  • Tennessee landlords are required to return the security deposit to the tenant within 60 days after the rental agreement expires. 
  • Tennessee landlords are expected to maintain the state of the property by carrying out regular upkeep and taking quick care of any necessary repairs. 

Source: Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act § 66-28-101 | Tennessee Supreme Court, Renters - TN.gov.

Required Notices Before Entry

Are landlords in Tennessee required to give notice before entering the property?

There is no legal requirement for a landlord to give notice before entering the property. It is advisable to have a notification system agreed upon with the tenant, though. Within the final 30 days of the lease, the landlord is required to give a 24-hour notice if they wish to enter.

Are landlords allowed to enter the property to conduct maintenance and repairs?

Yes. In Tennessee, landlords are permitted access to their rental properties for upkeep, repairs, and inspections. Unless there is an emergency, they normally need the tenant's consent to enter. Tenants are also not allowed to stop landlords from taking action when due notice has been given. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-403(a))

Late Fee for Rent in Tennessee

Tennessee permits late fees; however, the maximum amount that a landlord may collect is 10% of the rent. Also, Tennessee landlords are urged to include late fees in their lease agreements, even though they are not required to. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-201(d))

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2. Tennessee Rent Increase Laws

There's no statewide rent control law in the state of Tennessee. Additionally, state law prohibits counties and local governments from enacting their own rent control regulations. This implies that landlords are free to increase rent at any time, for any reason, and in any amount.

Notice Required to Raise Rent in Tennessee

Landlords in Tennessee are required to comply with the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which is applicable to:

  • Month-to-month lease: to provide a 30-day notice before raising rent. 
  • Yearly lease: to provide a 60-day notice to the tenant.

Limitations on Tennessee Rent Increase Laws

  • Unless the lease agreement expressly permits it, landlords in Tennessee cannot raise rent during the lease term. 
  • Additionally, landlords are prohibited from raising rent in retaliation for a tenant filing a complaint, requesting maintenance, or exercising any other legal or contractually allowed rights, nor from discriminating against federally protected classes.

Source: Federal Fair Housing, Tennessee Fair Housing Council.

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2. Tennessee Rental Agreement Laws

The Tennessee Code Annotated (Title 66) and the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act contain regulations for Tennessee tenants and landlords regarding rental agreements. 

Are Written Leases Required In Tennessee?

In Tennessee, both written and oral rental agreements are acceptable. A verbal lease agreement between you and a tenant is legally binding. However, written agreements are typically necessary if the lease extends beyond three years.

While an oral lease might be convenient, a written lease provides a valuable reference point for both you and your tenant in case any questions or disputes arise. (Tenn Code Ann. § 66-7-109)

Tennessee Rental Agreement Requirements

While a landlord may include as many clauses as they deem appropriate, there is a list of general guidelines that apply to every case. 

The following is a summary of the contents of a Tennessee rental agreement:

  • Description of the leased property.
  • Information about all the people involved in the lease.
  • Rent conditions (Late fees, grace period, increases, etc.)
  • Security deposits.
  • Miscellaneous clauses are required by the landlord.

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4. Tennessee Tenant Deposit Laws

Tennessee landlord-tenant law allows landlords to demand security deposits from their renters. These security deposits can be used to cover unanticipated costs like damages beyond typical wear and tear, unpaid rent, and insurance against any breaches of the lease.

What is the Maximum Deposit Limit in Tennessee?

There are no restrictions on the amount of security deposit a landlord can request from their tenant, according to Tennessee security deposit laws. However, in most cases, landlords charge the equivalent of one month’s rent, which is the standard. This amount should be enough to cover average financial damages. (Tenn. Code Ann. §66-28-301)

Can Landlords Charge a Pet Deposit in Tennessee?

Tennessee does not have a statute on pet deposits. Landlords are free to request an extra pet deposit on top of the standard deposit from tenants who want to keep pets on their rental property. 

Also, there’s no cap on how much a landlord can demand for pet deposits. However, the amount is expected to be reasonable. It’s important to note that tenants who have service animals are exempt from paying such fees, under the Fair Housing Act. 

What Can Landlords Deduct From the Deposit in Tennessee?

Tenant deposit laws in Tennessee allow landlords to retain a portion or all of their tenant’s security deposit for the following reasons:

  • to make up for overdue rent.
  • to compensate for severe damage to property beyond typical wear and tear.
  • to pay any outstanding utility bills.
  • to compensate for infringements on the rental agreement or lease by the tenant.

Landlords are required to submit an itemized list of damage/charges that are being deducted from the tenant’s security deposit before they vacate. Also, they are required to provide an advanced notice of withholding to this effect. (Tenn. Code Ann. §66-28-301(b)(2))

How Must Landlord’s Store Deposits in Tennessee? 

Landlords in Tennessee are required by law to store a tenant’s security deposits in a separate account. However, it’s mandated that either Tennessee state or federal law must regulate the financial institution where it would be housed. 

It’s also important to note that the landlord may lose all right to retain a portion of the security deposit if it is not stored in accordance with these guidelines. (Tenn. Code Ann. §66-28-301(a))

How Long Do Landlords Have To Return a Deposit in Tennessee?

After a renter moves out, Tennessee landlords have between thirty and sixty days to return the security deposit—or whatever's left of it. However, the tenant also reserves the right to contest any deductions made by the landlord in court.

Additionally, landlords are required to make a reasonable effort to ascertain the tenant's new address if they do not respond to the refund within sixty days of notification. After this happens, the tenant forfeits the remaining amount without liability.

Security Deposit Interest

Landlords are no longer required by Tennessee law to hold a tenant's security deposit in an interest-bearing account. This will only be applicable if it is stipulated in the lease or rental agreement and both you and your tenant have approved it in writing. 

Source: Tenn. Code Ann. §66-28-301

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5. Tennessee Eviction Laws & Notices

Grounds for Eviction in Tennessee

Landlords can start the Tennessee eviction process in accordance with the state's eviction laws for the following reasons.

Nonpayment of rent

Not making rent payments on time is one of the most frequent grounds for eviction. A rent is considered late in Tennessee if it's not paid within five days of the due date. 

Before a landlord can initiate an eviction process because of nonpayment of rent, the renter is entitled to a 14-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This allows the tenant a grace period of 14 days to make up the unpaid rent. 

The eviction procedure is stopped and the tenant is allowed to stay in the rental property if they pay the entire sum during this notice time. If not, the landlord can proceed with the eviction process.

(Tenn. Code § 66-7-109 (2022))

Illegal activity on the property

Since it is against the terms of the rental agreement, engaging in unlawful activity on the property is grounds for eviction in Tennessee. These pursuits may consist of:

  • Assault
  • Drug-related offenses
  • Murder
  • Theft
  • Other criminal activity that jeopardizes the property's or other renters' safety.

However, the landlord is required by law to provide the renter a three-day Tennessee notice to quit in such circumstances. 

Tenants have three days from the date of this eviction notice to leave the premises. If the tenant stays on the property after this time, the landlord has the right to bring an eviction lawsuit.

Violating the lease agreement

There are some actions that go against the terms of the rental agreement that can be considered lease violations. Among them are: 

  • breaking housing codes or causing damage to the rental unit's plumbing or electrical systems 
  • Keeping unapproved pets in the rented property 
  • smoking within no-smoking zones, and 
  • exceeding the leasing agreement's maximum occupancy limit 

For curable infractions on lease agreement, the landlord is required to give the tenant a 14-Day Notice to Cure or Quit to remedy the breach. However, in cases of persistent infractions, the landlord may serve the tenant with a 14-Day Notice to Quit, which would force them to leave the premises or risk being sued for eviction.

(Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-501

Non-renewal of the lease

A landlord has the right to serve a tenant with a 30-day notice to quit if they continue to occupy the rental property after their signed lease expires without renewing it. 

With this notice, the tenant has thirty days to make arrangements for a new lease or to move out. The landlord may file an eviction case if the tenant refuses to comply with or quit the leased property.

Tennessee Eviction Notice

A landlord must give a tenant written notice of the lease termination thirty days in advance of trying to evict them. However, in the absence of a lease agreement, the landlord may request the renter to vacate at any moment by giving written notice. 

Tennessee Eviction Process

Tenant eviction is a legal procedure that requires following certain guidelines provided by Tennessee eviction laws. It's imperative that landlords closely adhere to these procedures in order to guarantee a seamless and legal eviction. 

Below is a detailed explanation of the process of evicting a tenant in Tennessee. 

Serve a notice 

Serving the tenant with an official notice outlining the grounds for eviction is the first stage in the eviction procedure. 

Landlords are required to provide the renter with a proper Tennessee eviction notice, such as a 3-day Tennessee notice to quit for illegal activity or health and safety issues, or a 14-day notice to pay for nonpayment of rent, depending on the precise basis for eviction.

Wait for the tenant to fix the problem or leave

The Tennessee eviction law provides the tenant with a set amount of time to either fix the problem—such as paying past-due rent or fixing lease violations—or vacate the rental property voluntarily after the eviction notice is sent.

File a complaint

The next course of action is to file a complaint with the relevant court if the renter disregards the notice and continues to occupy the property. The complaint ought to specify the grounds for eviction, the dates on which notice was given, and any corroborating documentation. Be ready to pay the $351 average filing and court expenses in Tennessee.

Serve the tenant

A copy of the complaint and a summons to appear in court must be delivered to the tenant officially after it is filed. These documents may be served in person, by mail, or by any other means permitted by Tennessee law.

Go to court

During the prearranged eviction hearing, the tenant has the opportunity to address the complaint in court. The court will hear arguments and evidence from the property manager and the tenant, and then provide a decision based on the merits of the case.

The tenant is removed, and the landlord gains possession of the property

A judgment for possession will be issued and the tenant will be granted a certain period of time (typically 10 days) to quit the property voluntarily if the judge rules in favor of the landlord. 

According to Tennessee eviction rules, the landlord may ask for a Writ of Possession if the tenant doesn't vacate the property within the allotted period. This allows police enforcement to take the renter and their belongings from the leased property.

Source: Eviction Tennessee | U.S. Army Garrisons (.mil)

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6. Tennessee Rental Application Laws

There are no set restrictions on the amount of money landlords in Tennessee may collect for rental application fees. However, the fees are expected to be fair. Also, they should only go toward paying the true expenses associated with the tenant screening procedure. 

According to Tennessee rental application law, tenants must be informed and give written approval to their landlords before tenant screening background checks can be conducted. The following are a few background checks that are permitted for Tennessee rental applications:

  • Criminal background and registration of sexual offenders
  • History of housing, rentals, and evictions
  • Evidence of earnings and credit history
  • Work experience

It’s important to note that landlords are prohibited from requesting any information that can be seen as discriminatory during Tennessee rental applications. They are expected to operate within the confines of both federal and Tennessee fair housing laws.

Additionally, landlords are required to respect applicants' privacy and handle tenant screening information carefully. This entails implementing the necessary safeguards to protect the data gathered throughout the screening procedure. 

Source: The Tennessee Human Rights Act

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7. Breaking a Lease in Tennessee

Notice Requirements for Breaking a Lease

Tenants on period lease agreements are always required to give notice to their landlords before breaking the lease. Here are the required notices: 

Additionally, tenants can either choose to serve the notice in person or send it via email to the landlord. 

Valid Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Tennessee

Below are some of the legal grounds for breaking a lease in Tennessee.

Early Termination Clause

Tenants may be able to end a lease early under Tennessee law if the lease agreement contains an early termination language that specifies the circumstances in which the lease may be terminated early.

Active Military Duty

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects tenants from penalties if they are summoned to active military duty and permits them to dissolve the lease.

Uninhabitable Rental Property

Tenants have the right to end the contract if, regrettably, serious privacy violations or other important factors render the rental property unfit.

Harassment or Privacy Violation

Tenants who experience harassment from their landlord may file a lawsuit against them, demanding damages and possibly even ending the lease if the harassment continues. Comparably, invasions of privacy, including breaking into a rented property without permission or spying on someone else, can be grounds for a tenant's rights to be violated and the end of a lease.

Unjustifiable Reasons to End a Rental Agreement in Tennessee

Several factors might not be sufficient on their own to release a tenant from their obligation to make payments. Among the most popular ones are:

  • Relocating in order to be near a spouse, family member, or friend.
  • Relocating to live with a close friend or partner.
  • Improving or decreasing the value of the asset.
  • Purchasing a new home.
  • Criminal activity in the neighborhood.
  • Moving to a new job or school.
  • Relocating due to a divorce or separation.

Source:Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) | United States Courts, § 66-28-403, § 66-28-304, § 66-28-512, § 66-28-507, § 66-28-502

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8. HOA Laws in Tennessee

Below are some Tennessee HOA laws that govern the creation and operation of HOAs in the state.

The Tennessee Homeowners Association Act

Legislators in Tennessee are now debating bill SB405, which would regulate HOA management and operations. Since the rules are still being examined, Tennessee homeowners' associations are not yet obligated by any of these regulations. 

However, as is the case with most HOAs in Tennessee, organizations that are established as non-profits will be subject to the Tennessee Nonprofit Corporation Act.

The Tennessee Condominium Act

This statute covers all condominiums constructed in Tennessee after January 1, 2009, and it also covers those condominiums constructed before that date.

The Tennessee Horizontal Property Act

This law governs condominium associations that were established prior to January 1st, 2009.

The Tennessee Nonprofit Corporation Act

The regulations for business organization and management set forth in this legislation apply to all non-profit corporations in Tennessee. Most HOAs in Tennessee are organized as non-profit entities. 

The Freedom of Speech Act

Homeowners' associations are prohibited by the Freedom of Speech Act from restricting the placement of political signs or posters on privately owned land. Owners' groups, however, have the authority to set reasonable rules regarding the location and size of these signs.

Sources

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9. Squatters Rights in Tennessee

According to TN Code § 28-2-109 and 28-2-101, a squatter must fulfill one of the following requirements in order to successfully file a claim for adverse possession in Tennessee: 

  • Take up residence on the land and maintain property taxes for a minimum of two decades. 
  • Take up residence on the land with color of title for a minimum of seven years in a row. 

After just seven years of continuous occupation, squatters in Tennessee are only required to have the color of title in order to assert adverse possession. 

If not, the squatter will have to wait out the full twenty-year required occupation period. Nevertheless, keep in mind that this alternative also requires paying property taxes in order to obtain legal ownership. 

Adverse possession laws also impose five general obligations on squatters: 

  • Hostile/Adverse Possession: There must be no active lease or rental arrangement between the squatter and the owner.  
  • Actual Possession: The squatter needs to have occupied the land for a specific amount of time.  
  • Open and Notorious Possession: It is clear to neighbors and other people that the squatter has taken possession of the land. They are not attempting to live there "in secret" or cover their tracks.  
  • Exclusive Possession: No one else has joint possession of the land with the squatter. They keep others from residing there in the same manner as the owner.  
  • Continuous Possession: To get Tennessee squatters rights, the squatter must possess the land continuously and unhindered for 20 years.

Source: Tennessee Code

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10. Tennessee Landlord Tenant Legal Resources

Below, you’ll find some helpful Tennessee landlord–tenant law resources:

Documents and Forms

Tennessee Legal

Helpful Legal Resources

Find Tennessee Legal Aid

Find an Attorney

DISCLAIMER: This article is designed to convey information, and not to provide legal advice. You should not consider any information in this article to be legal advice. Readers should consider obtaining specific legal advice from an attorney for any decision or course of action contemplated.