Tennessee Eviction Process

Last Updated: November 10, 2021 by Elizabeth Souza

Timeline. Evicting a tenant in Tennessee can take around four to eight 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

Introduction. Tennessee landlords may pursue an eviction lawsuit if they have legal reason to do so. Notice requirements are slightly different depending on the size of the county in Tennessee. 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 to avoid eviction.
  2. Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – If a tenant violates a provision of a written lease or 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 if 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 three days’ notice prior to being evicted (read more).
  • Notice Requirements.  In Tennessee, notice requirements vary slightly depending on the size of the county.  If there are more than 75,000 residents in a county, landlords should follow the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of Tennessee. If the county has less than 75,000 people, landlords should follow Tennessee Code for a lawful eviction case.

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 five 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 to avoid eviction. If the rental premises is in a county with over 75,000 people, the notice may be waived, but only if it is expressly waived in the lease.

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.

Generate an official Tennessee notice for nonpayment of rent.
Create Document

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 or rental agreement.

Tennessee landlords are not required to allow tenants to correct or “cure” a lease violation unless the breach can be corrected by paying an amount to cover damages or repairs. Payment must be received within 14 days  of the date the notice was given to the tenant. The landlord must deliver a written request to the tenant authorizing the tenant to make the repairs.

If the same violation occurs within a six-month period, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement with a 7-Day Notice to Quit.

Otherwise, if the violation is not remediable, 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.

Note that illegal activity is not included under lease violations.

If the tenant fails to pay for damages or 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.

Generate an official Tennessee lease termination letter.
Create Document

Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease

In the state of Tennessee, if tenants “holdover,” 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.

Generate an official Tennessee lease termination letter.
Create Document

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 three days to move out of the rental unit in order to avoid eviction.

Examples of material health and 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.

Also, if the tenant misrepresents or falsely states that they have a disability or a disability-related need for a service or support animal this is a material noncompliance with the lease and may terminate the tenancy.

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

Generate an official Tennessee lease termination letter.
Create Document

Eviction Process for Illegal Activity

Tenants who are involved in illegal activity must be given a 3-Days’ Notice to Quit before the landlord can proceed with an eviction action. The notice should include the specific detail of the violation.

In Tennessee, illegal activity includes:

  • The manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of a controlled substance.
  • Engaging or promoting prostitution.
  • Willfully or intentionally committing a violent act.
  • Endangering or threatening to endanger the health, safety or welfare of others or their property.
  • Creating a hazardous or unsanitary condition that affects the safety, health or welfare of the property, tenants or others on the premises.

If there is domestic abuse, the landlord may remove the perpetrator from the lease. Any other adult who was on the previous lease may enter into a new lease agreement for the remainder lease term. When the victim of domestic violence is granted an order of protection against the perpetrator, the order shall:

  • Immediately end the tenancy and remove the perpetrator from the rental property;
  • Prohibit the perpetrator from coming to the rental property; or
  • Require the perpetrator stay away from the rental property.

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

Generate an official Tennessee lease termination letter.
Create Document

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. Filing fees may vary, for example, in Knox County, this costs $191.50 in filing fees (which includes a sheriff’s service).

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 six days prior to the hearing AND mailing a copy via regular mail; or
  3. Mailing a copy via certified mail.

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

Step 3: Court Hearing and Judgment

The eviction hearing must be held at least six 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.

Six days. The eviction hearing will be held at least six 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.

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. Therefore, 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 – Six days, depending on the service method.
  3. Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – Six 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.
Questions? To chat with a Tennessee eviction attorney, Click here

Additional Information

Eviction Defenses for Tenants. Tenant’s may have a defense to delay or dismiss the eviction lawsuit. Below are some common defenses:

  • The landlord doesn’t receive a court order for eviction and tries to forcibly remove the tenant.
  • The landlord shuts off essential services and utilities.
  • The landlord changes the locks of the rental unit.
  • Eviction procedures were not followed properly.
  • The landlord fails to maintain the rental premises in a habitable condition.
  • The landlord does not follow building or housing codes and affects the safety and health of the tenant.
  • The landlord discriminates against the tenant based on race, religion, national origin, family status, gender or disability.

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 § 66-28-405, for more information.