eviction in tennessee

Do you know how to file an eviction lawsuit in Tennessee? If you wish to evict a tenant from your rental property you must ensure that you follow the proper legal process.

When everything else has failed, evicting a tenant from a rental unit may be the only solution left for you. Tennessee, like many states, has a pretty detailed tenant eviction process in place. As a result, a Tennessee landlord must follow all the steps for a successful eviction of a tenant from their rental unit. 

The following is an overview of the residential landlord and tenant eviction process in Tennessee as outlined by the Landlord and Tenant Act.

Step #1: Serve the Tenant with a Tennessee Eviction Notice 

Every Tennessee eviction process must start with an eviction notice. This is a written notice telling the tenant to either “cure” the violations committed or simply move out. 

A landlord must also be sure that the written notice is relevant to the violations committed. If you serve the wrong notice, the tenant may use that as a defense in court. It could end up invalidating the entire eviction process. 

Now, the exact, proper notice to serve your Tennessee tenant depends on the violation of the rental or lease agreement they have committed. Common violations are as follows: 

  • Nonpayment of rent. This remains one of the top reasons for evictions not only in Tennessee but also in the entire country. As per Tennessee statutes, rent becomes late once it’s at least 5 days late. So, after the 6th day, Tennessee landlords, can provide the tenant with a 14-Day Notice to Pay. 

This notice simply tells the tenant to pay rent within 14 days or risk getting evicted. If the tenant does pay (and most will), a landlord must halt proceeding with the eviction. However, if they don’t pay, as the landlord, you may proceed to court to file for the tenant to be evicted.

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  • Violation of the lease or rental agreement. When tenants sign a lease agreement, they agree to abide by certain terms. These include taking care of their rented premises, keeping authorized pets, and not subletting the rental unit without approval. 

Now, if tenants contradict the agreed rental agreement terms, a landlord can begin the eviction proceedings against them. This must start with serving them with a 14-Day Notice to Quit. Unlike the one for nonpayment of rent, this notice doesn’t give the tenant an option to fix their lease violations. The only option they have is to leave. 

  • Refusal by tenants to leave after their lease is up. When a renter signs a lease, they agree to live in the unit for a certain period of time. If they surpass this period, they’d have violated what they initially agreed to. This means a landlord can evict them. 

For weekly tenants, landlords must serve them with a 10-Day Notice to Quit. For monthly tenants, you as the landlord must serve them with a 30-Day Notice to Quit. If the tenants don’t move out after the notice period, you can proceed with the eviction process in Tennessee. 

  • Building codes, health, and safety violations. A landlord can also evict tenants who violate a habitability code. All landlords have to do to kickstart their eviction is to serve them with a 3-Day Notice to Quit. 

Violations that could fall under this category include causing damage to the electrical wiring, providing a harbor for bugs or rodents, and letting trash pile up inside the unit. This can also lead to the landlord retaining part of the security deposit.

tennessee eviction process

If the tenants do move out within three days, you, as the landlord can proceed to court for further help. 

  • Committing an illegal activity. Is your tenant engaging in criminal acts, such as the manufacturing or sale of illegal substances? If so, as the landlord, you can evict them for doing so. Also, in the state of Tennessee, illegal activity includes violent acts and threatening or endangering the safety, health, or welfare of other people or their rental unit. 

In such cases, the landlord must serve the tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Quit. 

Step #2: File and Serve the Summons and Complaint 

Filing and serving the summons and complaint is the next step in the eviction process. It’s imperative landlords do this in an appropriate court. There is a fee for filing, and it varies depending on the exact location. In Knox County, for instance, filing a complaint can set a landlord back by $140. 

The service of the summons and complaints is done by a constable, a sheriff or a private process server. This must be done at least 6 days prior to the date of hearing. 

Step #3: Attend the Hearing 

The hearing is usually held 6 days after the tenant has been served with the summons and complaint. Either party, though, can request a 15-day extension. 

If the tenant fails to appear, the court will probably issue a default judgment in your favor. The court will then issue a landlord with a writ of restitution and the eviction process will continue. 

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In some cases, however, the tenant may choose to fight the eviction. In their defense, they may allege any of the following: 

  • You’re evicting them based on discrimination. All forms of discrimination in housing-related matters are illegal in the state of Tennessee, as they are elsewhere in the country. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants against discrimination based on their gender, religion, race, color, familial status, national origin, and disability. 

  • You tried to evict them even after they fixed the violation. As per Tennessee laws, a landlord must allow a tenant to fix a violation. For example, for nonpayment of rent, landlords must allow them 14 days to pay all due rent. If they fix the violation, a landlord is required to stop further eviction proceedings against them. 

  • You failed in your maintenance responsibilities. After failed repeated maintenance requests, a tenant can exercise one of their rights. That is, moving out without further obligations on the lease, withholding further rent payments, repairing the issue, and then deducting the appropriate money from the rent, or even reporting you to relevant local authorities. 

So, if a tenant withholds further rent payments due to a maintenance issue, a landlord cannot use that as a reason for their eviction. 

  • The landlord tried to evict the tenant on their own. Changing locks, shutting off utilities, or any other “self-help” eviction tactic is illegal. The only way a tenant can get evicted from their rental unit is through a judicial eviction process. 

Step #4: Removal of the Tenant 

If the ruling is made in your favor, you’ll be issued with a writ of restitution. This is normally issued 10 days after a successful court ruling. Once issued, a landlord must then hand it over to the law enforcement officials for execution. 


Landlords must follow Tennessee eviction laws when seeking to remove a tenant from their property. These laws are subject to change therefore it's important that landlords stay up-to-date on them. If you would help with this reach out to the experts at  Cory Real Estate Services

*Disclaimer: This information is only intended to be educational. For further help, please seek professional legal advice from an attorney or consider hiring an experienced rental property management company.

Posted by Justin Cory on
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