If you're a landlord, odds are at some point, you'll need to evict a tenant. Tennessee eviction laws include directions on the type of notice you must use to start the eviction process as well as procedures for pursuing an actual eviction lawsuit. Failure to follow the letter of the law will prevent you from successfully evicting a tenant.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Be sure to provide the tenant with proper notice of eviction before pursuing the eviction in General Sessions court or the court will throw out your case.
Types of Eviction Notice in Tennessee
The type of notice you provide the tenant will depend on the reason for the eviction.
- 3-Day Notice to Quit. If a tenant committed a drug-related activity on the premises, you may provide a 3-Day Notice to Quit, which gives the tenant three days to vacate the property.
- 14-Day Notice to Quit. If the tenant has failed to pay rent, damaged the rental property or committed a violent act at the property, you may provide a 14-Day Notice to Quit. If 14-Day Notice is given for failure to pay rent or damage to the property and the tenant repays the rent or repairs the damage before the 14 days are up, the lease will not terminate.
- 30-Day Notice to Quit. If the tenant is on a month-to-month lease, provide a 30-Day Notice to Quit. A landlord may also use this notice to give the tenant 30 days to cure any non-compliance issues.
How to Initiate the Eviction Process in TN
To begin the eviction process, you must notify the tenant of the breach in writing, naming the tenants specifically on the notice. Provide the tenant with a copy of the lease, citing the violation. Depending on the type of eviction noted above, identify the intent. No standard form is provided online by Tennessee courts, but there are several resources to assist in writing the notice.
You must deliver the notice to the tenant. Personal delivery is preferred. However, if you fail to connect with the tenant personally, you may post the notice on the main entrance to the rental property and send it via certified mail to confirm receipt.
How to Proceed With an Eviction After Notification
After notification, if the tenant does not correct the breach by, for example, vacating the premises or paying back rent within the specified amount of time, you may begin eviction procedures with the General Sessions Court in the county where the property is located. File a Detainer Summons with the clerk of court. Include your name, the name and address of the tenant and the reason for the desired eviction. Include the date that the original notice to correct a lease violation was delivered to the tenant. Note that the tenant did not comply and correct the lease violation or vacate the premises.
Once you file the summons, the county Sheriff will serve the Detainer Warrant on the tenant, which will give the tenant notice of the court action. After the tenant is served, you'll be given a General Sessions court date, at least six days from the date of service.
What Happens at an Eviction Trial
Attend the eviction trial. The eviction trial cannot be held any earlier than six days after the service of the Detainer Warrant on the tenant, according to Tennessee law. The court can allow one 15-day continuance (postponement) of the case.
At trial, present your evidence supporting your contention that the tenant violated the lease terms. Evidence includes documents and witnesses. If you prevail at the trial, the court will order the eviction of the tenant, along with any back rent, damages and, possibly, attorney fees.
What to Do if the Tenant Fails to Follow the Court Order
Even after you obtain a court order of eviction, you may not remove a tenant from your property. The tenant has 10 days to appeal an order of eviction, comply with the court order and to vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to vacate the property, you may file a Writ of Possession with the General Sessions court, which will allow the sheriff to forcibly remove the tenant from the property.
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