The Uniform Residential Landlord & Tenant Act

Posted by McKenna Cox on September 24th, 2019

The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, also known as URLTA, was created in 1972 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in the United States. It is a law governing residential landlord and tenant rental agreements entered into or renewed after July 1, 1975. The URLTA favors neither landlords or tenants. It is intended to make residential landlord and tenant laws more fair to all parties, and more relevant to rentals in an urban setting.

The URLTA comprises of six articles. Each article discusses a separate issue with regard to the landlord/ tenant relationship. They are as follows:

  • Article I: General Provisions and Definitions
  • Article II: Landlord Obligations
  • Article III: Tenant Obligations
  • Article IV: Remedies
  • Article V: Retaliatory Conduct
  • Article VI: Effective Date and Repealer

URLTA requires that a landlord:

  • Keep all common areas in a clean and safe condition
  • Make all repairs and do whatever necessary to keep the premises in a habitable condition
  • Comply with all applicable and building codes affecting health and safety
  • Maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances in good and safe working condition
  • Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for removal of garbage and other waste
  • Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat (between October and May), except where the law does not require the building to be so equipped

URLTA requires that a tenant:

  • Comply with obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable building and housing codes
  • Keep the tenant’s premises clean and safe
  • Dispose of garbage and other wastes from the dwelling
  • Keep plumbing fixtures as clear as their condition permits
  • Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, air-conditioning, ventilating, and other facilities and appliances
  • Do not disturb the neighbor’s peaceful enjoyment of the premises

Issues URLTA does not address

There are a few issues in which the URLTA does not cover. These include the handling of security deposits, rent increases, and rent control. Within this law, it is not specified whether or not landlords must separate security deposit money from their finances, whether interest must be paid, or whether deposit funds must be placed into interest-bearing accounts.

It is required that landlord return either part or all of the security deposit to the tenant 30 days after the termination of the lease. However, the landlord may withhold the tenant’s security deposit for any of the following reasons: damages beyond ordinary wear and tear, unpaid rent, and other breaches of the lease. If the landlord withholds the deposit for any of these reasons, he or she must send the former tenant a statement to the last known address including an itemized list of damages and the amount of deposit owed.

Consequences of URLTA

State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. A landlord may give a tenant (who repeated an act) that violates the lease or rental agreement or affects health or safety twice within six months. Notice must be given for the first violation, and an unconditional quit notice that gives the tenant 14 days to move out, must be given before the landlord can file for eviction.

Under the URLTA, if the landlord fails to supply an essential service to the tenant, the tenant must give the landlord notice specifying the specific failure and then the tenant may choose one of the following options:

  • The tenant can arrange to receive essential services and then deduct the cost from the rent.
  • The tenant can recover damages based on the reduced value of the rental unit due to failure in receiving essential services.
  • The tenant can temporarily move somewhere else until the landlord supplies the essential service. If the tenant chooses this option, the tenant is not required to pay rent until the landlord provides the essential service.

By statute, the URLTA only applies in counties that have a population exceeding 68,000. It is in effect in the following counties: Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Greene, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Putnam, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, Washington, Williamson, and Wilson.

The Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs offers free mediation services for complaints regarding the URLTA. If the landlord agrees to mediation, then mediation can occur.  If a landlord does not agree to mediation, then legal action is the standard response. If you have additional questions regarding your rights, contact an experienced residential law attorney at Herndon, Coleman, Brading & McKee by calling 423-434-4700 to determine whether or not possible legal action is required.


◄ Back to Landlord Tenant Law News