Tennessee Landlord Tenant Rights

Last Updated: October 8, 2021 by Elizabeth Souza

In Tennessee, whenever there is a valid rental agreement or a landlord has received payment for rent, Tennessee law (Tenn. Code Ann. Title 66, Ch. 28) establishes a landlord tenant relationship. Both parties have special rights and duties to abide by. Tenants have the right to a habitable living space and the right to pursue at least one form of alternative action, among others.

Landlords also have certain rights, such as the right to collect rent in a timely manner and the right to recover payment for damages exceeding normal wear and tear.

Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.

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Landlord Responsibilities in Tennessee

Tennessee does not have a traditional warranty of habitability requirements described in its laws. Rather, the state’s Bureau of Health Administration sets down minimum standards of habitability for landlords.

Landlords must abide by these standards and make requested repairs in a timely manner (14 days). If they do now, then tenants have the right to alternate action and may either make repairs and deduct the cost from future rent payments or withhold rent after filing a report with a local business inspector.

Landlords in Tennessee are responsible for the following items:

Item Landlord Responsibility?
Dwelling structures Yes
Hot/cold water Yes
Kitchen fixtures (e.g. stove, fridge, etc.) Yes
Plumbing Yes
Ventilation Yes
Electrical wiring Yes
Heating Yes
Vermin Yes
Garbage removal Yes
Mold No
Bed Bugs Varies depending on responsibility

Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants in retaliation for exercising their right to habitable housing.

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Tenant Responsibilities in Tennessee

Aside from paying rent in a timely manner, Tennessee tenants must:

  • Maintain a living space free from damages and hazards
  • Maintain a level of cleanliness as specified by the landlord
  • Not disturb other tenants or neighbors

Evictions in Tennessee

Tennessee landlords can begin the eviction process for any of the following reasons:

  1. Non-payment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent, then there is a 5-day grace period mandated by the state. If rent is still unpaid after 5 days, landlords may issue a 14-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If rent still has not been paid after 14 days, the landlords can begin formal eviction proceedings.
  2. Violation of lease terms – In counties with 75,000 and more residents, If a tenant has violated the terms of a lease, then the landlord may issue a 14-day Notice to Cure or quit. In counties with less than 75,000, landlords must issue at least a 30-day Notice to Quit. In both cases, if tenants fail to pay rent in the specified time, then landlords can begin eviction proceedings.
  3. Illegal Acts – If landlords find that a tenant is engaging in illegal behavior, then they may issue a 3 Day Notice to Quit. They do not have to issue a notice to Cure. In certain cases, Tennessee landlords can immediately evict without advanced notice.

At-will tenants who do not have a lease agreement are still entitled to a 30 Day Notice to Quit if the landlord wishes for them to move out.

Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants as a form of retaliation or discrimination.

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Security Deposits in Tennessee

  • Standard limit/Maximum amount – None.
  • Time Limit for Return – 60 Days.
  • Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If landlords wrongfully withhold a security deposit, then they may be liable to pay damages. However, Tennessee law does not specify provisions or specific amounts.
  • Allowable Deductions – Missing rental payments, damages that exceed normal wear and tear, reasons outlined in the lease agreement.

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Lease Termination in Tennessee

Tennessee tenants must give the following notice if they wish to terminate a lease:

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Needed
Week-to-Week 10 Days
Month-to-Month 30 Days
Quarter-to-Quarter No statute
Year-to-Year No statute
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Early Termination. Tennessee tenants may legally break a lease for the following reasons:

  1. Early termination clause in lease
  2. Active military duty
  3. Uninhabitable unit
  4. Landlord harassment
  5. Lease violation

Tennessee landlords are required to re-rent a unit and not charge a tenant for the remaining value of their lease.

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Rent Increases & Related Fees in Tennessee

  • Rent control. State law prohibits local jurisdiction from passing ordinances that control the amount of rent charged for commercial or residential properties. Thus, Tennessee landlords can charge whatever they want for rent.
  • Rental increases. Similarly, there are no limits on rental increases. Tennessee landlords can raise the rent by however much they want and whenever they want, without giving advance notice.
  • Rent-related fees. Landlords are limited to charging no more than 10% of the missing amount in late fees. There is also a $30 returned check limit.

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Housing Discrimination in Tennessee

Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This law does not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Tennessee law does not have any extra protections for classes not outlined in the Fair Housing Act.

Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Tennessee Human Rights Commission handles all cases of housing discrimination in the state. The following behavior may be considered discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected group:

  • Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
  • Failing to make reasonable accommodations
  • Advertising that encourages or discourages certain groups from applying
  • Lying about unit availability
  • Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges

Victims of housing discrimination can file a complaint digitally through the commission website and through paper filing. The investigation may establish a reasonable cause that can be used to sue the landlord for damages.

Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Tennessee

Landlord Right to Entry in Tennessee

There is no general requirement that landlords give notice before entering inhabited properties. There is one exception: landlords must give a 24-hour notice in the final 30 days of the lease if they wish to show the unit. It is customary for landlords and tenants to agree on entry notice policies in the lease. Landlords are not required to provide notice to enter in case of emergencies.

Small Claims Court in Tennessee

Tennessee’s small claims court will handle rental and lease disputes totaling less than $25,000.Rent-related cases currently have a 6-year statute of limitations and other types of housing disputes have a 3-year statute of limitations.

Mandatory Disclosures in Tennessee

Tennessee landlords are only required to make 2 mandatory disclosures:

  1. Lead-based paint. Landlords who own homes built before 1978 must provide information about lead paint concentrations.
  2. Authorized parties. Landlords must also provide the names and addresses of those involved in owning or managing the property.

Changing the Locks in Tennessee

Tennessee landlords are prohibited from unilaterally changing the locks on tenants. Based on the lack of any specific provisions, Tennessee tenants may have the legal right to change locks without landlord permission, but this is not recommended.

Local Laws in Tennessee

Nashville Landlord Tenant Rights

In Nashville, the Property Standards Division is responsible for enforcing zoning and building standard codes. Nashville has certain restrictions on “visual clutter” and inoperable automobiles on the premises. More info about these rules can be found on the city’s website.

Please check your municipality for any local landlord or tenant rules and regulations.

Questions? To chat with a Tennessee landlord tenant attorney, Click here