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COVID-19 Information for Tennessee

The purpose of this page is to provide apartment industry professionals with an overview of the issues affecting our industry with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. The page is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute, and should not be construed as, legal advice. This resource is not intended to provide a mandatory standard of care for the industry.

State and Local Affiliates

Please remember to use your state or local apartment association as the primary resource for the most up-to-date information on your responsibilities. Find your local affiliate.

We highly suggest you contact a local attorney before you decide to initiate an eviction action against a resident in the current environment as overlaying federal, state and county laws or restrictions on the judicial process may apply. This includes: issuing a notice to vacate, initiating any eviction-related action, or assessing fees or penalties on residents for nonpayment of rent or other lease violations. In addition to the below, you can access NAA's statutory information on late fees, eviction laws and other policy issues.

Reopening Order

Effective Wednesday, April 29 2020, Governor Lee issued Executive Order #30, which repeals Tennessee’s shelter-in-place mandate and establishes guidelines for returning to work in Tennessee. 

Governor Lee issued Executive Order #38 which encourages Tennesseans to return to work while complying with the Economic Recovery Group’s Guidelines.

State of Emergency

Governor Bill Lee declared a state of emergency on March 12, 2020.

Eviction

Status: Evictions Can Resume (Remote)

Court Order (Expired)

  • Action: Suspension of all in-person hearings until May 31, 2020, with limited exceptions.  “No judge may take any action to effectuate an eviction, ejectment, or other displacement from a residence during the effective dates of this order based on nonpayment of rent absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by a judge in a court of competent jurisdiction.” The Clerk’s office is still open, so cases can still be filed but hearings are postponed
  • COVID-19 Related Impact Requirement: No.
  • Residents Responsible for Rent: Yes.

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

No statewide emergency rental assistance for Tennessee.

Rent Freeze

No rent freeze is in effect at the state or local level. Local rent regulation is preempted by Tennessee Code Title 66 - Property Chapter 35 - Rent Control §66-35-102

Price-Gouging Law

Under Tennessee Code § 47.18.5103, it is unlawful to charge any person for a consumer good or service, including housing, until a declaration of emergency has concluded, a price that is in gross excess of its price prior to declaration. An increase in price will be shown to be not in excess if a seller can attribute such an increase to additional costs imposed by the supplier of that good or service.

Business Liability Protections

On Monday, August 17, 2020, Gov. Lee established protections for businesses against civil liability. Under the rules, businesses are protected against civil liability claims resulting from customer or employee exposure to COVID-19 while on premises if the business follows applicable federal, state, and local safety guidelines. 

Local Legal and Regulatory Information

Shelby

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

On April 15, 2020, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that was brought forth by Mayor Lee Harris. The resolution designated $2.5 million for COVID-19 relief efforts, out of that amount $500,000 will go towards helping Shelby county residents.

Families can receive anywhere between $1,000 to $1,500 for rent and mortgage assistance, up to $600 in utility assistance and $200 in food and essentials. The application will be available on April 27, 2020, on the Shelby County website, under the Division of Community Services page.

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Knoxville

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The city of Knoxville announced a new program was created to help residents with their overdue bills after historic job losses due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, with the $1.55 million received as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The financial relief is available to those who earn up to 80% of the Area Median Income and lost employment or income due to COVID-19, or have been diagnosed and/or quarantined with COVID-19 and are unable to work.

The city created a chart detailing the income limits per household, which can be viewed on the city’s website here. As an example, a household of two would be eligible if both incomes combined totaled less than $47,300 as of April 1.

The funds can be used for past rent or mortgage payments, current rent or mortgage payments, and past due utility bills. The best way to find out if someone is eligible for the housing assistance, or to apply, call 2-1-1 or visit 211.org. All payments will be made directly to the landlord, mortgage servicer or utility provider.

Applicants currently receiving a housing subsidy that bases rent on income (i.e. KCDC/public housing and Section 8 voucher), will not be eligible for rent/mortgage payment assistance, but may qualify for utility debts if their utility bill is in their name and not included in their rent.

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