Landlord/Tenant Obligations and URLTA Applicability in Tennessee

Understanding your obligations as a landlord or tenant in the rental of residential property are key to a good landlord/tenant relationship (paying your rent is always helpful as well!). Like most anything these days though, people turn to the internet when trying to figure out what the responsibilities of their landlord or tenant may be. That may even be how you arrived here! However, the internet can be, and often is, a very misleading place.

There is no uniform regulation that applies across the board to rental properties when it comes to landlord or tenant obligations. Landlord/tenant laws vary from state to state and in Tennessee they may vary from county to county as well. Additionally, other factors, such as participation in government programs, could mean that applicable regulations vary within the same county depending upon the circumstance.

Confusion within Tennessee often arises from whether the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) is applicable. URLTA was a federal attempt to modernize landlord/tenant law in the 1970's. In varying respects it heightened the duties and responsibilities of those involved in the rental of property. However, state participation and adoption of URLTA was not required. In Tennessee, URLTA provisions were adopted, but only made applicable to those counties which have a population of more than 75,000 people according to the 2010, or any subsequent, federal census. This means that currently URLTA is only applicable to the following counties: Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, Washington, Williamson, and Wilson.

The U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up for the 2020 census, so whether URLTA applies to the county in which you reside could be subject to change soon. Based upon Census Bureau projections, population estimates predict that an additional county (Putnam) will be subject to URLTA regulations upon the 2020 census' completion and release.

It can be misleading for a website to post landlord obligations under URLTA as Tennessee landlord/tenant law without specifying that those obligations only apply in URLTA counties. For example, a tenant who does not reside in those counties but sees the website may become confused as to the expectations they have of their landlord. The information may not be wrong on those websites, it just may not be applicable to the situation and the use of that information can then drive a wedge further between a landlord and tenant.

Whether URLTA applies to your county or not doesn't necessarily mean that the obligations of the landlord or tenant are less clear. It does mean, however, that the answer to your question may not be on the internet and may instead need to be found within the lease agreement itself. A well-drafted lease agreement can be key in avoiding disputes and understanding the lease agreement and its associated obligations are just as important. If you reside in a county in which URLTA does not apply, then typically the provisions of your lease agreement will control.

It is always recommended that you contact a licensed attorney to answer any questions regarding the specifics of your landlord/tenant situation.

Sources:

https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/cph-2-44.pdf

https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
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Thursday, 17 June 2021