The goal of every landlord in Tennessee is to rent to a dream tenant; one that will pay rent on time, care for their rental unit, and abide by the terms of the lease agreement. Sadly, this is not always the case. 

Sometimes, you may end up renting to a difficult tenant that gives you anything but peace. They may, for instance, cause negligent property damage or refuse to pay rent. In such cases, you may be left with no other option but to evict them from your premises. 

The Tennessee eviction process is relatively straightforward. The entire process from serving the tenant the eviction notice to the actual eviction can take anywhere between 4 and 8 weeks. 

As a landlord, it’s critical that you follow the eviction laws in Tennessee to the letter. Staying up to date with Tennessee’s rental laws is crucial in order to protect your rights as well as the rights of your tenants. The following blog provides everything you need to know in this regard. 

The Eviction Process in Tennessee

How long does the eviction process take? You must first have legal ground to kickstart the eviction process in the state of Tennessee. Examples of such include nonpayment of rent, end of the lease, lease violation, and illegal activity.


Once you have legal reason to evict a tenant, you must then serve them with an eviction notice. The eviction notice will tell the tenant the cause of their eviction and what they must do within a specific period of time. 

Notice for Lease Termination With Legal Cause

In the state of Tennessee, you can evict a tenant on five legal grounds. The following are the specific eviction notices that you must serve for each of those grounds: 

  • 14 days’ notice to pay rent or quit: You must serve this notice when evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent. The notice gives the tenant 14 days to either pay the due rent or vacate the premises. If the tenant does neither, you can move to court and file for their removal. 
  • 30 days’ notice to quit: You must serve this notice to a tenant who has no lease or has refused to leave after the expiry of their lease. If the tenant doesn’t move out after the 30 days are over, you can move ahead and file an eviction lawsuit.
  • 14 days’ notice to cure or quit: You must use this notice when evicting a tenant for causing a curable violation. Examples of curable violations include causing damage to the electrical wiring, breaking a window, and failing to maintain the required level of cleanliness. 

For incurable violations, you must serve the tenant a 30 days’ notice prior to proceeding with the eviction proceedings. Examples of incurable violations include serious property damage and repeat violations. 


Please note that there may be variable notices for violations committed under URLTA. Make sure to check local laws before proceeding. 

  • 3 days’ notice to vacate: You must serve this notice to tenants who violate a health, safety, building, or housing code. Examples of these violations include providing a harbor for rodents or bugs, or letting trash pile up inside the rental unit. These violations aren’t curable.

If the tenant doesn’t vacate the unit within the 3 days, you can file for their eviction in court. 

  • 3 days’ notice to quit: You must serve this notice to a tenant who commits an illegal activity at the rental premises. According to the URLTA, illegal activity includes things such as violent acts, illegal subletting, and the handling of controlled substances.

Serving a Tenant With a Tennessee Eviction Letter

You must serve an eviction notice in the manner prescribed by law. Otherwise, the tenant may use that as a defense in court to delay their eviction. In Tennessee, the delivery of an eviction notice must be done in either of the following ways:

  • In person
  • Mailing a copy to the tenant
  • Electronic mail (if agreed upon in the lease)

Tenant Eviction Defenses in Tennessee 

A defense is a reason that a tenant gives a court to stop or delay their eviction. In the state of Tennessee, the following are examples of defenses that a tenant may give:

  • The eviction notice was invalid. 
  • The landlord accepted partial payment of rent. 


  • The landlord failed to maintain the premises to the required habitability levels. 
  • The landlord proceeded with the eviction even after the tenant remedied the violation (for curable violations). 
  • The reason for eviction didn’t justify an eviction. 
  • The eviction was retaliatory or discriminatory. 

Attending Court Hearing 

If the tenant ignores the Tennessee eviction notice, you can move to court and file a complaint. Filing fees may vary depending on the county in which your property is located. After successful filing, the court will issue you with a summons and complaint. 

In Tennessee, after the summons and complaint are served, the hearing must occur at least 6 days thereafter.  

If the tenant fails to appear to the hearing, a default judgment will be issued by the judicial officer. A writ of possession will subsequently be issued, authorizing the forceful eviction of the tenant. 

That said, the tenant would still have a right to appeal the decision of the court. If they do, that will add more time to the eviction process. 

Writ of Possession 

A writ of possession is the final notice for the tenant to leave their rented unit. It gives the tenant an opportunity to remove their belongings before they can be forcefully evicted.

The Eviction 

Once the sheriff or constable receives the writ of possession, they must act immediately. Unlike some other states, Tennessee doesn’t give any grace period. 


There you have it. A step-by-step rundown of the eviction process in Tennessee. For expert help in evicting a tenant in Tennessee, Keyrenter Knoxville can help. We’re a top property management company in Knoxville and the surrounding areas. Get in touch to learn more!

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.