Tennessee Forcible Entry Law


Landlord Tenant – Forcible Entry and Detainer Law – Tennessee

TITLE 29
REMEDIES AND SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS
CHAPTER 18
FORCIBLE ENTRY AND DETAINER

Unlawful entry prohibited.

No person shall enter upon any lands, tenements, or other possessions, and detain or hold the same, but where entry is given by law, and then only in a peaceable manner. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-101

Forcible entry and detainer defined – Where action does not lie.

(a)  A forcible entry and detainer is where a person, by force or with weapons, or by breaking open the doors, windows, or other parts of the house, whether any person be in it or not, or by any kind of violence whatsoever, enters upon land, tenement, or possession, in the occupation of another, and detains and holds the same; or by threatening to kill, maim, or beat the party in possession; or by such words, circumstances, or actions, as have a natural tendency to excite fear or apprehension of danger; or by putting out of doors or carrying away the goods of the party in possession; or by entering peaceably and then turning or keeping the party out of possession by force or threat or other circumstances of terror.
(b)  No action for forcible entry and detainer shall lie against any tenant who has paid all rent due for their current occupancy of the premises and who are not in violation of any law nor otherwise in breach of their written lease, but this subsection shall not apply in any manner to farm property, nor shall the provisions of this subsection be construed to alter or amend any valid lease agreement in effect on May 31, 1979. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-102
[Code 1858, § 3342 (deriv. Acts 1821, ch. 14, § 2); Shan., § 5091; Code 1932, § 9245; Acts 1979, ch. 421, §§ 1-3; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1602.]

Forcible detainer defined.

A forcible detainer is where a person enters lawfully or peaceably, and holds unlawfully, and by any of the means enumerated in § 29-18-102 as constituting a forcible entry. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-103
[Code 1858, § 3343 (deriv. Acts 1821, ch. 14, § 3); Shan., § 5092; Code 1932, § 9246; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1603.]

Unlawful detainer defined.

Unlawful detainer is where the defendant enters by contract, either as tenant or as assignee of a tenant, or as personal representative of a tenant, or as subtenant, or by collusion with a tenant, and, in either case, willfully and without force, holds over the possession from the landlord, or the assignee of the remainder or reversion. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-104
[Code 1858, § 3344 (deriv. Acts 1821, ch. 14, § 5); Shan., § 5093; Code 1932, § 9247; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1604.]

Scope of definitions.

Sections 29-18-101 – 29-18-104 extend to and comprehend terms for years, and all estates, whether freehold or less than freehold. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-105
[Code 1858, § 3345 (deriv. Acts 1821, ch. 14, § 4); Shan., § 5094; Code 1932, § 9248; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1605.]

Alternative actions.

Where the action is to recover real property, ejectment, or forcible or unlawful entry or detainer may be brought. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-106
[Code 1858, § 2750; Shan., § 4441; Code 1932, § 8567; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1606.]

Jurisdiction of general sessions judge.

All cases of forcible entry and detainer, forcible detainer, and unlawful detainer, may be tried before any one (1) judge of the court of general sessions of the county in which the acts are committed, who shall decide the particular case, and all questions of law and fact arising. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-107
[Code 1858, § 3346 (deriv. Acts 1841-1842, ch. 186, § 1); Acts 1879, ch. 23; Shan., § 5095; Code 1932, § 9249; impl. am. Acts 1979, ch. 68, § 3; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1607.]

Original jurisdiction of circuit court.

The action for the recovery of the possession of land, given in this chapter, may also be originally instituted in the circuit court, the same forms being substantially pursued as those prescribed, the process being issued by the clerk, the plaintiff first giving bond and security to answer costs and damages as provided in § 29-18-111. Title 19, Chap. 18, §29-18-108
[Code 1858, § 3366 (deriv. Acts 1841-1842, ch. 186, § 8); Shan., § 5115; Code 1932, § 9270; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1608.]

Limitation of actions.

The uninterrupted occupation or quiet possession of the premises in controversy by the defendant, for the space of three (3) entire years together, immediately preceding the commencement of the action, is, if the estate of the defendant has not determined within that time, a bar to any proceeding under this chapter. Title 29, Chap. 18, §109
[Code 1858, § 3347 (deriv. Acts 1821, ch. 14, § 20); Shan., § 5096; Code 1932, § 9250; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 23-1609.]

Death of parties.

(a)  The heir or representative of the person who might have been plaintiff, if alive, may bring the suit after his death.
(b)  If either party die during the pendency of the suit, it may be revived by or against the heirs or legal representatives of the decedent, in the same manner and to the same extent as real actions. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-110

Plaintiff’s bond.

The party complaining is required, before the issuance of the writ, to give bond, with good security, to pay all costs and damages which shall accrue to the defendant for the wrongful prosecution of the suit. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-111

Form of warrant.

The warrant may be issued by a single general sessions judge in the following form:

State of Tennessee,  To the sheriff or any constable of such county:__________ County.

Whereas, complaint is made to me by A B, of a certain forcible and unlawful entry and detainer, made by C D, into and of a certain tract or lot of land, situated in the county aforementioned, and bounded [or known and described] as follows [insert boundaries and description], which land A B alleges he is entitled to the possession of, and C D unlawfully detains from him: We therefore command you to summon C D to appear before some judge of the court of general sessions, in and for such county, to answer the above complaint. This ________ day of ________, 20___. E F, G.S.J. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-112

Notice to quit not required.

No notice to quit need be given by the plaintiff to the defendant, other than the service of this warrant. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-113

Defects in proceedings.

The warrant need not set forth the particular species of entry or detainer, and any defect therein, or in any of the proceedings, may be amended as other process and pleadings in court. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-114

Method of serving summons.

(a)  In commencing an action under the provisions of this chapter, summons may be served upon any adult person found in possession of the premises; and service of process upon such party in possession shall be good and sufficient to enable the landlord to regain possession of such landlord’s property. In the event the summons cannot be served upon any adult person found in possession of the premises, personal service of process on the defendant is dispensed with in the following cases:

(1) When the defendant is a nonresident of this state;
(2) When, upon inquiry at the defendant’s usual place of abode, the defendant cannot be found, so as to be served with process, and there is just ground to believe that the defendant has gone beyond the limits of the state;
(3) When the summons has been returned “not to be found in my county”;
(4) When the name of the defendant is unknown and cannot be ascertained upon diligent inquiry;
(5) When the residence of the defendant is unknown and cannot be ascertained upon diligent inquiry; or
(6) When a domestic corporation has ceased to do business and has no known officers, directors, trustee, or other legal representatives, on whom personal service may be had.

In those cases where personal service of process on the defendant is dispensed with, the proceeding shall be governed by §§ 21-1-203 – 21-1-205, and in addition thereto, the plaintiff shall post or cause to be posted on the front door or other front portion of the premises a copy of the publication notice at least fifteen (15) days prior to the date specified therein for the defendant to appear and make a defense.

(b)  In commencing an action under the provisions of this chapter, service of process may be made by the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s attorney, or the plaintiff’s agent, in lieu of subsection (a), by lodging the original summons and a copy certified by the clerk with the sheriff of the county in which suit is brought, who shall promptly send postage prepaid a certified copy by certified return receipt mail to the individual as follows:

(1) In the case of an individual defendant, to the party named;
(2) In the case of a domestic corporation or a foreign corporation doing business in this state, to an officer or managing agent thereof, or to the chief agent in the county where the action is brought or to any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service on behalf of the corporation; or
(3) In the case of a partnership or an unincorporated association which is a named defendant under a common name, to a partner or managing agent of the partnership or to an officer or managing agent of the association, or to an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service on behalf of the partnership or association.

(c)  In any case in which such warrant or process is returned undelivered for any reason whatsoever, service of process shall then be made as otherwise provided by law.
(d)

(1)The original process, endorsed as indicated below, an affidavit of the appropriate sheriff setting forth the sheriff’s compliance with the requirements of the preceding provisions, and the return receipt signed by the defendant shall be attached together and sent to and filed by the clerk of the court of general sessions. There shall be endorsed on the original warrant by the sheriff over the sheriff’s signature the date of the sheriff’s mailing the certified copy to the defendant; thereupon service of the defendant shall be consummated. An act of a deputy of the sheriff in the sheriff’s behalf, hereunder shall be deemed the equivalent of the act of the latter.
(2) When service of process by mail is made upon one or more individual defendants, service of process shall not be complete as to any individual unless a return receipt, signed or acknowledged on its face by the individual personally, is returned to the deputy sheriff.

(e)

(1) In addition to the methods set out in this section, service of process for an action commenced under this chapter shall be good and sufficient to enable the landlord to regain possession of such landlord’s property if the sheriff of the county in which the action is brought, or such sheriff’s deputy, personally serves a copy of the warrant or summons upon any named defendant who has a contractual or possessory property right in the subject premises.
(2) If the sheriff is unable to serve any such named defendant personally, or if after three (3) attempts of personal service of process during a ten-day period with such attempts being documented on the face of the warrant, no such person is found in possession of the premises, service of process for determining the right of possession of the subject premises as to all who may have a contractual or possessory property right therein may be had by the sheriff of the county, or such sheriff’s deputy, taking the following actions at least ten (10) days prior to the date specified therein for the defendant(s) to appear and make a defense:

(A) Posting a copy of the warrant or summons on the door of the premises;
(B) Sending by United States postal service first class mail with certificate of mailing a copy of the warrant or summons to the so named defendant(s) at the last known address, if any; and
(C) Making an entry of this action on the face of the warrant or summons filed in the case.

The method of service of process provided for in this subdivision shall be used only after the defendant who has a contractual or possessory property right in the subject premises is more than ten (10) days past due on rental installment payments or has held over after expiration of proper notice of termination of tenancy for more than ten (10) days. The provisions of this subdivision shall apply only to the service of process in an action brought to regain possession of real property, and shall not apply to the service of process in any action seeking monetary judgment. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-115

Neglect to execute process.

Any officer neglecting or refusing to execute any process, under this chapter, shall forfeit two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) to the party aggrieved, to be recovered with costs before any tribunal having jurisdiction thereof. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-116

Time of trial.

The officer serving the warrant shall notify the defendant of the time and place of trial, the time not to be less than six (6) days from the date of service. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-117

Postponement of trial.

The general sessions judge may, at the request of either party, and on good reason being assigned, postpone the trial to any time not exceeding fifteen (15) days, the party making the application paying the cost. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-118

Manner of trial – Title not inquired into.

(a)  The cause shall be tried at the time and place designated, by a single general sessions judge, without the intervention of a jury, and in all respects like other civil suits before the court of general sessions.
(b)  The general sessions judge will try every case upon its merits and ascertain whether the plaintiff or defendant is entitled to the possession of the premises agreeably to the laws governing such cases, and give judgment accordingly.
(c)  The estate, or merits of the title, shall not be inquired into.  Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-119

Trial in circuit court.

(a)  Actions originally instituted in the circuit court will stand for trial at the first term after the pleadings are complete.
(b)  The jury, if they find for the plaintiff, will ascertain the damages he has sustained, including rent, and judgment shall be given accordingly.
Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-120

Subpoenas.

The general sessions judge before whom the complaint is made, or the one before whom the cause is to be tried, may issue subpoenas for witnesses into any county of the state. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-121

Fees.

(a)  The general sessions judge is entitled to one dollar ($1.00) per day for trying cases of forcible entry and detainer, forcible detainer, or unlawful detainer.
(b)  The officer is entitled to two dollars and fifty cents ($2.50) for each defendant named in the original process, and one dollar ($1.00) for each witness summoned.
(c)  Each witness shall receive one dollar ($1.00) for each day’s attendance.
Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-122

Bond to confess judgment at termination of lease – Judgment and writ.

(a)  Any person, granting a lease of lands, tenements, and hereditaments, may incorporate or take from the tenant a bond covenanting to deliver possession of the rented premises on the day specified therein as the end of the term of the lease, and further authorizing the party from whom the premises are rented, or any other person whose name may be mentioned as attorney, in case possession of the premises is not delivered in conformity with the provisions of the lease, to appear on any day of the term of any court having jurisdiction in such case, the term of such court to be expressly named, and the premises to be sufficiently described in the bond, and then and there, in the name of the party executing the bond, confess a judgment for possession of the rented premises.
(b)  Upon presentation of the bond, and satisfactory proof of its execution, the court shall enter judgment for possession and also for costs of the proceeding, in favor of the party granting the lease against the tenant thus unlawfully holding over.
(c)  The writ of possession shall have effect to dispossess any party in possession who holds as assignee or sublessee of the original tenant.
Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-123

Form of judgment for plaintiff.

The judgment for the plaintiff should be endorsed on the warrant or annexed thereto, substantially to the following effect:

A B    Judgment for the plaintiff, that he be restored to possession of the

v.    land described in the within warrant, and that a writ of possession

C D    or restitution issue therefor, and also for the costs of suit. This __________ day of __________, 19______. E F, G.S.J.
Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-124

Monetary judgments for plaintiff.

In all cases of forcible entry and detainer, forcible detainer, and unlawful detainer, the judge of the court of general sessions trying the cause shall be authorized and it shall be his duty, if his judgment shall be that the plaintiff recover the possession, to ascertain the arrearage of rent, and interest, and damages, if any, and render judgment therefor. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-125

Delay before execution.

No execution or writ of possession shall issue against the defendant upon any judgment, under the provisions of this chapter, until after the lapse of ten (10) days from the rendition of the judgment. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-126

Form of execution and writ.

The execution for costs shall issue in the usual form, and the writ of possession may be as follows:

State of Tennessee, To the sheriff or any constable of such county:

__________ County.

Whereas, at a trial of forcible and unlawful detainer had in such county on the ________ day of ________, 19____, before E F, a judge of the court of general sessions of such county, judgment was given that A B recover from C D possession of a certain tract or parcel of land, bounded [or known and described] as follows [insert the description in the warrant]: We therefore command you, that you take with you the force of the county, if necessary, and cause A B, the plaintiff in such judgment, to have and be restored to the possession of such tract or parcel of land, and that you remove C D, the defendant in such judgment, therefrom, and give such plaintiff peaceable possession of such premises, and make return to me in twenty days how you have executed this writ.

This ________ day of ________, 19____. E F, G.S.J.
Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-127

Appeal.

An appeal will also lie in suits commenced before general sessions judges, under the provisions of this chapter, within the ten (10) days allowed by § 27-5-108, as in other cases, the appellant, if the defendant, giving bond as in the case of a certiorari. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-128

Certiorari and supersedeas to circuit court.

The proceedings in such actions may, within thirty (30) days after the rendition of judgment, be removed to the circuit court by writs of certiorari and supersedeas, which it shall be the duty of the judge to grant, upon petition, if merits are sufficiently set forth, and to require from the applicant a bond, with security sufficient to cover all costs and damages; and, if the defendant below be the applicant, then the bond and security shall be of sufficient amount to cover, besides costs and damages, the value of the rent of the premises during the litigation.
Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-129

Immediate execution of writ of possession – Bond pending appeal.

(a)  When judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiff, in any action of forcible entry and detainer, forcible detainer, or unlawful detainer, brought before a judge of the court of general sessions, and a writ of possession is awarded, the same shall be executed and the plaintiff restored to the possession immediately.
(b)

(1)  If the defendant pray an appeal, then, in that case, the plaintiff shall execute bond, with good and sufficient security, in double the value of one (1) year’s rent of the premises, conditioned to pay all costs and damages accruing from the wrongful enforcement of such writ, and to abide by and perform whatever judgment may be rendered by the appellate court in the final hearing of the cause.
(2) In cases where the action has been brought by a landlord to recover possession of leased premises from a tenant on the grounds that the tenant has breached the contract by failing to pay the rent, and a judgment has been entered against the tenant, the provisions of subdivision (b)(1) shall not apply. In that case, if the defendant prays an appeal, the defendant shall execute bond, or post either a cash deposit or irrevocable letter of credit from a regulated financial institution, or provide two (2) good personal sureties with good and sufficient security in the amount of one (1) year’s rent of the premises, conditioned to pay all costs and damages accruing from the failure of the appeal, including rent and interest on the judgment as provided for herein, and to abide by and perform whatever judgment may be rendered by the appellate court in the final hearing of the cause. The plaintiff shall not be required to post a bond to obtain possession in the event the defendant appeals without complying with this section. The plaintiff shall be entitled to interest on the judgment, which shall accrue from the date of the judgment in the event the defendant’s appeal shall fail.
Title 29, Chap. 18 §29-18-130

Monetary judgment in circuit court.

(a)  If the defendant obtain certiorari, and, upon trial in the circuit court, the jury find that the plaintiff is entitled to the possession of the land, they shall also ascertain the value of the rents during the time the plaintiff has been kept out of possession, and such other damages as the plaintiff is entitled to, and the court shall give judgment against the defendant and his sureties for the amount.
(b)  Should the cause be taken to the circuit court by the plaintiff, and a verdict be found in his favor, the jury shall, in like manner, ascertain the value of the rents, and the damages they may consider the plaintiff entitled to, and return the amount in their verdict, upon which the court shall give judgment accordingly. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-131

[Repealed.] 29-18-132

Penalty for resuming possession.

(a)  A person, once dispossessed by action, who again illegally possesses the premises, commits a Class C misdemeanor.
(b)  The only evidence, required or admitted on the trial of the criminal charge, is that the defendant was turned out of possession by action brought for the purpose, and that the defendant has again taken possession of the premises. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-133

Trespass action.

The judgment in a case of forcible entry and detainer shall be no bar to an action against the defendant for trespass. Title 29, Chap. 18, §29-18-134