Threatened with Eviction?

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in Bob’s Blog are solely those of the author, and do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of the Office on Aging or its staff. Posted 02/15/2024.

Since the end of the Covid-19 epidemic, inflation has run rampant. Prices on almost everything have gone up. We suddenly have to pay more for almost everything we use.

Rising Rents

One area impacted hard is the real estate market. Not only have property prices gone out of sight but so too have interest rates on mortgages.  Many people cannot afford to buy a home forcing them to rent or continue to rent apartments or houses.

For years, there has been a shortage of places to rent in Knox County. By the end of 2022, that became acute. Over 98% of the available units were rented.  People who needed to rent were competing for 2% of the units available.

The increase in demand for rental units led management companies and owners to increase the rents on their properties.  Some increased the rents by 50 to 75%.

Not only did this impact people looking for an apartment or home to rent, people who had rented for years suddenly found their rents would be much higher when their leases expired.

Many couldn’t afford the new higher rent. Hardest hit were retired people living solely on their monthly Social Security benefits with no other income or savings.

Adding to this problem was the sale of apartment complexes to other investors. New investors decided to increase rents.  As the leases of existing renters expired, some learned their leases would not be renewed.

This has extended to apartment complexes and houses for low income people and the elderly. The Federal government pays the major portion of their rent.  The amount the renter pays is based on their income.

With the rising rents in 2022 and 2023, some of these complexes and owners of private houses notified their tenants, they were terminating their agreements with the government. If the tenant decided to stay, they would have to pay the full rent due. In addition, the landlord increased the rent.

Many Renters Caught in a Bind

They were faced with large increases in rent that they couldn’t pay. Some apartment complexes and landlords told them they were going to be evicted.

These people were caught off guard.  They had never experienced anything like this before.  They had no idea of their rights and what they might do.

Tenants’ Rights

Here in Tennessee just as in most other states, laws outline what a landlord and a renter can and cannot do.

Let’s look at some of the more common.

Normally when a property is being rented, there is a lease.  This can be either written or oral. It lays out the tenant’s rights. To protect both parties, a written lease is preferable. It also is legally binding.

If the lease is oral, the tenant must know what the provisions are before agreeing to it.

If it is written, the tenant should read the lease before signing it.

Generally written leases are only required if the property is to be rented for over 3 years. However, most apartment complexes and owners of homes have their renters sign a one year lease.

While an oral lease is ok, a written lease is better. If any question arises, either party can refer to it to resolve it.

In some leases, the following clause may appear:


The only time written notice can be waived is when rent is not paid on time. The Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act specifies other instances where written notices cannot be waived.  To see the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, please click here.

Landlords can charge an application fee. These typically cover background checks and are not refundable The law doesn’t have any maximums on these.

Most landlords require a security deposit. There is no limit in Tennessee as to how much one can be. Landlords are supposed to keep the security deposit in a separate account and let the tenant know where that account Is located.

Landlords don’t have to pay interest on the security deposit.


In most instances, there is no limit on the amount of rent a landlord can charge Typically that is determined by the going rate for similar units in the area.

Rent is typically due on the first of each month. If rent is not paid by the fifth day, a 10% late fee can be charged.  This is the maximum under the law.

Apartment complexes and homeowners vary on what they will do if rent is not paid quickly after end of the four day grace period. Some will start the eviction process if the rent is not paid by the fifteen the day.  Others will notify the tenant that their rent has not been paid and give them 14 days to pay what they owe. If the back due rent is not paid then, they may start the eviction process.

Renters are required to pay their rent on-time.  They only exception is when the landlord deliberately or negligently cuts off utilities (electricity, gas and heat.), fails to maintain the property or does not make repairs that could endanger the health or welfare of the tenant.

If a tenant moves out before the end of the lease, the tenant owes the landlord the balance due under the lease. The landlord should try to rent the property to someone else to recover the rent which will be lost by the tenant moving out.

The Eviction Process

A landlord cannot evict a tenant for no valid reason.  Eviction is a legal process. There are certain steps which have to be followed:

  1. The landlord has to ask the tenant to move.
  2. If the tenant doesn’t move, the landlord has to notify the tenant in writing that they plan to have the court evict them. The only time notification is not necessary is when the eviction is due to non-payment of rent and the clause mentioned earlier is in the tenant’s lease.
  3. The clerk of the court will schedule a hearing. Typically, this will be on a Tuesday in the General Sessions court.

At the hearing, the judge will ask both sides to tell their story. If the judge orders the tenant to move, the tenant has 10 calendar days to do this. Saturdays and Sundays are in these 10 days.

During those 10 days, the tenant can appeal the decision to the Circuit Court.  They have to post one year of rent as a bond with the appeal. The tenant can remain in the rental unit until the appeal is head.

A tenant should never skip their court date. They will lose the chance to enforce their rights. They will also lose their case by default.

  1. If the tenant Is ordered to move by the judge and does not move by the tenth day, the landlord can contact the clerk’s office for a Writ of Possession.

The landlord gives this to the sheriff’s office. Someone from the sheriff’s office will serve the tenant with it and will have the tenant removed from the property. The landlord can change the locks at that point and can have any of the remaining property of the tenant moved to the curb.


There are other options to resolving the dispute. One is Mediation.

Mediation can only happen if both parties, the landlord and the tenant, want it to happen. When pursuing mediation, the tenant discusses alternative options with the landlord and a third party. If an agreement is made in mediation, the judge isn’t needed.

Mediation can be sought out by one party, but it is important to remember that it cannot happen without both parties’ consent.

Steps a Tenant Can Take

A tenant should not be intimidated or scared by the idea of going to court or having a deputy deliver a warrant to them. They are not being criminally charged. They have rights to due process in court.

If at all possible, a tenant should strive to have a good working relationship with the people at the management company of the apartment complex or their landlord.

If they have difficulty paying their rent, they may be able to borrow what they owe from relatives or friends.

If that isn’t possible, they should let the management company or the landlord know about their problem. They should ask if the management company or the landlord can work with them.

They should have a plan on how they can catch up on the rent they’re behind.  That may be as simple as paying extra each coming month until they have paid all they owed.

A management company or landlord is more likely to work with a tenant if they have always paid their rent on-time and have never had a problem before.

If this isn’t possible and eviction is likely, the tenant should still talk to the landlord or management company and discuss how they can pay what they owe.

If the tenant goes to court and is evicted, the eviction is noted on the tenant’s public record. It will remain there for 7 years.

Most management companies for apartment complexes and landlords check the records of people applying to rent from them. If they see an eviction on their record, they may not rent to them.

After a tenant has paid any balance owed to the landlord, they should make sure the outstanding balance is removed from their credit report. If payment was made to the management company, the tenant should have them remove if it it’s still on their record.  If a collection agency was involved, the tenant should request them to do it.

If a tenant cannot pay the entire amount they owe the landlord or collection agency at one time, they can try to negotiate a payment plan. Payments will be made directly to the court clerk’s office after a judgment is entered.

A tenant can seek legal counsel through Legal Aid of East Tennessee. They may provide free civil legal representation if a tenant cannot pay for it.

Public Housing KCDC

For a tenant renting an apartment from the Knoxville Community Development Corporation (KCDC), there are specific federal regulations which govern their rights as a tenant. Their rights and protections are greater than those of most tenants renting from private landlords, especially those concerning evictions.

1.There has to be a written lease between the tenant and KCDC

  1. Before KCDC can start the eviction process, they have to notify the tenant they intend to terminate the tenant’s lease. This notice has to let the tenant know:
  • The reason or reasons the tenant has to move out.
  • The tenant has the right to reply with reasons they feel this action is wrong.
  • The tenant can request a hearing under KCDC’ grievance procedures. In certain circumstances such as when there is illegal or drug activity, the tenant may not have the right to a hearing.

If rent is not paid within 14 days of the due date, a notice is sent to the tenant by first class mail or delivered in person to the tenant or another adult living in the apartment at the end of 30 days.

If the tenant pays the rent owed within the 14-day period, and within six months fails to pay the rent again, KCDC only has to give 14 days’ notice, not 30.

When the notice is received, the tenant should arrange to move from their apartment before the end of the specified period unless they feel the grounds for the eviction are not valid.

If the tenant contests the Eviction, they have 10 days to request a grievance hearing.

An informal grievance hearing will take place.  This will normally be in the manager’s office. A Hearing Officer will be present at this. If the Hearing Officer agrees with KCDC’s decision requiring them to move out and they don’t agree with that, they still have the right to a trial in General Sessions Court regarding the eviction.

New Law Helping Those Over 62

When a tenant was evicted in the past because the apartment complex or house was sold, the new owner had to give the tenant 30 days’ notice. In 2023, Governor Lee signed a law increasing the time to 60 days for people over 62 provided they had always paid their rent on-time.


If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, I would love to know them. Please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is