Landlords in Tennessee should be aware of the rules and regulations related to handling leases that are ended early. Understanding this aspect of Tennessee landlord-tenant law is essential as a landlord in the state.

There are justified and unjustified reasons for breaking a lease, which we will cover in this article. It’s essential to know the law when it comes to breaking a lease so that you can protect your rights, as well as the rights of your renters.

Rental Agreement in Tennessee

A solid rental agreement is needed to prevent any legal issues with tenants. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that the tenants understand the terms and provisions written in the rental agreement before they sign their lease. 

Make sure that your tenants are aware of the possible penalties for prematurely breaking a lease. Landlords are also equally responsible for making sure that tenants are aware of their rights to justifiably terminate a lease before the tenancy term ends.

A clear rental agreement should also include how much notice your tenants are expected to send when ending their lease in Tennessee. 

Tennessee tenants are required to send the following notices:

In Tennessee, tenants with fixed end-date leases are not required to provide notice because the lease will automatically expire on the last day of the agreed period. For week-to-week leases, 10 days’ written notice should be provided, while tenants with month-to-month leases should send 30 days’ notice to the landlord.

Two people shaking hands over a replica of a small house

The rental agreement should also include your responsibility as a landlord to re-rent the property. According to Tennessee law, landlords are responsible for making reasonable efforts to re-rent the rental unit as an effort to mitigate damages

As a landlord, you have a duty to mitigate damages instead of charging the whole total remaining rent to the last tenant. Re-renting the property quickly allows you to collect rent from the new tenant and your old tenant will only be responsible for the amount of rent accrued when the property is vacant.

If you allow it in the lease agreement, tenants can use their security deposit to cover a portion of their unpaid rent. Additionally, your lease agreement should also include the tenant’s right to sublet the unit.

In Tennessee, landlords have the right to deliberately prohibit subletting in the lease agreement. If the agreement does not state otherwise, tenants may be allowed to sublet the unit to another resident.

As a landlord, you may require your tenants to get your approval before subletting. A letter of request must be sent through a certified mail, containing the following information:

  • Sublet term.
  • Name, contact number, and permanent address of the proposed assignee.
  • Written consent of co-tenants (if any).
  • Copy of the proposed sublease.
  • Tenants’ reason for subletting/leaving the property permanently.
  • The tenants’ new address during the sublease.

You have the right to refuse the request to sublet based on legitimate factors. It’s important to note that you cannot unfairly decline the request due to invalid reasons.

Two excited people looking at plans in a kitchen with their property manager

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Tennessee

The reasons mentioned below do not provide sufficient justification (on their own) to release a tenant from the lease. If tenants terminate a lease early due to any of these reasons, they are not legally protected against penalties for failing to honor the lease.

  • The renter bought a house.
  • The renter is upgrading or downgrading.
  • The renter is relocating for a new job or school.
  • The renter is moving to be closer to family.
  • The renter is moving in with a partner.

If tenants break a lease for any of the above-mentioned reasons without court approval or in any conditions not previously outlined, they may be faced with tangible consequences. However, a tenant may ask the landlord to agree to a mutual termination if they really need to break a lease due to any of these reasons.

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Tennessee

Tennessee landlords must know the justified reasons that may allow tenants to legally break a lease early in the state. Here are the justified reasons for early lease termination:

1. Early Termination Clause

As a landlord in Tennessee, you may include an early termination clause in the lease agreement that will allow your tenants to legally break a lease before it ends, in exchange for a penalty fee. Make sure to include the amount of the fee and the required number of days of notice.

Person writing in a notebook in front of their open laptop

2. Active Military Duty

Tennessee tenants who become active members of the military are protected against penalties for breaking a lease early if they need to relocate due to deployment or permanent change of station.

Tenants should prove that they signed the lease before entering active duty. They should also remain on active duty for the next 90 days and send a written notice to the landlord with a copy of the order to deploy or permanent change of station. 

It’s important to note that the lease will not terminate immediately. Tenants are allowed to terminate the lease 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period once notice is received. 

3. Unit is Uninhabitable

As a Tennessee landlord, you are responsible for providing a habitable dwelling place for your tenants. If the minimum standards for health and safety codes in Tennessee are not met, tenants should request immediate repairs.

If repairs are not made within a reasonable timeframe, tenants are allowed to terminate the lease on the grounds that the unit is uninhabitable. 

4. Harassment or Violation of Privacy

Tennessee law does not specify the required notice to give to tenants when landlords need to visit the property, but at least a 24-hour notice is recommended unless in certain emergency circumstances. 

Close up of a hand signing a document with a fountain pen

Otherwise, tenants may claim that there has been a violation of their privacy and they may be allowed to break the lease early. Further, lockouts are not allowed in Tennessee and may be considered harassment or an illegal attempt to evict a tenant.

5. Other Reasons

  • The tenant is a senior citizen or has health issues.
  • The tenant is experiencing domestic violence.
  • There was a violation of the lease agreement.
  • Mandatory disclosures from the landlord were not followed.
  • Illegal or unenforceable contract.


Now that you know the rules and regulations regarding breaking a lease in Tennessee, it’s essential to stay in compliance with the law to avoid any issues. When in doubt, it’s best to work with a professional property manager in Tennessee. Contact Keyrenter Knoxville today to find out how we can help you navigate your rental property business!

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.