Tennessee Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Tennessee Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: August 10, 2023

In general, a landlord in Tennessee has to repair any issues at a rental property that could affect a tenant’s health or safety. The landlord must repair issues within 14 days of getting written notice from the tenant about the needed repairs.

Tennessee Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs


Tennessee’s Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (URLTA) applies only to counties with a population of more than 75,000. This includes the counties of Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Greene, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, Washington, Williamson, and Wilson.

Tennessee landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Required utilities (usually but not always including heating, plumbing, and hot water).
  • Garbage containers and removal (except in single-family dwellings and duplexes).
  • Window screens, as required.
  • Stove and refrigerator, if provided.
  • Common areas.
  • Features that affect health, safety, or habitability.

If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Tennessee?

Tennessee tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they cause to the property which affects health and safety.

On a case by case basis, the landlord and tenant can agree in writing for the tenant to handle specific maintenance. This agreement has to be separate from the lease. The landlord can’t make the lease conditional on tenants fixing issues that are normally the landlord’s responsibility.

Requesting Repairs in Tennessee

Tennessee tenants must request repairs by providing the landlord written notice about the issue that needs repair. This notice usually must be delivered to the last address of record agreed in the lease.

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Tennessee?

Tennessee landlords usually have 14 days to make repairs after receiving proper written notice about an issue from the tenant.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Tennessee?

Tennessee landlords generally cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility. The law usually makes the landlord responsible for ensuring repairs get done, although tenants have to pay for their own damage.

There is one major exception to the landlord’s repair obligation under Tennessee law. If the tenant renews a lease that accepts known issues with the property, the landlord no longer has to make repairs. This is true even if the tenant previously requested repairs.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Tennessee?

Tennessee landlords are not required to pay for alternative accommodation while they conduct repairs, unless their deliberate or negligent actions deprive the tenant of essential services like basic required utilities. In that case, the tenant can get alternative accommodation and recover the cost through a lawsuit and/or rent deductions.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Tennessee

Tennessee tenants can sue for damages or get an injunction to force repairs, if the landlord hasn’t fixed issues within the legally required time. They can also recover reasonable attorney fees from the landlord.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Tennessee?

Tennessee tenants can’t unilaterally withhold rent. They must have permission from a government agency in order to divert rent payments.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Tennessee?

Tennessee tenants can’t arrange for repairs and deduct from the rent. When the landlord deliberately or negligently fails to supply essential services, tenants can sometimes deduct the cost. However, they can’t make repairs without the landlord’s permission.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Tennessee?

Tennessee tenants can break their lease when the landlord doesn’t do required repairs (or fix other violations of the rental agreement) within 14 days after written notice. The tenant generally needs court permission to break a lease.

Tenants can move out and break their lease immediately without court action, when the property is destroyed or severely damaged by events that aren’t the tenant’s fault (for example, a tornado). The tenant must notify the landlord in writing, within 14 days after move-out, or the lease isn’t broken.

Can the Tenant Sue in Tennessee?

Tennessee tenants can sue to force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice. This is the default remedy provided to tenants under Tennessee law.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Tennessee?

Tennessee tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could sue to force repairs or recover monetary damages.

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Landlord Retaliation in Tennessee

It’s illegal for Tennessee landlords to retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions:

  • Complaining to the landlord about potential violation of the security deposits law.
  • Pursuing remedies given by the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

However, the law does allow eviction regardless, when the tenant caused the issue or defaults on rent. The landlord can also evict when code compliance requires altering or demolishing the rental unit so substantially that it would put the tenant out of the unit anyway.

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