If you're a North Carolina landlord, tenant eviction from your rental property is something that you'll likely have to go through at some point in your career. While it can be a long and complicated process, it's sometimes the only option you may have left.
The state of North Carolina has a straightforward eviction process. As a rental property landlord, it's your responsibility to ensure you strictly follow the eviction law. If you fail to do so, not only will the eviction delay, but you may also find yourself battling a lawsuit.
So, in this post, we'll take you through everything you need to know about the North Carolina Eviction Process.
Common Reasons Landlords Evict Tenants in North Carolina
According to the North Carolina landlord-tenant law, you may be able to evict a North Carolina tenant from your rental property for a lease violation.
The violations include:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Negligent property damage
- Refusal to leave the premises
- Committing an illegal act within the premises, like manufacturing or distributing illegal drugs
- Repeatedly disturbing the neighbors
- Keeping a pet when the lease is against it
In carrying out the eviction process, however, you must make sure to follow the law. Regardless of the violation of the lease agreement committed, you must never lock the tenant out, remove their belongings, turn off utilities, or harass them. These acts are "self-help" eviction methods, and they are illegal.
The North Carolina eviction process is contained in Chapter 42 of the state's General Statutes.
What are the Steps to Evict a Tenant?
Let's look at the North Carolina eviction laws and process.
1. Eviction Notices
According to North Carolina law, a tenant eviction process begins with an eviction notice. The type of proper notice you serve a tenant must be relevant to the violation of the lease agreement committed, such as overdue rent payments. Not paying rent and past due rent are popular violations of the written lease agreement that results in eviction.
For North Carolina tenants who refuse to pay rent, you must serve them a 10-Day Demand for Rent Notice. This written notice simply tells the tenant that they have two options: to pay all due rent or to move out. If the tenant fails to choose either option within 10 days, you may move to court to seek further help.
For holdover tenants, the eviction notice to serve them depends on the lease term on their rental or lease agreement. If the lease is weekly, then you must serve them a 2 days' notice. If it's monthly, then the notice to serve is a 7-days' notice. And, if the lease is yearly, you must serve them a one-month notice.
These notices are "unconditional notices to quit." In other words, your tenant won't have any other option than to leave the premises. Again, if they don't move out within the specified days, then you can move to court for further action.
2. Summary Ejectment
What is a summary ejectment? The goal of a Summary Ejectment is to get all rent owed from the tenant and, ultimately, the possession of your property.
If you have served the tenant an eviction notice and they've refused to follow its directions, the next legal step is to file a Summary Ejectment at the clerk's office. It costs $96. If a landlord fails to provide the proper notice, however, they cannot file the paperwork.
It also goes without saying that the filing must be done in a relevant court, such as a small claims court or a district court. For a quick process, consider choosing the former option. That said, the most you can sue for in a small claims court is $10,000. If you're suing for more, then a district court would serve you better.
Once you have filed the Summary Ejectment and paid the fees, a court will issue a Summons. Your tenant will be served, too. This will begin the eviction process once the notice period has ended and an eviction case has been opened.
Generally speaking, the Summon will occur fourteen days after service.
A tenant has two options to consider once they are served a copy of the Summons:
- To contest the eviction; or
- To simply move out of their rented premises
4. The Court Hearing
During the eviction hearing, the court will allow both parties to present as much evidence as possible. To strengthen your case against your tenant, make sure to carry:
- Proof that the tenant committed a violation
- Proof of the demand notice
- A copy of the lease or rental agreement
On the tenant's part, they may fight their eviction by alleging that:
- You discriminated against them. According to North Carolina Fair Housing Act, you cannot discriminate against a tenant based on a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include religion, national origin, color, race, sex, familial status, and disability.
- The property wasn't habitable. One of your key landlord responsibilities is to ensure your property is fit for occupation. Rodent infestation, mold growth, and lack of a working heating and cooling system are all examples of egregious violations to the habitability laws.
- The eviction is a retaliatory act. Tenants do have rights, such as the right to form or join a tenant's union. They also have a right to complain about unsafe, unsanitary, or indecent conditions to the landlord. It would, therefore, be illegal for you to evict them for exercising any of these rights.
- You failed to follow the laid down eviction procedure. When evicting a tenant, you must follow all the legal procedures meticulously.
- You tried to evict the tenant using "self-help" methods. It's only a court proceeding that can remove a tenant from their rented premises. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-25.6.).
5. Judgment Possession
If the judge rules in your favor, the court will award you a "Judgment Possession." This basically gives the possession of the property back to you. If the tenant chooses to appeal the judgment, they will have 10 days to do so.
At this point, you may also want to file a Writ of Possession. This will give the county sheriff the authority to remove the tenant out of the premises.
Still have some more questions about property management and evictions? A lot of North Carolina landlords do! If you're one of them, TE Johnson & Sons can help. We are an experienced property management company serving Winston-Salem property owners.