According to North Carolina’s landlord-tenant law, a tenant can be evicted following a number of reasons. They include:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Tenant continuing living on the property after the lease has been terminated and without the permission of the landlord
- Tenant breaching the terms of the rental/lease agreement, and
- Drug trafficking, drug use, including other criminal activities
As a landlord, it’s very important that you adhere to state legalities and procedures to perform an eviction under the North Carolina’s landlord-tenant law (see NCGS § § 42-25.6 and following). This is because even if the eviction is warranted, it may be challenged or defended based on various grounds.
For example, the tenant in question may argue that their eviction was unlawful because the landlord decided to use “self-help” measures to evict them. The NC statute prohibits landlords from using self-help as a remedy to the issue (NCGS § 42-25.9). This article provides a quick guide on how to legally evict a renter from a property in the state of North Carolina.
Tenant Eviction Process in North Carolina:
1. Serving an Eviction Notice
The most common reason for eviction in North Carolina is nonpayment of rent by the tenant. If the tenant stops paying rent for whatever reason, you are required to give them a 10-day “notice to quit” before commencing the eviction process. See NCGS. § 42-3.The main purpose of the NC eviction notice is to request payment; the tenant must pay the due rent in 10 days. This type of notice is known as a“10-Day Demand for Rent” in N. Carolina.
If the tenant continues to live on the property even after the lease has been terminated and without your approval, you must provide one of these notices of termination: ( See NCGS. § 42-26.)
- A two-day notice, if the lease duration was week-to-week
- A seven-day notice, if the lease duration was month-to-month
- A one-month notice, if the lease duration was year-to-year. This tenant is referred to as a “hold-over” tenant. (See NCGS. § 42-14.)
If your tenant has violated any term of the lease other than non-payment, you must issue them with a “10-Day Demand for Compliance or Possession” notice. This notice must state what rule the lessee has violated and gives them 10 days to comply with the violated lease agreement(s).
2. File a Summary Ejectment in North Carolina
If the tenant continues to live on the property even after the deadline defined by the eviction notice has expired, it’s time to file a “Summary Ejectment.” The law requires you to begin court proceedings by first filing a summary ejectment in the Small Claims Court, in the area where the property is located.
However, you can only file a summary ejectment in an NC Small Claims court provided the amount does not exceed $10,000. This is actually the fastest and simplest way to lawfully evict a tenant under the North Carolina eviction laws. If the lessee’s rent arrears exceed $10,000, you should file in the district court.
Once you file a summary ejectment and pay the filing fee, the court will issue a summons to be served by your county sheriff. Once they are presented with a summons as well as a single copy of the filed complaint, the tenant may then move out of the property.
3. The Eviction Hearing
An eviction hearing in a Small Claims Court is scheduled within 14 days of the filing date of the complaint. You will appear in court and present your case to the magistrate. To avoid losing an eviction hearing, you must present proper documentation.
Here are some of the important documents you should present to the court at the hearing:
- A single copy of the rental or lease agreement
- Proof of non-payment of rent (or other violations)
- Copies of notice or demand for payment of rent
- An accounting to the amount you claim the tenant owes
If the tenant decides to oppose the eviction, they are required to present themselves at the hearing. At this point, the tenant may present any given proof to support his/her case.
NB: Do not accept partial payment of the owed rent, especially from the time you file a complaint to the hearing. This could jeopardize your eviction case.
4. The Ruling
If the court rules the case in your favor, the judge will award you a “Judgment of Possession.” The Judgment of Possession is a court order stating that you are entitled to the property and the tenant must therefore vacate.
Usually, the tenant has 10 days to oppose the judge’s ruling. If the tenant decides not to appeal, they must vacate the property before this period expires.
You can choose to provide the renter with a “Notice to Vacate.” If the tenant refuses to vacate after the given date expires, you may file a court order known as Writ of Possession. This is an order requesting your county Sheriff to forcefully evict the tenant from your rental property. This usually happens 7 days after the writ of possession’s issuance.
If the judge rules in favor of the tenant (or wins the appeal), then he/she will continue living on the property. In that case, you will be given a period of 10 days to lodge an appeal.
5. Changing the Locks
After the sheriff removes the renter from your property, it’s important to change the locks. This will prevent the tenant from accessing the property. However, you are only allowed to change the locks in the presence of the sheriff.
The locksmith must be present to change the locks right after the sheriff acts on the issued writ of possession. You will take responsibility for the fees charged by the locksmith.
If some of the tenant’s possessions are still on the premises, you must allow them to return to claim them before disposing of them. The tenant’s property is considered abandoned 7 days after lawful repossession of the property.
Should they fail to collect their personal possessions; the sheriff will move it to a storage facility. Also, the NC law allows you to dispose of the personal items after this 7 day period elapses ( NCGS § 42-25.9 ) and NCGS § 42-36.2).
You should also know that it is illegal to sell or damage a tenant’s property. This is because you might find yourself in trouble if the tenant comes back for their possessions. A tenant has a right to sue you in court, so it’s important to follow the law all the way.
If this is your first time evicting a tenant, you might find the entire process overwhelming and stressful. A knowledgeable property management company by your side can relieve you from all the stress and complicated procedures involved in an NC eviction process.
You should also hire an attorney who will represent you in court. Hiring a landlord-tenant law attorney will maximize your chances of winning the case.