COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.

This page was last updated on July 7, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

Its information is taken from these sources:Tenn. Supreme Court orderTenn. utilities orderLegal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the CumberlandsPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect Tracker

COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in Tennessee
Is there a ‘special protection’ for renters during the emergency? What’s it called?

The Supreme Court of Tennessee suspended eviction court cases for renters who cannot pay rent through June 1, 2020. Since then, evictions have since resumed. However, local courts have issued additional protections. For example, Davidson County's Sheriff suspended all evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs until further notice.

The Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered that all regulated utility must continue services for residents during the emergency period, even if they cannot pay their bills.

Some local county and city governments may have additional protections for Tennessee renters. Some renters may be eligible for U.S. national protections through July 25, check here below to see if you qualify.

What do the protections mean for renters?

The protections meant that through June 1, 2020 in Tennessee:

  1. Your landlord could still give you a notice to quit.
  2. Your landlord could still file an eviction claim in court against you.
  3. Hearings on eviction were suspended, and the court would not hear any eviction case against you.
  4. The court would not issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
  5. An existing eviction order against you could still be enforced.

Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?

Yes, Tennessee renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.

Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help drafting a letter to your landlord here. Also you can use this letter-writing tool here.
  • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
  • Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
  • Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?

Tennessee renters could not be evicted from their homes for failure to pay rent during the emergency, though they may be evicted for other reasons. Evictions have since resumed and law enforcement may remove renters from their homes if there is an eviction order against them.

The Supreme Court stopped courts from hearing eviction cases based on nonpayment of rent through June 1, 2020. The courts still heard cases for other circumstances, like breaking other rules in the lease.

Some local Tennessee city or county governments may have suspended eviction enforcements. Be sure to check if your local government has any special rules to protect you.

You also may be eligible for U.S. national protections through July 25, check here below to see if you qualify.

If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.

Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?

Tennessee renters' utilities cannot be shut off during the emergency period.

The Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered that all regulated utility must continue services for residents during the emergency period. No customer should have home utilities shut off during the emergency, based on an inability to pay.

Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?

Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.

Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?

Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.
You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.
You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.

If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)

  • Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
  • Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
  • After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.

For more help on these national protections, reach out for legal and financial help here. Also, use this tool to write a letter to your landlord if you are having issues with rent or eviction.

What if I need repairs?

Can I break my lease?

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me?

Are eviction cases still proceeding through court?

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