The bulk of Tennessee’s landlord-tenant laws are governed in the state’s code under section 66-28. You can access it on LexisNexis by visiting this link and scrolling down to Title 66, clicking the plus sign, and clicking again on Chapter 28, which is the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. From there, the code branches into specific sections.
As an example, to find the section on security deposits, which is numbered 66-28-301, you’d open up Part 3 in Title 66, Chapter 28 and click on “66-28-301. Security deposits.” In the 301, the 3 means Part 3 and the 01 means the first article. Meanwhile, 302 would mean the second article in Part 3, and so on. That pattern holds for all sections mentioned in this article.
Though most landlord-tenant laws are in 66-28, some are in other parts of the code. To find information in other titles or chapters, simply substitute the right numbers: Title 47, Chapter 29, Part 1, Article 3 would correspond to 47-29-103.
This article aims to summarize Tennessee’s landlord-tenant laws, but you should always do further research and consider seeking legal or professional advice before becoming a landlord or tenant. Also double-check any statutes to be sure your information is up to date–laws can change frequently.
As previously mentioned, security deposit rules are listed under section 66-28-301. Tennessee is a somewhat lenient state when it comes to security deposits, leaving many decisions up to landlords. For instance, there is no maximum on the amount a landlord can require for a security deposit, nor is there a statute regarding nonrefundable deposits. There is also no statute governing pet deposits or additional fees.
The state does require a separate bank account for security deposits. In fact, it’s the very first rule listed: “All landlords of residential property requiring security deposits prior to occupancy are required to deposit all tenants’ security deposits in an account used only for that purpose, in any bank or other lending institution subject to regulation by the state or any agency of the United States government.”
The tenant has a right to a joint move-out inspection, if they so request. However, the tenant waives that right under certain conditions: if the tenant vacated without written notice; if they abandoned the premises; judicial removal of the tenant; or if they never contact the landlord about the inspection or fail to show up for it.
If a tenant moves out and has a refund due, a landlord must make a reasonable attempt to contact them–in the code’s words, by “send notification to the last known or reasonably determinable address.” If the landlord doesn’t receive a response in 60 days, they can keep the refund and do with it what they please.
Lease, Rent, and Fee Rules
Section 66-28-201 covers the bulk of the rules on lease terms, rent, and fees. Tenants and landlords have some flexibility when it comes to rental terms, as long as they agree to it. For instance, rent is typically due at the start of each month, but arrangements can be flexible with the consent of both parties. The landlord can also consent to rent charges pro-rated by the day. One rule isn’t flexible, though: There is a five-day grace period on late rent. Sundays and legal holidays do not count toward the grace period. Late fees can’t exceed 10 percent of the amount of rent due.
The fee for a returned check is up to $30, per Tennessee’s section 47-29-102.
If a dwelling is uninhabitable, the tenant might face a lengthy process. For instance, as per section 68-111-104, if the dwelling is not habitable, the tenant can complain to local officials. An inspection occurs; if it confirms the problem, the landlord has 30 days to fix it. If the landlord doesn’t fix the problem, the tenant sends rent to the county clerk of the property’s county for safekeeping. Then, if the landlord hasn’t fixed the problem after six months from the first notice, the landlord loses the rent money to the state.
Section 66-28-502 covers other circumstances. In the absence of essential services, a tenant can withhold rent. They can also recover the cost of substitute housing as well as attorney’s fees. Alternatively, the tenant can procure essential services from elsewhere and deduct the cost from their rent. The full list of essential services is as such: “utility services, including gas, heat, electricity, and any other obligations imposed upon the landlord which materially affect the health and safety of the tenant.”
Notice and Entry Rules
Several different sections cover notice and entry rules in Tennessee. As per 66-28-512, landlords need to give 30 days’ notice when a month-to-month lease is set to expire, and 10 days’ notice for a week-to-week lease. Section 66-28-505 stipulates that if a landlord is going to terminate a lease because of a tenant’s nonpayment, the tenant gets 14 days to fix the situation and 30 days to vacate the property. On the reverse side, if a tenant is going to terminate their lease because of a landlord’s noncompliance with the lease terms, the notice period is 14 days, as per section 66-28-501.
Termination for drug-, violence-, and prostitution-related acts occurs much more quickly. For tenant violations involving controlled substances or prostitution, termination is immediate, as per section 66-7-107. Section 66-7-109, meanwhile, stipulates that a violent tenant, or one involved in drug-related criminal activity, only gets three days’ notice.
Section 66-28-403 covers entry rules. Landlords can always enter during emergencies. If it’s written into the lease, during the final 30 days of the tenancy, the landlord can give 24 hours’ notice and enter the property to show it to perspective future tenants. Additionally, the “shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter” for routine maintenance and inspections.
Required Disclosures and Notes
Section 66-28-302 stipulates that a landlord must give the tenant their name and address in writing, along with that of anyone who manages the property for the landlord. Landlords must also provide information on any lead paint hazards, including full disclosure of the danger and provision of the EPA’s pamphlet on hazards from lead-based paint.
Landlords and tenants both have certain general duties. For landlords, those general duties are found in section 66-28-304. The landlord must comply with building and housing healthy and safety codes; make repairs and do other things necessary to “keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition”; maintain the common areas; and deal with trash removal in complexes of four or more units.
The general obligations of tenants are in section 66-28-401, and are similar to that of the landlord. They have to comply with housing and building codes that deal with safety; keep the area they use clean and safe; dispose of their trash in “designated receptacles”; avoid damaging or illegal activities; and avoid disturbing the “neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.”
Court and Realtor Information
The limit in Tennessee small claims court is $25,000, but no limit exists for eviction suits, as per 16-15-501. You can find a list of county clerks here, and information on general sessions court here. The Tennessee State Courts’ website is here.
Several realtor associations exist in Tennessee, including the Tennessee Association of Realtors, the Tennessee Valley Association of Realtors, and the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors. Other regional associations exist as well, and should appear in an Internet search.