Tennessee Habitability Laws

Last Updated: December 15, 2021 by Elizabeth Souza

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain all plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities, heating, and ventilation in good repair (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 14 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant can’t withhold rent, but does have right to repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to a local city or county inspector for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening eviction (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Tennessee does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs Not specifically addressed
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Not specifically addressed
Condos Only if person in condo is renter, not owner
Hotels/Motels No
Questions? To chat with a Tennessee landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Tennessee, as indicated below.

Note: Some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Yes
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Yes
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Heat only
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Yes
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Multi-family units
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Yes
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Yes
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Not addressed
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Yes
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. No

Tennessee landlords are obligated to follow all building and housing codes that materially affect the health and safety of the tenant. Landlords must make all necessary repairs and maintain the premises in a habitable condition. In some instances, landlords and tenants may agree, in writing, that the tenant perform certain repairs and maintenance tasks.

Vermin, Pests and Insects

Landlords are required to keep rental units free from pests and vermin, but are not required to treat the units more than twice per year. As a general requirement relating to the safety and sanitary maintenance of the dwelling unit, landlords must supply dwelling units with properly fitted screens to every door and window that opens to the outside of the unit.  This will effectively prevent mosquitos, flies, flying insects, rodents and other vermin and pests from entering the premises.

Fencing and Accessory Structures

All fences and accessory structures must be maintained in a safe condition.

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending Notice – If a tenant request repairs, they must put their request in writing to the landlord. The landlord will then have 14 days to make necessary repairs.
  • Landlord Access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, the landlord must get their tenants’ permission prior to entry unless it’s an emergency or if utilities have been shut off (at no fault of the landlord).
Questions? To chat with a Tennessee landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner and notice has been given, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold Rent – Tennessee landlord tenant law does not permit a tenant to withhold rent in response to habitability issues.
  2. Repair and Deduct – Tenants have the right to repair the issue themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair from the following month’s rent. If essential services (i.e., electricity, gas, heat, etc.) are deliberately or negligently not provided by the landlord, the tenant may obtain those eservices and deduct the actual and reasonable cost from the rent.
  3. Substitute Housing – If essential services are not provided, the tenant can move into substitute housing until the landlord corrects the issue. The tenant is not required to pay any rent to the landlord while in substitute housing.
  4. Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to pursue legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  5. Reporting to Public Officials – Tenants can report the landlord to a city or county level to housing inspectors if necessary repairs are not made. If the landlord is found to be in violation of any local housing codes, the building inspector will give the landlord 30 days to make corrections to the unit’s condition.

Landlord Retaliation

Landlords are prohibited from harassing or retaliating against tenants who exercise their legal rights. In Tennessee, landlords are prohibited from terminating a lease, increasing rent, decreasing services, and threatening to bring an action for a possession because a tenant:

  • Complains to a government agency.
  • Exercises a legal right.

Sources