Tennessee State Law on Breaking a Lease

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Tenants must sometimes break their lease when unforeseen circumstances prevent them from living in their home. Divorce, job opportunities, military deployments and many other situations require tentants to end rent contracts early. Though Tennessee has laws to protect both renters and landlords, renters may still face financial consequences for breaking their lease.

Notification

  • Most rental agreements specify that the tenant must provide written notice to the landlord before breaking her lease. As of the time of publication, the Tennessee Landlord and Tenant Act does not specify a minimum amount of time to notify your landlord before breaking your lease. However, rental agreements typically state that the tenant must notify the landlord at least 30 or 60-days before breaking the lease. An email or written letter stating your expected move-out date is typically enough for notification. Even though you may give advance notice of breaking your lease, you are still violating the original terms of your lease agreement.

Eviction

  • The Tennessee Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to give tenants at least 30-days to leave the dwelling after the lease is broken. For example, if you give written notice to your landlord on Oct. 1 that you intend to break the lease and move out, he cannot evict you from the premises until Oct. 31. During the 30-day window, the tenant is still responsible for rent to the landlord.

Civil Action

  • Tennessee landlords may seek property damages, back rent and attorney's fees if the tenant breaks the lease agreement. Property damages are only sought if the tenant destroyed part of the property or caused damage that required maintenance or cleaning. The landlord must file a civil suit in a Tennessee county court that names the tenant as the defendant. The civil suit specifies the rent owed and any other details about the case. If the tenant does not appear in court, a summary judgement is ruled against the tenant. Tennessee prohibits landlords from placing a lien on the tenant's personal items within the property.

Considerations

  • Depending on the terms of your lease contract in Tennessee, there might be certain circumstances in which you can break your lease agreement without consequences. For example, if you are an active member of the military, and you are called to duty, you can cancel your lease agreement with adequate notice. Additionally, some contracts allow you to find a replacement tenant to take over your lease.

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