Tennessee’s real estate market is on the upswing. Average home prices in middle Tennessee have risen by over $120,000 over the last four years. If you’re thinking of becoming a landlord in this hot market, you need to know your Tennessee tenant laws!
These laws provide protection for both landlords and tenants. A good knowledge of them will help you to find the right tenants and deal with them legally throughout the term of the lease. At the same time, they can help to protect you from losses resulting from non-payment of rent or damage to your property.
Let’s dig into Tennessee tenant laws and explore your rights in more depth.
Tennessee Tenant Laws – The Lease
According to landlord-tenant laws in Tennessee, you do not have to provide a written lease unless the tenancy is for 12 months or longer. However, it is much better to do so, for both sides. A lease allows a landlord to insert clauses that ensure the property is well cared for and rent is paid on time.
What to Include in the Lease
The lease should clearly set out the rent, when it should be paid, and how it is pro-rated. It should also set out any fees for late payment. It must also include details of the eviction process in line with Tennessee rental laws.
In Tennessee, landlords can charge a security deposit, but it is not a requirement. The lease should outline the amount of the deposit and what it covers. There is no limit on what a landlord can charge, but one month’s rent is usually considered reasonable.
If the tenant wants to renew the lease, this must be done in writing. The landlord must receive the notice at least thirty days before the lease term ends.
The lease should also outline who is responsible for the maintenance of the property. It should also be clear about subleasing – whether you will allow it or not. Include a clause setting out who pays utility expenses – usually the tenant.
Also, include a pet clause stating whether or not you allow pets. If you’re going to charge pet rent, include the details in the lease.
Handling the Security Deposit
The landlord must store the security deposit in a separate account. You must provide the tenant with the location of the security deposit, but you do not have to disclose the account number.
At the end of the tenancy, the security deposit can be used to cover damage beyond ordinary wear and tear or unpaid rent. The landlord must return the security deposit or the balance within 30 days of the termination of the lease.
At the end of the tenancy, the landlord should inspect the property. The tenant has a right to be present and must be informed of the time of the inspection. Notification must be made within 5 days of issuing notice to the tenant or receiving notice from the tenant.
During the inspection, create a list of all damages and the estimated cost of repair. Both sign the list. The tenant’s signature serves as an acceptance of the damages.
You must complete the inspection within 4 days of the tenant moving out. If the tenant doesn’t show up, they cannot contest the inspection report. Tenants also lose their rights if they abandoned the unit, left without giving notice, or left as the result of a court order.
If you are returning less than the full amount, you must provide an itemized list of damages and the amount of the deposit owed to the tenant.
Tenant Legal Rights in Tennessee
In Tennessee, a tenant has the right to a rental unit that is structurally sound, habitable, and safe. The tenant’s primary obligation is to pay their rent on time each month. If the landlord breaks his obligation, the tenant has the right to withhold part or all of the rent until necessary repairs are made.
However, first, they must provide written notice to the landlord specifying how they have breached the terms of the lease. They can then:
- Pay for essential services themselves and deduct the costs from the rent
- Recover damages from the landlord
- Move to another place until the landlord fixes the issues without paying rent
Of course, problems do not normally escalate to this stage.
Tenants must also uphold their leases and keep the property clean at all times. They must dispose of trash, not disturb their neighbors, and not use the premises for unlawful activities.
Landlord Legal Rights in Tennessee
Landlords have the right to receive rent payments on time. They can take action in accordance with the lease and landlord laws to evict tenants who breach the terms of the lease.
In Tennessee, landlord legal rights include being able to evict tenants on the basis of:
- Non-payment of rent
- Violation of terms of the lease
- Committing violent acts
- Engaging in illegal activity
If your county has more than 75,000 residents, the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act applies. The landlord must provide the tenant with 14-days’ notice and tell them why they are being evicted.
The eviction notice must allow the tenant to correct the issue within 14 days to halt the eviction. If the same issue arises again within 6-months, the landlord only has to provide 7-days’ notice before filing the eviction lawsuit. The landlord does not have to allow the tenant time to fix the problem.
Landlords also have the right to enter the premises to:
- Show the unit to prospective tenants
- In emergencies
- For maintenance and repairs
Although no notice is usually required, 24-hours notice is recommended. There are some specific instances in which the landlord must provide notice.
Every landlord in Tennessee must obtain a landlord rental license from the local government.
It is the landlord’s duty to ensure that the rental unit is safe and habitable at all times. This includes complying with all relevant building codes. They must make needed repairs and keep the common areas of the building in good condition.
Let Memphis Investment Properties Lend a Helping Hand
This is just an overview of the main Tennessee tenant laws that affect prospective landlords in the state. There are other state and local requirements that you must fulfill.
To comply with all of your legal obligations, it’s wise to work with a local property management company. At Memphis Investment Properties, we can handle all aspects of the process from tenant screening to rent collection. We’ll take care of your tenants and your property.
Schedule a call today to discuss how we can help you find and manage your Memphis rental!