Tennessee
Eviction Process

The CDC issued a halt on evictions until Dec. 31 for qualifying renters. Click here

Timeline. Evicting a tenant in Tennessee can take around 4-8 weeks, depending on the reason for the eviction. If tenants file an appeal, the process can take longer (read more).

Questions? To chat with a Tennessee eviction attorney, Click here

Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in Tennessee.

Step 1: Notice is Posted

Landlords in Tennessee can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:

  1. Nonpayment of Rent – Once rent is past due, notice must be served giving the tenant the option to pay rent in order to avoid eviction.
  2. Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – If a tenant violates a provision of a written lease/rental agreement, the landlord may not be required to give the tenant the opportunity to correct the issue before moving forward with the eviction process.
  3. No Lease / End of Lease Term (Tenant at Will) – If there is no lease or the term of the lease has ended, the landlord does not need any additional reason to end the tenancy as long as proper notice is given.
  4. Material Health / Safety Violation – If the tenant violates a health, building, safety, or housing code, they must be given written notice before the landlord begins an eviction action.
  5. Illegal Activity – If a tenant is engaged in illegal activity, notice must be served prior to beginning an eviction action.
NOTES
  • Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property.
  • Evicting a Squatter. If the individual occupying the property didn’t have the landlord’s permission when moving in, doesn’t have a lease/verbal agreement, and has no history of paying rent, then they’re considered an “unauthorized occupant” and must receive 3 days’ notice prior to being evicted (read more).

Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.

Eviction Process for Nonpayment of Rent

A landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.

According to Tennessee law, rent is considered late once it’s 5 days past-due.

Once rent is late, the landlord must provide tenants with a 14-Day Notice to Pay if the landlord wants to file an eviction action with the court. This notice gives the tenant the option to pay the past due amount in full within 14 days in order to avoid eviction.

If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the notice period and remains on the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement

A tenant can be evicted in Tennessee if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease/rental agreement.

Tennessee landlords are not required to allow tenants to correct a lease violation unless the breach can be corrected by paying an amount to cover damages/repairs. In those cases, the payment must be received within 14 days of the date the Notice was given to the tenant.

Otherwise, landlords must provide tenants with a 14-Day Notice to Quit, giving the tenant 14 days to move out of the rental property in order to avoid eviction.

Typical lease violations under this category could include things like damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, and having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy.

In addition, falsely claiming to need a service animal also falls under this category.

Note that illegal activity is not included under lease violations.

If the tenant fails to pay for damages/repairs within the deadline or, if the issue can’t be corrected by making a payment, remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease

In the state of Tennessee, if tenants “hold over,” or stay in the rental unit after the rental term has expired, then the landlord must give tenants notice before evicting them. This can include tenants without a written lease and week-to-week and month-to-month tenants.

Often this type of eviction applies to tenants who are at the end of their lease and the landlord doesn’t want to renew.

The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy.

  • Week-to-week – If rent is paid on a week-to-week basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit.
  • Month-to-month – If rent is paid on a month-to-month basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Material Health / Safety Violation

A tenant can be evicted in Tennessee if they violate a health, building, safety, or housing code.
In these instances, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Quit, giving the tenant 3 days to move out of the rental unit in order to avoid eviction.

Examples of material health/safety violations could include letting trash pile up inside the rental unit, providing a harbor for rodents or bugs, or even things like damaging the electrical wiring in the rental unit.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may continue with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Illegal Activity

Tenants who are involved in illegal activity must be given 3 days’ notice before the landlord can proceed with an eviction action.

In Tennessee, illegal activity includes :

  • Willfully/intentionally committing a violent act
  • Endangering/threatening to endanger the health/safety/welfare of others or their property

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Questions? To chat with a Tennessee eviction attorney, Click here

Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served

As the next step in the eviction process, Tennessee landlords must file a complaint in the appropriate court. In Knox County, this costs $139.50 in filing fees.

The summons and complaint may be served on the tenant by the sheriff, constable, or a private process server prior to the hearing through one of the following methods:

  1. Giving a copy to the tenant (or anyone else on the rental property) in person
  2. Posting a copy in a conspicuous place on the rental unit 6 days prior to the hearing AND mailing a copy via regular mail
  3. Mailing a copy via certified mail

6 days. If the summons and complaint are served by posting and mailing via first class mail, they must be served 6 days prior to the hearing.

Step 3: Court Hearing and Judgment

The eviction hearing must be held at least 6 days after the summons and complaint are served on the tenant. However, either party can request a 15-day postponement.

If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, the judicial officer may issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord, meaning the tenant will have to move out.

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of possession will be issued and the eviction process will continue.

If tenants file an appeal, this will add more time to the process.

6 days. The eviction hearing will be held at least 6 days after the summons is served on the tenant.

Step 4: Writ of Possession is Issued

The writ of possession is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit, and gives them the opportunity to remove their belongings before law enforcement officials return to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.

The writ of possession cannot be issued until 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord. This gives tenants time to file an appeal if they wish.

10 days. The writ will be issued 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.

Step 5: Possession of Property is Returned

Once law enforcement officials receive the writ of possession, they must remove tenants from the rental unit immediately . There is no grace period under Tennessee law.

Immediately. The tenant must move out immediately once they are given the writ of possession.

Questions? To chat with a Tennessee eviction attorney, Click here

Tennessee Eviction Process Timeline

Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in Tennessee. With that being said, these estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.

  1. Initial Notice Period – between 3 and 30 days, depending on the notice type and reason for eviction.
  2. Issuance/Service of Summons and Complaint – 6 days, depending on the service method.
  3. Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – 6 days after the summons is served on the tenant.
  4. Issuance of Writ of Possession – 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.
  5. Return of Possession – immediately.

Flowchart of Tennessee Eviction Process

For additional questions about the eviction process in Tennessee, please refer to the official legislation, Tennessee Code §66-28 and §29-18, for more information.