What are possible defenses to a commercial real estate eviction?

If you are a Tennessee commercial real estate landlord, you likely worry about the stress and cost of eviction if your tenants fail to pay rent on time, violate the terms of your lease or engage in illegal activity on the premises. However, thinking about their possible defenses now can help you mitigate those defenses.

Eviction notices

A Tennessee commercial eviction process starts with you submitting a written notice. The notice must state the reason for the eviction and give the tenant a certain amount of time to either remedy the problem or vacate the property. The amount of time depends on the type and severity of the violation.

Notice noncompliance

If the tenant does not comply with the notice within the given time frame, you can file a complaint with the court and request a writ of possession. The tenant will be served with a copy of the complaint and a summons to appear in court for a hearing. The judge will then decide whether to grant or deny the writ of possession.

Improper notice

A commercial tenant may have some possible defenses against an eviction. If the landlord did not give proper notice to the tenant before filing an eviction lawsuit, that can be an eviction defense. The notice must be in writing, state the reason for eviction and give adequate time for compliance.

Your actions

If you accepted rent or otherwise waived your right to evict after knowing about the violation, or attempted to evict the tenant because they exercised a legal right or complained about a problem on the property, these are eviction defenses. For example, if you accepted partial rent after giving a notice for nonpayment of rent, you may have waived your right to evict for that reason. Similarly, if the tenant reported a code violation or requested repairs, and you responded by evicting them, that may be considered retaliation and a defense against an eviction.

Breach of contract

Especially for commercial tenants, a common defense against an eviction or to mitigate damages is that you, the landlord, also breached the lease. Essentially, the argument is that you breached a term of the lease agreement that affected the tenant’s rights or interests. For example, if you failed to provide security, parking or access to common areas as promised in the lease, that may be considered breach of contract.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and commercial tenants may have other defenses. However, the key is to think through ways your contractual relationship could go south now to hopefully avoid it in the future.

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