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On January 27, 2016, WKRN reported that dozens of tenants at the Howe Garden Apartments in East Nashville received notices that they were to leave their apartments in the middle of the lease. This obviously left tenants, who still had months left on their leases, furious and confused. It wasn’t until new outlets asked the property management company for more information that the apartment complex announced that the notices were just a mistake.

The underlying issue with this story is that the apartment complex in question recently was purchased by a new owner. Currently, Howe Garden is an affordable complex in a vastly growing Nashville. It is not uncommon to have complexes purchased by new owners, renovated and put back up for lease at a higher rate. But to do that, the current residents must have their leases run out or agree to leave.

Under Tennessee law, new owners inherit the lease agreement between the tenants and original landlord when they purchase property that is currently being rented. This means they must honor the lease agreement, including the duration of the lease. The new owner must also follow Tennessee’s Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

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Most of our clients who are dealing with allegations from the Department of Health are fighting to keep their name off the abuse registry. More recently we have been contacted by individuals who have found out that their name has been placed on an abuse registry without their knowledge. This can cause a tremendous amount of problems, including preventing someone from being employed.

So, you are one of the people who have recently found out you were placed on an abuse registry years ago. What can you do now? Depending on how long ago you were placed on the registry, you do have options to get your name removed. The first is petitioning the Board to remove your name. This petition is very important and should be completed knowing what specific characteristic the Board is looking for in determining whether or not to remove a name from the abuse registry. Taking the time to understand how such a petition should be drafted, who should supply letters of reference and knowing who your audience is can mean the difference in your petition being granted or denied.

In the event that you have petitioned the Board for removal and have found out that your Petition has been denied, you do have an option. Tennessee law allows for a person to appeal an administrative decision to the Chancery Court for judicial review. Such a review is conducted by the court without a jury and is confined to the record of the agency’s decision alone. This review is limited to certain questions of law and, most times, focuses on the procedures and very little on the facts surrounding your case.

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Whether you are a nurse, doctor or pharmacist, your professional license is your livelihood. Theses licenses are governed by specific Boards as part of the Tennessee Department of Health and have the power to suspend and even revoke your license.

If you ever receive a 4-5-320(c) notice, then you could be facing discipline from the Department of Health that could have enormous ramifications on your ability to earn a living. A 4-5-320(c) letter is a notification that you have been charged with a violation of rules and regulations that govern your profession. Prior to receiving that notice, a Board Consultant and attorney from the Tennessee Department of Health have already investigated allegation and have decided to proceed with formal charges against you.

Included with this notice is usually a consent order, which is document produced by the Tennessee Department of Health attorney requesting that you agree to the facts surrounding the charge and consent to recommended discipline. At that time you have only a few options, either sign and consent to the facts and discipline; negotiate; or refuse to sign and move forward with a hearing on the allegations.

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Freeman & Fuson represents both landlords and tenants who find themselves in a dispute with the other. Whether you are facing an eviction or have a tenant who has breached the terms of the lease, we can help you with those issues or any number of the other problems that may arise. Tennessee has a set of laws that covers landlords and their tenants and the duties owed by both.

The duties of either the landlord or the tenant varies from county to county in Tennessee. That is because the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Acts (“URLTA”) applies to counties with a population of 68,000 or more. (Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Greene, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Putnam, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, Washington, Williamson and Wilson).

LANDLORDS

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A recent article by CNBC stated that home ownership across the country is down to its lowest rate since 1967. This means that more people, especially young adults, are renting instead of buying. Middle Tennessee fits perfectly into this mold as well. With residential real estate prices soaring, and more people flocking to the next “it” city, rental property supply is having trouble meeting the demand. As the Wall Street Journal noted, rental rates in Nashville are rising because of the growth in population related to attractive job opportunities.

So what does all of this mean for landlords and tenants? First, landlords have a vested interest in protecting their rental property because it is a growing source of income. This means they need to (1) research potential tenants, (2) invest in a solid written lease agreement and, if needed, (3) move quickly in resolving disputes that may arise with tenants. Failing to do any of these three could result in lost rent, lost value and ultimately lost income.

Background checks are easy and inexpensive and can provide a landlord with extremely important information. Our firm runs them on almost every case we take because it can provide valuable information that we may otherwise not have found out. This can include past judgments and lawsuits, evictions and criminal history. When dealing with multiple potential renters for a property, more information is vital.

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Bonnaroo Arts & Music Festival is expected to bring in over 80,000 people to Manchester, Coffee County, Tennessee, with a majority of those people coming from out of State. The Festival has led to a field day for law enforcement over the years, especially with criminal citations for simple possession. Last year, out-of-towners who found themselves leaving Tennessee with criminal charges, were allowed to pay a fine instead of coming back to appear in Court. That won’t be the case for those attending the 2015 music festival as prosecution of marijuana and other drug related offenses is changing.

Tennessee Drug Laws

Tennessee has some of the toughest drug laws in the country, especially when it comes to possession of marijuana, other drugs and drug paraphernalia. At a minimum they are Class (A) Misdemeanors which could carry up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If the marijuana seized is over ½ ounce, the police officer or agent will likely charge the person with Felony Possession of a Schedule VI – Marijuana which is a Class (E) Felony and could carry up to 6 years in jail and a $3,000 fine. Other drugs require a much smaller amount to be considered felony possession under Tennessee Law.

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Every year around this time our firm gets a flood of calls from people who receive criminal charges while on their way to or while leaving Bonnaroo. They have ranged from simple possession and paraphernalia to felony drug charges. Regardless, each call starts out the same, “I was pulled over for…..”, which leads to their car getting searched and ultimately them leaving with a court date they had not planned for. So in preparation for this annual event, we at Freeman & Fuson have compiled a list of the top 5 reasons we have seen for Bonnaroo patrons getting pulled over and the counties they seem to occur in the most.

1. Speeding (TCA §55-8-152) – This may seem obvious, but many people who are on their way to Bonnaroo are in a rush to get there. Speeding is an easy way to get your car pulled over and give the officer a chance to make contact. The easy advice is to set your cruise control and keep a look out for the posted limits.

2. Following too Closely (TCA §55-8-124) – Getting pulled over for following to close to the car in front of you may be the most subjective reason on the list, but it is one we have seen each Bonnaroo season with more frequency. Make sure you keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front so that this is not even an option for an officer to pull you over.

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On April 29, the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that will allow a mother to be prosecuted for causing a child to be born addicted or harmed because of her illegal use of narcotics during the pregnancy. The bill will allow a woman to be prosecuted for assault if the infant she is carrying is harmed or dies. The bill has an unusual sunset provision, which means that the criminal penalty will be in effect until 2016. After that time, the legislature will revisit the issue. Tennessee has criminalized drug use during pregnancy in the past, but opponents said the measure would prevent women from seeking prenatal treatment or from entering rehabilitation programs. The legislature decriminalized it for a few years, but with the use of prescription narcotics on the rise, the law has been revived.

Critics of the measure focus primarily on the rights of the mother, while supporters view that the health and safety of children should be a primary focus. In either case, the reality is children in Tennessee are being born addicted to drugs. Last year alone, there were 921 babies born dependent on prescription medication. This year, the number so far is 253 at the time of this post.

While all Tennesseans would agree that the state should protect infants from being born addicted or even from death due to the illegal actions of their mothers, the law raises some interesting questions, such as does it in fact deter women from seeking treatment? Should there be some kind of amnesty for a woman who willingly enters an addiction program to get better and protect her baby? Who will bear the cost of caring for the infant that is born to an incarcerated mother? What is the best interest of the child in all of this? Is incarceration or the fear of incarceration even a deterrent to a drug addict? What purpose does incarceration serve in preparing the woman to be a fit mother?

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With Summer right around the corner there’s no doubt many of you will be looking to hit the waterways. With that in mind, it may be a good time to remind everyone of the drinking and boating laws in Tennessee. Boating under the Influence is covered under Tenn. Code Ann. § 69-9-217 and states:

It is unlawful for any person to operate a vessel subject to registration on public waters of the state while under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system or while have blood alcohol content of .08% or more..

Boating under the influence is not limited to just boats that have a motor, but includes any type of watercraft that is required to be registered under Tennessee law. Boating under the Influence as a first time offense is considered a Class A Misdemeanor and can carry the following penalties:

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On April 3rd the Tennessee Highway Patrol announced a campaign that will take aim at distracted drivers. We have all seen these drivers, and we maybe ones ourselves. This campaign includes placing troopers and local law enforcement in SUVs and tractor-trailers so that they can get a better vantage point to see if drivers are texting. The goal of the new campaign is to reduce traffic fatalities statewide.

Tennessee enacted the “Texting while Driving Law” in July of 2009. As a law firm that handles a large number of traffic citations, this law has not been enforced with any regularity until now. Texting while driving is covered under Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-199 and is a very specific statute. In part it reads:

“No person while driving a motor vehicle on any public road or highway shall use a handheld mobile phone to transmit or read a written message.”