Four Required Steps for Eviction: Knox Your Rights as a Tenant





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Four Required Steps for Eviction: Know Your Rights as a Tenant

This information is just for counties with populations over 75,000 people. This applies to Knox County but may not apply to you, depending on where you live in Tennessee. 

The eviction timeline depends on (1) whether the tenant has a written or a verbal rental agreement and (2) how the tenant has violated the rental agreement.


FIRST STEP:  Written Notice to Vacate

If you have a verbal rental agreement, your landlord must send you written notice to vacate the unit. Generally, the landlord must give you 14 days of notice to move and must explain the breach of the rental agreement. If your landlord is just not renewing your lease and there is no breach of the agreement, your landlord has to give you 30 days of notice to move. 

If you have a written rental agreement, you should read it to see if you waived written notice for nonpayment of rent. A landlord in Tennessee may waive the requirement of written notice only for nonpayment of rent, and only if it is in the lease in bold, 12 point font. If that section is in your lease, then your landlord does not have to provide you with any advance notice to move if you have failed to pay your rent. If you have not waived notice for nonpayment of rent and have violated the rental agreement, then your landlord must give you 14 days of advance written notice to move. 

If you have committed an act of violence or otherwise threaten the health, safety, or welfare of other tenants or those on the property, your landlord has the option to send you a written notice to vacate within 3 days. 

The notice must be in writing. Verbal notice to vacate is not sufficient under Tennessee law.

During this time, the landlord cannot turn off essential services (like power or water), lock the tenant out of the rental unit, remove the front door, or otherwise exclude the tenant from the unit. That’s an “unlawful ouster.”


SECOND STEP:  The Detainer Warrant

If you do not move within the timeframe required under the written notice to vacate, your landlord’s next step is to go to court and file a detainer warrant. In Knox County, this is usually done through General Sessions Court. This is not a criminal case even though that document is called a warrant. An eviction is a civil matter. This is the document the landlord files to get a hearing where he/she can ask the judge to award the possession of the rental unit back to the landlord. 

Note that if your landlord gives you written notice to vacate, your landlord must wait until the notice timeframe expires before filing the detainer warrant. For example, if your landlord gives you a written notice telling you to move in 14 days but files a detainer warrant on day 10, the landlord has not complied with the law. That’s true even if the landlord sets the hearing date after the 14 days. 

During this time, the landlord still cannot turn off essential services (like power or water), lock the tenant out of the rental unit, remove the front door, or otherwise exclude the tenant from the unit. 


THIRD STEP:  The Court Date

When the landlord files the detainer warrant, the court clerk will set the matter for a hearing. Typically in Knox County, eviction dockets are held on Tuesdays. 

In court, the judge will ask both parties to explain their side of the story. If the judge orders the tenant to move, the tenant has 10 days to move. Those 10 days are calendar days, not business days. During the 10 days, the tenant can appeal the decision to Circuit Court. If the tenant posts one year’s worth of rent as a bond with the appeal, the tenant may be allowed to stay in possession of the rental unit.

During this time, the landlord still cannot turn off essential services (like power or water), lock the tenant out of the rental unit, remove the front door, or otherwise exclude the tenant from the unit. 


FOURTH STEP: The Writ of Possession

If the tenant does not move by the 10th day following a judge’s order to move, the landlord may contact the clerk’s office for a Writ of Possession. This is the document which the sheriff’s office serves on a tenant. At that point, the sheriff’s office will oversee the process of removing the tenant from the property. The landlord may change the locks and set the tenant’s property to the curb. Note that the landlord does not have a duty to safeguard the tenant’s belongings after the Writ of Possession is served.