Landlord/Tenant Law

Tennessee Landlord-Tenant Law

The landlord-tenant relationship can become complicated when one party doesn’t meet their obligations to the relationship. Tenants can legally expect landlords to provide essential services like utilities, maintenance and repairs. Landlords can legally expect tenants to reasonably pay for and maintain the quality of their rental property. A failure to meet even the most basic responsibilities could mean a breach of contract and Tennessee’s landlord-tenant laws.

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Tennessee landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.

Lease Agreements

The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:

  • Roommate and guest policies.
  • Repair policy and procedures.
  • The rent rate and payment schedule.
  • Grounds for lease termination and eviction.
  • The length of the leasing term (weeks, months or years).
  • The security deposit amount and what it covers.

Security Deposits

Upon signing a lease agreement, most Tennessee landlords charge new tenants a security deposit apart from their first and last months’ rent. The deposit is stored in a bank account separate from the landlord’s other financial holdings and is used to pay for rental property damages beyond normal wear and tear and unpaid rent.

Tennessee’s state laws don’t enforce a limit to how much a landlord may charge for a security deposit but local and municipal laws may do so. The deposit typically amounts to one month’s rent charge.

Within 30 days after the tenant vacates the rental property, the landlord is required to deduct any repair or rent charges from the deposit and return the balance to the tenant with a written notice itemizing the charges. 

Anti-Discrimination in Housing

Tennessee prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by the state’s human rights laws. Specific actions like refusing to give a prospective tenant a tour of the rental property may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant’s:

  • Sex
  • Familial status
  • National origin
  • Color
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion

Tenant’s Right to Withhold or Deduct Rent

If a landlord fails to uphold their obligations to maintaining and repairing the rental property or common areas, tenants may consider withholding their rent or deducting service or repair costs from their rent to force the landlord’s hand. However, withholding or deducting rent is not a protected tenant action under Tennessee law.

Tenants are obligated to paying their rent in full or risk eviction for nonpayment. If a landlord fails to meet their obligations under Tennessee law and the lease agreement, it is wiser to seek legal counsel and, possibly, a lawsuit or lease termination.

Getting Legal Help from a Tennessee Attorney

While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.

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