3 things to know about eviction in Davidson County

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Summary

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, the Nashville Hispanic Bar Association, and other partners are working to provide education on the eviction process, tenant rights and options, and what to do if a rented property is in disrepair.

Here are a few things to know.

Davidson County is on track to see more than 13,000 evictions filed in 2023.

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, the Nashville Hispanic Bar Association, and other partners are working to provide education on the eviction process, tenant rights and options, and what to do if a rented property is in disrepair.

Here are a few things to know.

Do not stop paying your rent.

“Some states have laws that let you withhold rent if their are repair problems or other issues, but the laws in Tennessee are incredibly narrow and not forgiving on that point,” Elizabeth Leiserson, project director for Davidson County’s Eviction Right to Counsel pilot program, said.

“Unless an attorney has specifically told you you don’t have to pay your rent, keep paying your rent,” she said. “Otherwise, you can end up with your problems still not fixed, plus you’re facing an eviction.”

In Tennessee, rent is considered past due five days after its due date. If a tenant is late paying rent, their landlord can issue a “14-day notice to quit.” This allows the tenant 14 days to resolve the situation by paying the rent and any late fees or penalties.

However, in counties with populations of 75,000 or more — including Davidson County — the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows landlords to include a clause in the rental agreement waiving tenants’ right to 14 days notice for eviction due to nonpayment of rent. Tenants whose lease includes this waiver clause may not receive 14 days notice before their landlord files for eviction, and they are not able to fix the situation by paying the rent and/or fees due.

Related:How eviction works in Tennessee

Julie Yriart, legal director for the Eviction Right to Counsel program in conjunction with the Nashville Hispanic Bar Association, said tenant complaints of landlords failing to resolve property maintenance issues can be reported to Metro Codes via hubNashville. Typically, inspectors will respond to tenant complaints within a few days.

If inspectors find a violation and put it in writing, “that’s going to help you a lot when you get to court,” Yriart said. “It’s saying they have not complied with Metro Codes, and the law says that landlords have to comply with codes affecting health and safety.”

Your landlord cannot force you to move out without going through the court process.

In Tennessee, landlords are prohibited from physically removing tenants from the property themselves or trying to force a tenant out of a property by cutting off access to utilities or changing locks. Tenants can sue their landlord for damages if they attempt to evict tenants without following the legal process.

Only the sheriff’s office can physically remove a tenant and their belongings from the property after the legal process of eviction is complete.

“If you get a notice, if you get a scary text message, if they say they’re going to just make you move out, you do not have to unless you have gone through the court process,” Leiserson said. “Even if you get a notice, for example, that says you have to be thrown out in three days, what that means is in three days they can start the court process.”

Tenants can choose to move anyway, without going through court, she added. Eviction cases, even if they are dismissed, can still show up on court records and complicate housing searches later on.

“If you feel unsafe in your home and your landlord is saying you have to get out, you can call the police for help getting back into the apartment, or for the police to explain to your landlord that they need to go to the court,” Leiserson said.

Stay in communication with your landlord when bad things happen.

When bad things happen, people tend to keep them quiet and hope they go away, Leiserson said.

“But your landlord is going to notice if there’s a problem, so you might as well stay in communication on the front end,” she said. “If you’re going to be late paying your rent, tell them … and put it in writing if you can, so you get your response in writing too and there’s no confusion.”

Resources

Renters who are at risk of eviction can access free legal assistance through the Eviction Right to Counsel pilot program.

The program provides outreach, education on tenant rights and the eviction process, and legal aid to low-income renters in Davidson County through the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, the Nashville Hispanic Bar Association and Conexion Americas.

As of December 2023, the program is funded through June 2024.

Davidson County residents seeking eviction help can contact the Legal Aid Society at 833-837-HOME (833-837-4663).

 

published by the Tennessean on December 23, 2023.