In landlord tenant law, there are specific duties a landlord owes to the tenant, specifically in making the rental unit habitable and making necessary repairs in a timely manner.

The renter has an obligation to pay for the space he rents. When a renter vacates the property without notice, refuses to pay rent and then later pursues legal action against the landlord, it is important to understand what recourse the landlord can take.

Because landlord tenant laws in Tennessee vary with the population density of the county, it is important to know where to look to get experienced counsel if this happens.

Constructive eviction

When a renter vacates his unit or refuses to pay his rent, citing damages to the premises or malfunctioning utilities as the reason for his action, he is applying the theory of constructive eviction.

There are three elements to constructive eviction:

  • The landlord substantially interferes with the tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises that he is renting, and does not resolve the problem
  • The tenant gives notice that there is a problem, and the landlord does not respond
  • The tenant vacates the premises within a certain period of time

Renters often attempt to apply constructive eviction to justify withholding rent or moving out. However, if they do not give notice and follow certain timelines, the justification does not hold up.

The tenant’s rights

In Davidson County, the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act applies to habitability and eviction procedures. All rental property must meet the county’s building and housing codes, including safety and cleanliness of the common areas and habitability of the units.

The tenant has the right to give notice to the landlord if there is a problem. If the landlord does not fix it, the renter can make the repairs himself, deducting the cost of the repairs from his rent. If the tenant withholds rent, he must file a complaint to local officials, and can then move out temporarily until the damage is repaired.

Mutual obligation

The “implied warranty of habitability” law creates a mutual obligation between the renter’s duty to pay the rent and the landlord’s duty to maintain the rental unit properly. But many issues can be resolved with better communication between the two sides.

Sometimes maintenance is complicated by extreme weather conditions, scarcity of materials or repairmen. Renters in an uncertain economy are facing health and unemployment challenges. Knowing your rights is important when there is a breach of these laws.