Evicting a tenant in Tennessee requires the landlord first to provide written notice to the tenant that they plan to file for eviction due to a breach of the lease agreement. There are different notice periods the landlord has to honor, depending on the nature of the breach. If the tenant doesn’t respond to the notice, the landlord can file for a Detainer Summons from the local General Sessions Court. They then must secure the local sheriff’s office’s assistance to serve the summons on the tenant. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, but the tenant still doesn’t vacate the property, the landlord can file for a Writ of Possession from the court so the Sheriff can forcibly remove the tenant from premises.
Laws – Title 29, Chapter 18 (Forcible Entry and Detainer), Chapter 28. Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
How to Evict
- Step 1 – Send Eviction Notice to Tenant
- Step 2 – Wait for Tenant Response
- Step 3 – File in Court
- Step 4 – Serve the Tenant
- Step 5 – Appear in Court
- Step 6 – File for Writ of Possession
- Step 7 – Repossess the Property
Step 1 – Send Eviction Notice to Tenant
First, the landlord has to provide a formal written notice to the tenant that they intend to evict them from the property. The notice must outline why the landlord wants to evict the tenant and provide a timeframe the tenant has to vacate the premises or cure the breach, if applicable. There are five (5) types of notice to quit in Tennessee:
- Prostitution or Drug Violations (Immediate Notice): A landlord can seek to evict a tenant immediately if they have conducted solicitation, pimping, or any other form of prostitution on the premises. This notice also applies if the tenant used or distributed illegal drugs in or around the premises. The tenant does not have an opportunity to cure the breach.1
- Illegal Behavior (3-Day Notice): The landlord only needs to give three (3) days notice to the tenant to vacate if the tenant committed any intentional violent act, activities that threaten the health, safety, or welfare of other tenants. This notice also applies if the tenant created a hazardous or unsanitary environment on the premises.2
- Non-Payment (14-Day Notice): After the state’s required five (5) day grace period, the landlord can notify the tenant that they are late on rent and have fourteen (14) days to pay. If they do not pay by the fifteenth (15th) day, the landlord can require them to vacate the premises on the thirtieth (30th) day from the original notice date.3,4
- Non-Compliance (30-Day Notice): The landlord has to provide thirty (30) days’ notice for any non-violent or non-serious breaches of the lease agreement. The tenant does have the option to cure the violation within the period or move out by the thirtieth (30th) day.5
- Month-to-Month Tenancy (30-Day Notice): Either the landlord or the tenant can issue this notice to the other party. It states that the issuer doesn’t intend to continue the tenancy after thirty (30) days.6
Step 2 – Wait for Tenant Response
The landlord waits the number of days on the notice to allow the tenant to respond, cure the breach, or pay overdue rent. It is preferable to come to a compromise outside of court if possible.
Step 3 – File in Court
- Average Processing Time: One (1) day to two (2) months
- Filing Fee: Varies by County
- Where to File: General Sessions Court local to the property in question
If the tenant doesn’t respond appropriately to the notice to quit, the landlord can file a Detainer Summons with General Sessions Court local to the property in question. This will initiate eviction proceedings, and the court will set a hearing date in the summons.
Step 4 – Serve the Tenant
The landlord has to retain the local sheriff’s department’s services to serve the Detainer Summons on the tenant. The sheriff must serve the tenant no later than six (6) days before the hearing date.
Step 5 – Appear in Court
Both the landlord and tenant appear in court on the hearing date. It is important to bring copies of all documents that have been filed with the court to the hearing, including a copy of the original eviction notice.
Tenants can win in court based on several common tenant defenses. In Tennessee, tenants may claim that the landlord is out of compliance with any of the following responsibilities:
- The landlord cannot commit a “self-help” eviction by excluding the tenant from the property in any way, such as changing the locks or reducing or shutting off any necessary services such as utilities7,8
- The landlord didn’t follow eviction procedures appropriately, such as not providing the correct notice or not waiting for the required period required to cure or vacate9
- The landlord didn’t maintain the rental unit to the minimum health standards required by the state of Tennessee.10
- The landlord cannot evict in retaliation for any legal complaints against them by the tenant11
- The landlord can’t discriminate against the tenant based on creed, disability, familial status, gender, national origin, race, or religion12,13
Step 6 – File for Writ of Possession
If the court rules in favor of the landlord, but the tenant still doesn’t vacate the rental unit after ten (10) days, the landlord can file for a Writ of Possession with the court. This form gives the sheriff authority to repossess the rental unit on behalf of the landlord but forcibly removing the tenant and their belongings from the property.14
Step 7 – Repossess the Property
The landlord can use the Writ of Possession to utilize the Sheriff’s office to remove the tenant and their possessions from the property forcibly.
Video: Evictions in Tennessee
- § 66-7-107(a)
- § 66-28-517
- § 66-28-505(a)(2)
- § 66-28-201(d)
- § 66-7-109
- § 66-28-512(b)
- § 66-28-504
- § 66-28-502
- § 68-111-102
- § 68-111-105