Staying Compliant in Nashville: Guide to Local Property Laws - Article Banner

Nashville is a rapidly growing city filled with thriving neighborhoods, a lot of energy, and a growing population. Nashville has also become a booming real estate market. If you’re renting out property in this city, or you’re thinking about becoming a landlord in Nashville, it is crucial to stay informed and compliant with all applicable rental laws and regulations. 

As local property managers who have a deep understanding of the Nashville rental market and its requirements, we are experts at legal compliance and rental laws that govern your property at the state, federal, and local level. We get a lot of questions around fair housing, security deposits, and whether it’s okay to raise the rent. Many of the owners we work with are confused about the difference between service animals and emotional support animals. 

So, we decided to put together this comprehensive guide which will walk you through some of the most essential laws that cover fair housing, security deposit requirements, the eviction process, rental increases, and Nashville lease agreement provisions.

Federal and State Fair Housing Laws

Fair housing laws are designed to eliminate discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Both federal and Tennessee laws dictate what is permissible when renting property to tenants. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is the primary federal legislation that prohibits discriminatory practices, while Tennessee’s own fair housing laws echo and reinforce those at the national level.

It’s easier than you think to accidentally discriminate against an applicant or your tenants. Key areas to be mindful of under these laws include:

  • Advertising. Make sure your rental ads don’t discriminate against any of the protected classes. Stick to describing property features and avoid any language that might be seen as discriminatory or exclusionary. You don’t want to say that an apartment would be “perfect for a single professional,” for example. Don’t list churches that are in the neighborhood. Instead, focus your marketing on why your property would be ideal for any tenant.
  • Tenant screening. Make sure you’re using a fair and consistent process to evaluate prospective tenants. This might include checking credit reports, rental history, and employment. Treat each applicant consistently, regardless of their protected class. We recommend that you establish a set of standard qualifying criteria against which you will measure every application that comes in.
  • Reasonable accommodations. Be prepared to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities or service animals. This can mean installing a ramp, having large print versions of documents, or allowing modifications to be made to the unit so that someone in a wheelchair can enjoy their home the way any other tenant would. Service animals and companion animals are a big part of avoiding discrimination. If you don’t allow pets, that’s your decision. However, you cannot disallow a service animal or a companion animal that’s necessary to treat a person’s physical, intellectual, or emotional disability. 

Fair housing laws can get pretty murky, and it’s never good to invite a complaint. You’ll spend a lot of time and resources defending yourself against any accusation, so make sure you’re consistent and compliant. 

Security Deposit Requirements in Tennessee

Tennessee security deposit laws and requirements can be found in Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-301 et seq. This is the part of the state law that governs deposit limits, deadlines for returning deposits, and allowable deductions for landlords in the state. 

Here’s what you need to know about the way you collect, hold, and return security deposits: 

  • There is no specific security deposit limit that’s imposed by Tennessee laws. You can charge anything you want as a security deposit, just remember that if it’s too cost-prohibitive, you might have a hard time attracting tenants to your property. 
  • There is a deadline by which you need to return your tenant’s security deposit. Nashville landlords have 30 days after the tenant moves out to send back a tenant’s deposit. You’ll want to get a forwarding address before your tenants leave so that you know where to send it, otherwise you’ll have to send it to their last known address, which is likely your rental property.
  • There must be a written notice of deductions: Landlords must provide a written notice itemizing any deductions from a security deposit. When you charge the deposit, make sure you can document what you’ve charged and why you’ve made those charges.
  • Landlords are not required to pay interest on a tenant’s security deposit.

To ensure compliance, maintain clear records of deposits, hold those funds in separate accounts, and keep tenants updated on their return status during the move-out process. Consider using a clear security deposit checklist to facilitate this process.

Know the Eviction Laws in Nashville

As a landlord in Nashville, it is crucial to be familiar with the eviction process, which occurs when landlords legally remove tenants who violate their lease agreement. Under Tennessee law (Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-101 et seq.), there are specific steps that landlords must follow to remain compliant throughout the eviction process:

  1. Notice Periods. Depending on the reason for eviction, Nashville landlords must provide written notice to tenants under the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (TURLTA). For nonpayment of rent, a 14-day notice is required, while other lease violations require a 30-day notice. Serve this notice before you make any additional moves towards eviction, and make sure you keep a copy of this notice in case you do find yourself in court.
  2. Filing an Eviction Lawsuit. If the tenant does not remedy the violation within the timeframe that the served notice provides, you may then file a detainer warrant in General Sessions Court. We always recommend speaking with an attorney or a Nashville property manager at this point. You don’t want to miss any steps, requirements, or timelines, otherwise your case can be thrown out and you’ll be back at square one. 
  3. Court Hearing. The judge will decide whether an eviction is warranted during the hearing. A writ of possession will be issued if the landlord is successful, and you’ll be able to schedule a physical eviction if that becomes necessary.  
  4. Execution of Writ. The local sheriff or constable will carry out the writ, removing the tenant and their belongings from the property if necessary. The landlord should not personally carry out the eviction; it is crucial to let the authorized officials handle it, to avoid potential legal complications. You can be there, prepared to change the locks, but you want to make sure that the correct authorities are overseeing the physical removal of your tenant. 

It’s important to note that “self-help” evictions are not legal in Tennessee. These may include changing locks, shutting off utilities, or removing a tenant’s belongings without proper legal process. Engaging in such practices can lead to legal trouble for landlords. Avoid this. If you find yourself having to evict, remain professional and seek help. Understanding and adhering to these eviction procedures can help protect landlords from potential lawsuits and ensure that the process is carried out legally and fairly. 

Nashville-Specific Rental Laws 

While Nashville abides by the general rental laws of Tennessee, there are some specific regulations distinct to the city. One of the key Nashville-specific regulations pertains to short-term rentals, such as Airbnb or VRBO rentals. The city has passed the Short Term Rental Property (STRP) act, which requires landlords to obtain a permit before listing their property on short-term rental platforms. 

According to the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, there are two types of permits: owner-occupied and non-owner occupied. The former applies to properties where the owner lives in the home for more than half the year, while the latter is for properties where the owner does not live on-site. 

If you’re thinking about renting out properties in the short term, make sure you understand the strict regulations that are in place. 

Outside of the short-term rentals, Nashville also has strict requirements regarding the maintenance of rental properties. Landlords must comply with the Property Standards Codes, ensuring that properties are safe and habitable at all times. Compliance with these codes includes: 

  • Meeting structural requirements
  • Maintaining basic utilities
  • Addressing any potential hazards promptly

Understanding and following these Nashville-specific rental laws will act as a safeguard for landlords, protecting them from potential legal complications and fostering a fair and transparent rental market in the city. Landlords should always stay informed about any changes or updates to these laws to ensure ongoing compliance. This is part of renting out your home.

As a landlord in Nashville, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of the various laws and regulations that govern rental properties in the city and the state of Tennessee. By adhering to fair housing laws, following security deposit requirements, understanding eviction procedures, and making sure you’re up to date on all local requirements, you’ll set yourself up for a successful and stress-free rental process. 

Contact Property ManagerThis can be overwhelming for a lot of landlords, and there’s where professional Nashville property management can help. No time to dive into the nuance of every new fair housing update? We do it for you. Contact us at Apex Ventures, Inc., and we’ll make sure that you and your property are both protected and in full compliance with all state, federal, and local laws.