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Memphis Renters’ Rights

What’s the problem?

Memphis is the Nation’s “Eviction Capital”, with 30,000 cases filed yearly, involving nearly one in five renters. Poverty, rising rents and blighted older housing (often absentee-owned) create this bad situation for renters. Landlord-friendly laws and court procedures make the situation worse, even in the best of times.The COVID crisis is likely to double the number of evictions, spreading the crisis to even moderate-income renters.

Renter's Resources

MICAH Calls to Action

Memphis Renter's Rights (FAQs)

It’s early June. Can I be evicted for not paying my rent? NO!  Unless your Eviction order was issued by the court before March 27, no new cases have been heard. You cannot be evicted without a Forcible Entry and Detainer warrant issued by the court. That said, evictions on old warrants or evictions for other reasons are permitted.

Can I be evicted without appearing in Court? YES!  If you don’t go to court, your landlord can still get a judgement and the judge can issue a Forcible Entry and Detainer order. In fact, if you are not present to make your case, the judge will hear only the landlord’s version. You can’t win if you don’t play. Courts are closed from April 1 to June 14. 

I think my apartment complex has a government assisted mortgage.  Can I be evicted? NO. Until July 25, any property that appears on this lookup site is forbidden from evictions.


My building is a wreck. Can I withhold rent until the landlord fixes it up? NO! If the problem is clearly the landlord’s fault, you may use your own money to fix the problem and deduct it from the rent, IF YOU HAVE NOTIFIED THE LANDLORD IN WRITING. The Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act describes the landlord’s timetable for fixing problems and your recourse if they don’t. 


Can I be evicted without notice? NO. Your landlord needs to file a lawsuit. If you waived notice in your lease, your landlord can go straight to court. If you didn't you must receive an eviction notice which will include a court date to hear the lawsuit. Whether you attend court or not, if the judge rules for the landlord and issues a Civil Warrant, a process server or other agent MUST notify you, either in person or by leaving the paperwork at your door. At that point, you have 10 days to appeal. For a detailed outline of the eviction process for Memphis, click here


Do I have to pay late fees, court costs and all back rent? USUALLY.   But tenants who go to court and have representation, or even good advice, can often negotiate better terms, even if their eviction stands. If the landlord did not properly notify the tenant, made record keeping errors or has not maintained the property, the eviction may be thrown out. We estimate that around a third of all evictions are flawed. 


Can I get a lawyer? MAYBE. You must act before you go to court. The judge will not counsel defendants; their job is to be neutral. To find an attorney, go to You may simply need advice on how to proceed, or what materials to bring to court. Call (901) 833-1122 for rental counseling, or email We’ll get back to you before noon the next day.

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