A writ of possession is a document issued by a court allowing a landlord to recover their rental property after winning an eviction lawsuit. The court issues the document 10 days after the completion of the lawsuit, giving the renter time to appeal.
Once law enforcement officers receive the writ, they begin the eviction action immediately and remove the tenant.
A Tennessee landlord cannot remove a tenant on their own – only law enforcement has the authority to remove the tenant.
Defining a Writ of Possession
In Tennessee, as in other states, the court issues a legal document known as a writ of possession after a landlord or property owner wins an eviction lawsuit (known as an unlawful detainer action) against a tenant.
The writ informs the renter that they must leave the property by a specific date or be forcibly removed by a law enforcement officer, typically a sheriff.
Tennessee Eviction Process
In Tennessee, a tenant can be evicted for a number of reasons by a landlord, including:
- Failing to pay rent.
- Allowing people to live in the rental unit that aren’t on the lease agreement
- Abusing or misuse the unit
- Conducting illegal activity on the property
To start the eviction process, the landlord must serve the tenant with an eviction notice and file the case in court.
For nonpayment of rent, a tenant receives a 14-day notice to pay rent or vacate. Tenants will receive a 14-day notice or a 30-day notice for certain lease violations, and a 30-day notice if they are month-to-month tenants.
The tenant receives a copy of the court summons and eviction complaint, after which both parties attend a hearing to present their case. If the court rules in the landlord’s favor, a law enforcement officer serves the tenant with the writ of possession.
Writ of Possession and Removing a Tenant
According to Tennessee Code, a writ of possession is not issued until 10 days after the landlord wins the eviction lawsuit. This gives the tenant the opportunity to file an appeal if they wish to do so.
When law enforcement receives the writ, it acts to immediately remove the tenant. Tennessee law does not allow for a grace period. An eviction action in the state takes about four to eight weeks to complete, but can take longer if the tenant contests the decision or the court’s schedule changes.
A landlord can remove a tenant from their property only by winning an eviction lawsuit. Even after a successful lawsuit, the property owner cannot evict the tenant themselves to regain possession of the property – the eviction must be carried out by a law enforcement officer. If a landlord attempts to illegally evict the tenant, they can face a lawsuit by the tenant.
Tenant’s Possessions After Removal
Tennessee state law requires landlords to store the property that an evicted tenant leaves behind for up to 30 days. This allows the former tenant time to return and reclaim their personal property.
If the tenant fails to retrieve their property during that time, the landlord can dispose of it however they see fit. The money a landlord earns from selling the tenant’s belongings may be used to cover the tenant's outstanding debts, such as repairs to the unit or overdue rent payments.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.