In North Carolina, landlords and tenants are expected to conform to Chapter 42 of the North Carolina General Statues. The statutes spell out what landlords can do to legally remove tenants from their NC rental property, and on what grounds.
A landlord can evict a tenant for various reasons, such as:
- Failure to pay rent
- Remaining on the rental property even after the lease agreement expires
- Engaging in criminal activities like drug trafficking
- Breaching the terms of the rental or lease agreement
As a landlord in North Carolina, it's important that you follow the state laws on legally removing tenants from your property. Below is a general overview on how to evict a tenant in NC.
1. Serving an Eviction Notice in NC
In North Carolina, nonpayment of rent is the most common ground for eviction. In this case, you are required to give the tenant a 10-day "notice to quit."
The notice informs the tenant that they need to pay the rent due within 10 days. Otherwise, they will be evicted. In North Carolina, this type of notice is usually referred to as a "10-day demand for rent."
You can also evict a tenant who has unduly extended their stay on your rental property. In other words, the tenant continues to live on the property even after the lease term has already expired.
Before evicting a tenant due to extended stays, you must provide one of these notices of termination.
- A 2-day notice (for a weekly agreement that's about to expire)
- A 7-day notice (for a month-to-month agreement that's about to expire)
- A 1-month notice (for an annual lease that's about to expire)
These notices are also known as "unconditional notices to quit." They notify the tenant about the date for the lease expiry, as well as the deadline for moving out. Should the tenant fail to move out by the specified time, you can proceed with the eviction without further notice.
2. Filing a Summary Ejectment
The first step of the North Carolina eviction process is to file your lawsuit in the appropriate court. Usually, this can be a district court or small claims court. It's recommended that you choose the latter, since it usually ensures a quick settlement of your case.
However, small claims courts only handle lawsuits that don't exceed $10,000. Any more than that, and you should file the eviction papers at the district court instead.
When completing the form, state the reason for evicting your tenant and the remedies you're seeking. Normally, a lawsuit offers two remedies:
- Getting delinquent rent from the tenant, or;
- Getting back possession of the rental property.
Once you're done filing your case, you'll be given a summons and complaint listing. The listing includes the date and time of your hearing. Also, remember to go to the small claims court in the county where the property is located.
3. Serving the Summons and Complaint
In North Carolina, the county sheriff delivers the summons and complaint personally to the tenant. If the sheriff cannot deliver the documents for any reason, they may be attached to the front door of the property.
The documents tell the tenant where and when the hearing of the eviction case will be. The court hearing occurs fourteen days after the summons are issued.
4. The Hearing
As a landlord, you will appear in court and present your case to the magistrate. Remember to bring documents to strengthen your case, like:
- Proof of nonpayment of rent
- Demand notice you sent your tenant for rent owed
- A copy of the lease agreement
If the tenant decides to oppose the eviction, they're required to present themselves at the hearing. Typical tenant defenses include:
- The allegations are false.
- The breach of a lease provision isn't substantial enough to warrant an eviction.
- The eviction is a retaliatory act.
- The notice was improper.
- The eviction is based on the tenant's religion, sex, race, age, disability, familial status or national origin.
- If for criminal activity, the tenant had no knowledge of the activity or made reasonable attempts to prevent it.
- The rental property does not adhere to North Carolina housing codes.
- The landlord used "self-help" eviction methods.
Also, it's recommended that you do not accept rent payments after you lodge a complaint to the hearing. Otherwise, you might jeopardize your eviction case.
5. The Magistrate's Judgment
If you win the eviction case, the magistrate may award you a "judgement of possession." The judgement of possession is an order that shifts possession of the property back to you. It also stipulates that the tenant must vacate the rental property.
The tenant may appeal the judgment within 10 days. Otherwise, they must vacate the property within the aforementioned period.
You may also file a writ of possession immediately after winning the case. Using it, you can forcefully evict the tenant from the property with the help of a sheriff. The eviction usually happens 7 days after the writ of possession is issued in NC.
If the judge rules in the tenant's favor, you'll have 10 days to lodge an appeal. In the meantime, the tenant will continue living on the property.
6. Changing Locks on the Property
It's important to change the locks after the sheriff removes the tenant from your property. This prevents the tenant from re-entering the property for any reason.
However, the sheriff must be present during the change of locks. The law also requires that the changing of the locks be done by a professional locksmith.
7. Handling Personal Property
After changing the locks, you may find that the tenant has left behind some personal property. In that case, you are required to serve them a 7-day notice to collect. Otherwise, the property is considered abandoned.
The abandoned property will then be moved by the sheriff to a storage facility. The tenant, in turn, will pay for the storage fees. However, the law forbids landlords from selling or damaging a tenant's property, even if said property is abandoned.
Timeline for the Eviction Process
Usually, the eviction process takes a little bit over a month, as follows.
- Approximately fourteen days from filing of the summary ejectment until the hearing at the small claims court.
- Ten days from date of hearing at the small claims court until the filing of writ of possession or the expiry of the appeals period, whichever comes earlier.
- Approximately seven days from filing the writ of possession until changing of locks.
- Seven days after changing the locks to retrieving the tenant's personal property.
North Carolina sets out specific laws on evicting tenants. If a landlord fails to follow these laws, the eviction process may not push through. Should you need more help evicting tenants, let a knowledgeable property manager guide you.