The eviction process can differ from county to county, but they more or less are the same:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping on the part of the landlord to avoid errors that could be exploited by the tenant, especially the history of rent payments.
It is advised that both landlord and tenant must read their lease thoroughly and clarify everything before signing on the dotted line. The lease can often make or break an eviction lawsuit.
Filing an eviction takes time and patience. Going to court may be a long and tedious experience for a landlord who handles multiple rental properties.
It is also advised that a landlord should try to work things out with a tenant outside court. It is only in extreme cases when a landlord resorts to file for official eviction proceedings.
Good landlord-tenant relations certainly makes the whole eviction process easier because there is more mediation and less arguing. It can also save everyone from showing up to court.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your justice court to make sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.
Landlords may also ask for legal advice from an attorney.
In the state of Tennessee, a landlord can evict a tenant for multiple reasons. A lot of these factors rely on the lease terms stipulated in their written contract.
In most cases, the first step to every eviction is that the landlord must provide the tenant an official Notice to Quit. The number of days associated with the Notice to Quit will depend on the reason for eviction.
The notice must comply with the rules stated in The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of Tennessee.
One of the notice requirements in a Notice to Quit is how many days tenants can remain on the property before they face an eviction hearing in front of a judge. The notice must state that the tenant has violated a term and the notice must be given to the tenant by the landlord before proceeding with an eviction lawsuit.
No matter the reason for eviction, the landlord cannot do a self-help eviction, which is an illegal form of eviction that is considered disorderly conduct on the part of the landlord.
The reason for eviction can range from non-payment of rent to non-renewal of the lease terms. Below are the basic rules and regulations when it comes to evicting a tenant in Tennessee.
1. Notice requirements for failure to pay rent or non-payment of rent
The most common reason for eviction is the failure to make a timely rent payment. A landlord can evict a tenant for failing to pay the rent due.
Rent is considered late in Tennessee 5 days past its due. This means a tenant may still catch up on rent within a 5-day period.
For example, if rent is normally due on the 25th, then it is considered late if rent still has not been paid by the 30th. However, an extended grace period that gives more time to pay rent due may be available if indicated in the lease/rental agreement.
Before a landlord can start with the eviction lawsuit for failing to pay rent, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written eviction form called a 14-Day Notice to Pay.
This notice informs the renters that are required to move out of the property or pay the rent within 14 days in order to avoid eviction.
If tenants who are being evicted for failing to pay rent on time manage to pay all rental payments in full to the landlord before the 14 days are up, the entire eviction process stops and they can continue staying within the rental premises.
2. Notice requirements for a violation of the lease/rental agreement
A lease agreement can vary between tenants. Landlords and tenants are required to uphold the terms of the lease agreement at all times.
The landlord can evict the tenant for a lease violation in Tennessee. The landlord must provide the tenant a written notice called a 14-Day Notice to Comply which gives the tenant 14 days to pay the costs associated with repairing their lease violation.
However, if the violation is incurable by paying for repairs, a landlord is not legally obligated to let a tenant fix it. Should this be the case, the landlord must give the tenant notice called a 14-Day Notice to Quit, giving the tenant time to vacate the property within 14 days.
Lease violations include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Falsely claiming to need a service animal
- Too many people are living inside the rental unit
- Housing a pet in a pet-free rental unit or rental premises, etc.
The landlord may continue filing for an eviction lawsuit if the tenant fails to pay for repairs and/or remains inside the rental unit after the given notice period. The tenant must vacate or else they face an eviction lawsuit.
3. Notice requirements for conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal activity on the rental premises of a Tennessee property, the landlord must give them a written notice called a 3-Day Notice to Quit to move out of the property.
An example of illegal activity is committing violence which threatens the health and safety of other people residing within the rental property.
Should the tenant remain on the rental premises after their notice period ends, the landlord may continue to file an eviction lawsuit.
4. Notice requirements for a material health or safety violation
Tennessee law takes into account the health, building, safety, and housing codes.
Should the rental unit violate a housing code or any other codes and fails any health and safety inspections, the landlord must issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit and allow the tenant a 3 day period to vacate the property.
If the tenant is unable to vacate the rental unit within 3 days, then the landlord may continue filing for an eviction lawsuit.
Violations under this could include:
- Not throwing out the trash for long periods of time, inviting bugs and/or rodents.
- Damaging the electrical wiring of a unit
- Ruining the plumbing fixtures of a unit
5. Notice requirements for the non-renewal of lease after the end of the rental period
A Tennessee eviction process does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without good cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules from their lease, they can stay until their rental period ends.
However, a tenant may be evicted if they stay in the property even a day after their written lease ends (and have not arranged for a renewal).
This type of eviction notice usually only applies if the landlord wants to end the tenant's lease. The required notice time given to a tenant by the landlord must depend on the tenant's tenancy type or their lease and could be either a 10-Day Notice to Quit or a 30-Day Notice to Quit
Should the tenant remain in the rental premises even after their notice period ends, the landlord may continue to file for eviction proceedings in order to evict the tenant from the property.
Want to generate your own Tennessee lease agreement? Simply head over to DoorLoop's Forms Page and download a template today!
Filing a Complaint
After the notice period has passed, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit. Successful evictions rely on correct filings, so the landlord must file all the forms correctly in the right court (circuit court or general sessions court).
1. Steps in filing
- Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to. This could be a circuit court or a general sessions court.
- Fill out the forms
- Pay the filing costs. This can go as high as $140, which is the cost of filing fees in Knox County.
It takes between 3-30 days before a landlord can file a complaint.
Notice to Comply
Before filing for an eviction with the court, you need to issue the tenant a notice to comply. You can either download the free PDF or Word template, or create your Tennessee eviction notice from here using a step-by-step wizard that guides you through the entire process to make sure you are submitting the legally correct notice.
Keep in mind, the step-by-step wizard will ask you to pay a small fee at the end - it's a small price to pay to ensure legal compliance and protection. The last thing you want is to go to court only to find out you did the first process incorrect.
Serving the Tenant
The next step in a Tennessee eviction is the service of the Summons and Complaint to the tenant. The commonly used term for a Summons and Complaint in the state of Tennessee is a Detainer Warrant.
The landlord must not serve this document themselves. The document should contain information such as the date and time of the court trial.
The eviction process in Tennessee allows a professional process server or a peace officer to serve the document. It has to be delivered at least 6 days before the eviction hearing is scheduled if the method used is posting or mailing.
1. How to serve documents to a tenant
The Detainer Warrant has to be served through one of the following methods:
- Personal Service: The Detainer Warrant is served to the tenant or anyone residing with them in person
- Posting Service: A copy of the Detainer Warrant is left in a secure and visible position by the entrance to the tenant’s rented property.
- Mailing Service: The server mails the documents via certified mail or first-class mail.
2. After serving the Summons and Complaint
An answer is not required from the tenant for an eviction hearing to be held. They only have to show up to the hearing. Either the landlord or the tenant may request a continuance of not more than 15 days.
The Summons and Complaint must be served at least 6 days before the scheduled eviction hearing if it was served by posting or mailing. A continuance can be requested that lasts no longer than 15 days.
If you want to learn more about Tennessee's landlord-tenant laws, make sure to visit DoorLoop's Complete Guide to Tennessee's Landlord-Tenant Laws for more information.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
In a Tennessee eviction, the landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against their tenant in order to win. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord may win by default.
A tenant can file an appeal even if the landlord has already won.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and filed an answer
During the court hearing in an eviction process in Tennessee, the landlord has to support their claim with evidence and show it to the judge. This includes, but is not limited by the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease/rental agreement
- Rent receipts
- Rent ledgers
- Bank statements
- Witness statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations committed by the tenant
An eviction hearing is scheduled at least 6 days after the tenant received the Detainer Warrant.
An eviction hearing takes place at least 6 days after the tenant receives the Summons and Complaint. Tenants have 10 days to file an appeal once judgment is passed in favor of the landlord.
1. After the landlord wins the case and gets a Writ of Assistance
Once the landlord wins a Tennessee eviction and provided the tenant does not file for an appeal or reconsideration, the court will issue a Writ of Possession 10 days after the judgment is issued.
The Writ of Possession is a court order which informs the tenant that they must move out of their housing on the property or else they will be forcibly evicted.
2. Move out process
This final step in the eviction process in Tennessee is to move the tenant out of their home on the property. Tennessee laws dictate that a tenant must vacate the property before the Writ of Possession is issued because once law enforcement officers receive the Writ, they must execute it immediately.
No grace period is given in Tennessee state. Only the appropriate law enforcement officers are allowed to forcibly remove a tenant from the property.
The state of Tennessee requires a landlord to store any property left behind by the tenant for 30 days. Tenants should be free to reclaim their property during that period.
If they fail to reclaim the property within that timeframe, the landlord can get rid of it however they see fit within state laws. Any money earned by the landlord for selling the tenant’s belongings can be used to cover unpaid rent and any other outstanding costs.
The Writ of Possession is issued 10 days after the landlord wins the case and it is executed immediately once the law enforcement officials receive it. Any personal belongings left by the tenant is kept for 30 days.
Tennessee Eviction Process Timeline
On average, it takes 4-8 weeks for a complete eviction process in the state of Tennessee.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This can possibly become very hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every possible document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it can still be beneficial to show that the tenant was aware of the situation and that they had time to solve the problem. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, you can be confident that the court will rule in your favor.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
1. What is a self-help eviction?
Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant’s belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity. Tennessee state laws specify how much money a tenant can sue for if the landlord has tried to illegally evict the tenant through some sort of self-help measure. Some state laws also provide for tenant's court costs and attorneys' fees (if the tenant successfully sues the landlord) and/or give the tenant the right to stay in the rental unit.
2. Can I force a tenant to move out in Tennessee?
In almost every state in the US, a landlord must never try to force a tenant to move out of the rental unit. The tenant can only be removed from a rental unit after the landlord has successfully won an eviction lawsuit. Even then, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a sheriff or constable. Tennessee law has made it illegal for a landlord to personally remove the tenant from the rental unit.
3. What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to California Civil Code, you may be liable for the Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant can also sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
4. What other laws should I be aware of?
Tennessee landlords should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of Tennessee, especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. There may be eviction moratoriums.
On top of eviction moratoriums, there may be stricter rent control policies brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local governments have implemented strict measures to protect the rights of tenants who are experiencing hardships.
It is also wise for Tennessee landlords to check out laws on a Security Deposit. The security deposit can also protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay rent.
On top of that, Tennessee landlords must familiarize themselves with the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which contains the laws on Tennessee code on evictions.
Can you kick someone out without an eviction notice in Tennessee?
No. The landlord cannot force a tenant to move out without an eviction notice. They could be convicted for forceful eviction of a tenant in Tennessee if they skip the proper eviction processes and fail to give the tenant an eviction notice.
A landlord engaging in self-help eviction may be sued for actual punitive damages. The landlord must comply with the eviction process all the time so as to avoid getting sued for forceful evictions.
Even if a landlord has won a case, they must wait for the court order called a Writ of Assistance for the appropriate law enforcement to remove the tenant from the rental premises.
Which eviction methods are considered illegal?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
In addition to self-help eviction, evictions made due to retaliation or racial discrimination are not allowed. The following acts fall under this category:
- The landlord attempts to evict the tenant for reporting the landlord to the authorities for failing to perform their landlord duties
- Landlord duties include repairing any problems in the rental unit, forwarding utility fees to the proper authorities, keeping the rental property up to date on housing and safety codes, etc.
- The landlord attempts to evict the tenant because the tenant is involved in a tenant union or organization.
- The landlord attempts to evict the tenant because of the tenant’s involvement with the LGBTQ+ community.
- The landlord attempts to evict the tenant because of the tenant’s race or racial background.
What is a Limited Liability Company?
Otherwise known as an LLC, a limited liability company is basically a corporation or company that owns an entire property. If a company that is considered an LLC takes part in an eviction proceeding, then an attorney is required in order to represent it.
What is the difference between a general sessions court and a circuit court?
Simply put, a general sessions court is usually where most minor evictions begin. It has the jurisdiction to dismiss or decide upon minor misdemeanor cases or if need be, it can raise the matter to the grand jury in more complicated cases.
Cases discussed in a general sessions court can include traffic violations, orders for protection, initial or preliminary eviction hearings, etc.
Meanwhile, a circuit court is where an eviction case ends up in if it involves any form of compensation for damages to a certain amount (usually more than $25,000). A variety of cases can end up in a circuit court and in the case of eviction, this is where monetary disputes are usually settled.
Should I get a lawyer for my eviction hearing?
Hiring a lawyer is an option for a landlord who can afford it. A lawyer can offer many benefits. First off, they can take care of the entire process for you so that all you'd have to do is show up to the eviction hearing.
A lawyer can assist individuals in understanding the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of the state of Tennessee. Other relevant information such as laws about the security deposit, housing code, the Tennessee code itself, etc. can be gleaned by consulting a lawyer.
However, if your property is under an LLC, then you are required to hire an attorney to represent you during the eviction proceedings.
- Free Downloadable Forms
- eForms: Tennessee Eviction Notice Forms
- iProperty Management: Tennessee Eviction Process
- Legal Templates: Tennessee Eviction Notice
- National Apartment Association: COVID-19 Information for Tennessee
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in Tennessee: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- The Balance SMB: 7 Basics of Tennessee’s Security Deposit Act