Do You Need an Eviction Notice if No Lease Has Been Signed in Tennessee?

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Under Tennessee law, a tenant who has not signed a lease contract is known as a tenant-at-will. A landlord can evict such a tenant by giving them a 30-day notice.

The basic steps of the Tennessee eviction process, are, in order: send the tenant a notice to quit (leave the premises); file in civil court for an eviction hearing; provide the judgment of the court to the sheriff’s office; and engage in an eviction with the assistance of the sheriff.

How Much Notice Is Required?

Generally, a landlord must give a 30-day notice to a tenant who pays monthly rent. The landlord must give this notice at the end of the tenant’s lease or rental agreement. A landlord must give a 10-day notice to a tenant who pays rent on a weekly basis.

As to more complex rules regarding notice, the number of days of notice required depends on the number of people in the county in which the rental property sits.

Counties with over 75,000 people have an eviction process regulated by the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). Counties with 75,000 people or fewer have an eviction process regulated by the Tennessee Code.

Number of Days of Notice Required for Eviction

Grounds for Eviction

Notice Required

Failure to pay rent

14 days

Expiration of lease or no lease

30 days

Violation of the lease

14 days or 30 days

Material health or safety violation

Three days

Illegal activity

Three days Tennessee Code, Section 66-7-109 Notice of Termination by Landlord

Eviction in Counties Where the URLTA Applies

In counties where the URLTA applies, such as Shelby County, the law provides that landlords can include a clause in the lease agreement that waives a tenant’s right to a 14-day notice for nonpayment of rent.

A tenant whose lease includes this waiver can get less than 14 days' notice before the landlord files for eviction. The tenant cannot remediate the situation by paying rent or fees that are due. The exception to this rule is if the landlord accepts late payment.

Eviction for Violation of a Written Lease Term

If the tenant violates the lease agreement a second time within six months, the URLTA provides that the landlord can issue a seven-day written notice for the tenant to move out of the rental unit. A landlord in a county governed by the Tennessee Code must issue a 14-day notice.

The URLTA further states that a landlord must give a renter a 14-day notice to move out for a lease violation that cannot be fixed by payment. The Tennessee Code states that a 30-day notice is required in smaller counties, depending on what type of violation the tenant committed.

Eviction Generally Not Allowed Without Notice

Generally, a landlord cannot kick a person out of their unit without notice unless the tenant has committed a criminal act that endangers the landlord or another person, typically a co-tenant.

A property owner who owns a home, or a master tenant who subleases part of a unit to a subtenant is considered a landlord. Typically, under these circumstances, the offender may be in custody and blocked by the court from contacting the victim via a protective order in their criminal case.

Orders of Protection

A landlord should give notice for eviction to a tenant or guest who has violated an order of protection. An order of protection is a civil order designed to protect a victim of abuse and harassment. The violation of the order of protection is also likely to be a violation of the lease agreement.

A tenant or guest may violate an order of protection by remaining in a unit with the victim or having other contact with the victim after a court has issued the order.

Rights Without a Tenancy Agreement

A tenant who lacks a tenancy agreement, or contract, can be evicted. If a Tennessee landlord evicts a tenant themselves, or without giving the tenant proper notice, the tenant has several options:

  • Pay the rent or fees owed. The tenant should document this action in writing, such as by making a copy of the check or money order; stating in an email that they have paid in cash; or getting a dated receipt. The tenant should ask the landlord to sign a document showing they have paid the amount owed.
  • Adequately repair the damage, if the violation of the lease agreement is related to damage to the unit or to the landlord’s property.
  • Sue the landlord in civil court. The tenant should present documentation of the matter to the court, such as checks, repair receipts and photos of the damage before and after repairs.

A tenant does not need an attorney to fight an eviction notice. They can represent themselves in court, but they may want to consult a landlord/tenant attorney for legal advice. If the tenant falls below certain income guidelines, they may qualify for free legal assistance through a legal aid organization.

When Is Rent Due?

Rent is due on the date stated in the rental agreement. This is usually the first day of the month. The URLTA provides that a landlord cannot charge a late fee for unpaid rent payments until the rent is five days late.

The day that rent is due is counted as the first day. If the fifth day is a Sunday or a legal holiday, the landlord is not allowed to charge a fee if the tenant pays the rent on the next business day. A late fee cannot be more than 10 percent of the amount past due.

What Is a Holdover Tenant?

A holdover tenant is a tenant who remains in the rental property after the lease agreement has expired or who has remained after the landlord has given them notice to vacate. If the person decides to pay rent, and the landlord accepts it, the parties have formed a new month-to-month lease.

Which Court Has Jurisdiction?

The general sessions civil court of the Tennessee county in which the property sits hears forcible entry detainer actions (eviction lawsuits) in civil cases where damages are $25,000 or less.

This court also hears civil actions to recover personal property, such as property that a landlord disposed of after an eviction, and cases involved with the county’s drug dealer eviction program.

What Is a Writ of Possession?

A writ of possession, also known as a writ of eviction, allows a landlord to retake possession of their rented property. The court issues a writ of possession after an eviction trial. The court completes the writ of possession form, which names the county, the court, the plaintiff (landlord), the defendant (tenant) and the date of the writ.

The form also states the location of the property. A law enforcement officer should complete the section called Officer’s Return, which provides the date, agency, officer and premises to be returned to the landlord.

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