A Tennessee Lease or Rental Application is a form used by Tennessee landlords to screen and vet potential tenants to determine whether they are reliable and able to pay rent promptly.
A standard rental application provides a landlord with the opportunity to screen for any red flags before offering a lease agreement.
Potential concerns property owners sometimes find after screening with a rental application range from credit history to past employment references.
Tennessee Rental Application Statistic/Specifics
According to the 2014 Tennessee Human Rights Commission report, disability and race have been the top reasons for landlord and seller discrimination in Tennessee, accounting for more than 50% of all cases.
Tennessee imposes/requires unique requirements on landlords screening potential/future tenants and tenants’ rights under the screening process.
For example, Tennessee Statutes provides for the following:
Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
- The Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act only applies to counties having a population of seventy-five thousand (75,000) or more and does not apply to commercial property.
- Make sure your county is covered in the scope of the act.
- For parties not located in one of the provided counties, the terms of your future lease agreement will govern the rights and obligations of both parties.
A month-to-month tenancy will arise if a landlord fails to sign the written rental agreement and accepts rent without hesitation.
Landlords may obtain a state-only background check or a nationwide background check.
Tennessee landlords and property managers can conduct background checks on prospective tenants. However, you’ll need a consent form signed by your prospective tenant.
If you already have a background check agency performing the background checks, they may have their forms, or you can use our background check authorization form.
The Tennessee Housing Rights Act does not offer protection from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
A rental application in Tennessee asks for basic information about the prospective tenant, including their name and current address, rental history, employment, and financial information, and personal and professional references.
You can also charge an application fee. State law does not limit Tennessee rental application fees, but you should keep the amount reasonable so you don’t price yourself out of applicants.
Most experts recommend charging about what it will cost you to process the application and run a background check.
An application fee is different from a security deposit. You collect the security deposit at the beginning of the rental to cover damage to the unit during a tenancy.
Tennessee has no limit on maximum security deposit amounts, but landlords must also use discretion. Tennessee is silent regarding pet deposits.
- There is no limit on the amount a landlord may require as an application fee.
- Landlords should use the application fee to supplement the costs of a tenant background check.
- Application fees must be reasonable.
Timeframe to File Complaint
Tenants and housing applicants may file a housing discrimination complaint up to 180 days from the date of the discriminatory act.
There is no set timeframe for a government investigation into the discriminatory act, but the Tennessee government website states investigations may take up to six (6) months.
Landlords may establish reasonable, minimum income criteria necessary for applicants to afford the unit, but must apply the amount uniformly to all applicants.
Regardless of state, the Fair Housing Act provides uniform protection for all renters and buyers from seller and landlord discrimination.
The act protects buyers and renters from discrimination based on the following:
- Color of skin
- National origin
- Familial status
Landlords are permitted to search and investigate specific objective criteria to determine whether tenants are trustworthy, reliable, and able to pay rent.
Landlords are legally permitted to investigate:
- Criminal history
- Sex offender registry
- Past rental, housing, and eviction history
- Proof of income and salary details
- Credit history
- Past and current employer’s contact information
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) and the subsequent 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act lay a framework for credit inquiry and reporting by landlords and sellers.
They both require a landlord to provide:
Written, oral, or electronic notice of any adverse action a landlord takes after evaluating a tenant screening report.
Consumer Report Details
The name, number, and address of the consumer reporting agency that issued the credit report to the landlord.
A landlord must also disclose the report’s contents, including the numerical credit score and information (score range, score date, score factors) for the applicant to review.
Copy and Opportunity to Dispute
A landlord must provide the applying tenant with a copy of the screening report, and a chance to dispute the completeness and accuracy of the report.
Performing an Eviction Record Search in Tennessee
It’s best to inquire if the prospective tenants have been evicted or broken a lease in another city or state before renting from you. You can ask them yourself or you can conduct an eviction record search.
The Tennessee State Courts have a public system for looking up evictions.
- Go to the Tennessee State Court website
- Click on “Search Public Case History”
- This will take you to a text field where you can enter the tenant’s first and last name, then hit “Return”
- This brings up a list of any cases with the tenant’s name (you will need to review all of them to see if any eviction cases exist)
- Searches need to be done county by county, so if your tenant lived in rentals in more than one county, you’ll have to repeat the process in each county where they’ve lived
You should have your background check agency perform an eviction check on your prospective tenant at the same time they run the background check.
This will save you time if you have many potential tenants or if your tenant has an extensive rental history.
Other Resources for Landlords in Tennessee
The Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act handout contains all landlords’ and tenants’ rights under Tennessee law.
The Tennessee Human Rights Act mirrors the federal Fair Housing Act. It is unlawful to discriminate in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, familial status, or disability.
If you choose to do background checks yourself, you can access the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry online. Use discretion in accessing this site.
If you have other questions or concerns, the Tennessee Department of Health has resources for renters and property owners that can help you understand what you need for a safe and habitable property and where you can go for more assistance.
How to Write a Rental Application
Follow the steps below to write a rental application in Tennessee.
Step 1 – Fill in Property Address Information
Write the date of the rental application and the address of the rental property.
Step 2 – Collect Basic Rental Applicant Information
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide basic identifying information about themselves.
Step 3 – Collect Applicant’s Residence History
In this section, the applicant(s) provides their residence history including addresses, dates of residency and reasons for moving.
Step 4 – Gather Applicant’s Employment History
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide current and previous employment information and other sources of income.
Step 5 – Gather Applicant’s Financial History
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide bank account and credit card information.
Step 6 – Collect References
The applicant(s) provides personal references’ names and contact information in this section.
Step 7 – Additional Questions and Verification
This section contains additional questions to determine more information about the applicant such as smoking or pets.
Sample Tennessee Rental Application Form
Below is an example of what a standard Tennessee rental application form looks like.
You may download this free form or use our document builder to create a customized Tennessee rental application that covers all the details unique to your real estate needs.