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February 21, 2024

Landlord Eviction Process in North Carolina: A Comprehensive Guide

Steadily's blog cover page for information around landlord insurance.

Becoming a landlord in North Carolina is a long-term investment, sure to guarantee you money when you welcome in new occupants. But there are tenants who you may want to terminate their stay on your property because they fail to honor a lease term that gives them continuity to stay.

Paying rent is a tenant's obligation. Even though you may wish to evict them immediately, it’s in your best interest to follow the eviction process in North Carolina to avoid any illegalities. The removal shouldn’t come as a surprise to the tenant.

Among the reasons a landlord might want to evict a tenant is the delayed or non-payment of due rent. Typically, the landlord gives the occupant time to pay, followed by a warning of eviction should they fail to pay within the stipulated notice period. Acquire landlord insurance in North Carolina to safeguard and protect your rental property.

Other reasons why a landlord will issue an eviction notice include:

  • The tenant fails to pay rent among other breaches some clauses signed on the lease agreement
  • Criminal activities within the premises
  • Expiry of the Lease Agreement: Some tenants don't honor the expiration of the lease agreement and extend their stay, forcing the landlord to seek forceful eviction. If a tenant stays beyond the agreed time on the lease agreement, they become a holdover tenant.

However, you should note that none of the occurrences above give the landlord the power to evict a tenant without following due process as stipulated by North Carolina law.

Instigating the Eviction Process

It’s illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without following the North Carolina eviction process. The legal term for this procedure is known as Summary Ejectment.

1.   Issuing the Eviction Notice in NC

Before evicting any occupant from your premises, you should serve them with a proper notice (summary ejectment) stating the reason(s) for their eviction. The North Carolina eviction process has three types of notices you can issue for lease violations. These include:

  • Non-Compliance: In North Carolina, you can issue a noncompliance notice immediately. It happens when the tenant damages the rental unit they occupy. The landlord seeks a proper notice to urge the tenant to move out immediately.
  • Month-to-Month: If the tenant leases the rental unit every month, the landlord issues a 7-day notice for eviction before the end of the lease agreement expires.
  • Non-Payment of Rent: A landlord issues a 10-day notice when a tenant defaults to pay rent on the agreed date stipulated in the lease agreement. You can also issue this notice for a renter who habitually pays past due rent.

The North Carolina eviction laws don’t require landlords to issue an advance notice if the leaseholder engages in criminal activity. Provided the proprietor has enough evidence of the said illegal/criminal activities, a notice to vacate is issued on the spot.

Here are examples of what the North Carolina state considers criminal activity:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Human trafficking
  • The distribution, manufacturing, or consumption of illegal drugs.

2. Filing of the Summary Ejectment

After issuing the notice, the proprietor waits for the renter to vacate. Some leaseholders fail to comply, and this takes us to the following legal action—filing for the summary ejectment order in the district or small claims court. You have two options: you can use the small claims court or the district court, depending on the magnitude of the claim.

The small claims court offers a speedy resolution and takes on matters under $10,000. During the filing process, the property owner states the eviction reason and what they seek from the court.

A summary ejectment has two outcomes available both at the small claims court and district courts:

·     Repossessing the rental unit

·     Getting rent payment from the occupant.

You will receive a summons and complaint listing when the process is complete. Remember to file the lawsuit in a small claims court within the same county where your property is located.

How to Serve the Summary Eviction

You should ensure that the leaseholder receives the summons and complaints order to avoid missing the court hearing. The landlord shouldn't serve the document to the tenant directly. Instead, they should use a court process server or the sheriff.

The document should indicate the date and time of the trial and should be given to the tenant within five days after the court issues the summons order.

3. The Hearing

As the landlord in North Carolina, you are supposed to attend court and present your case objectively to the sitting magistrate. Among the items you should carry is the evidence that shows the tenant's lease violation. The eviction papers include:

·     Proof of the renter's lease violation (the written lease agreement)

·     Evidence of nonpayment of rent and rent receipts (rent owed)

·     A copy of the signed rental agreement by the tenant.

In North Carolina, if the landlord fails to appear in court, the case is dismissed, and the occupant will continue living on the rental property. If the leaseholder fails to attend court, the ruling favors the landlord and gets issued with a court order satisfying the claims requested.

However, the tenant and the landlord can hire attorneys for legal representation if they wish, but it is optional in a small claims court.

When the magistrate rules in favor of the landlord, you will receive a judgment for possession. The tenant has ten days to vacate or appeal the decision in a district court.

Common Tenant Defenses

Tenants have multiple defenses against illegal evictions. In North Carolina, landlords should exercise restraint and comply with the law that protects the rights of all residents.

Here are the things landlords should avoid when trying to evict a leaseholder:

  • Proprietors shouldn't evict renters by creating an inhabitable environment, such as denying standard utilities like power, water, internet, gas, etc. Changing the locks is also illegal.
  • The proprietor needs to follow the proper court filing process when making claims against the tenant.  
  • The tenant agrees to pay all owed rent money plus penalties and future rent before the court passes judgment.
  • The removal is a retaliatory eviction towards occupants requesting repairs or raising concerns with authorities about the rental units.
  • The illegal removal of a tenant is based on discrimination against race, gender, nationality, religion, family status, disability, and orientation.
  • Failure of the propriety owner to maintain the rental units to habitable standards according to the written leases, for instance, collection and disposal of garbage

Landlords who are tenacious about evicting tenants should know all these defenses and ensure that they do not infringe on any.

4. The Magistrate's Judgment

If the landlord wins the case, the magistrate issues you with a default judgment of possession. It’s a legal document that authorizes the landlord to repossess the rental unit and orders the tenant to vacate from your property.

The court can rule in the landlord's favor if the tenant fails to appear in court.

But if the magistrate passes default judgment favoring the tenant, you can choose to appeal within ten days and get a new court date. In each case, the leaseholder will continue to occupy the rental property.

Sometimes the court rules for a money judgment in the landlord's favor for past due rent.

Note that the North Carolina appeal costs and eviction lawsuit can be high and are a major deterrent to either the landlord or tenant.

5. Executing a Writ of Restitution

If the tenant fails to appeal against the judgment within ten days and also doesn't vacate within that period, you should file for a "writ of possession." It's a court order that allows the forceful removal of a defiant renter.

However, a landlord can file for a writ of possession order immediately after winning an eviction appeal against the leaseholder. A landlord, accompanied by the county sheriff's office, can execute a writ of possession order.

After receiving the writ of possession from the North Carolina district court, you have seven days to execute the order and evict a tenant.

Both the landowner and leaseholder should check the local eviction guidelines and filing fee and conform to the stipulations to avoid a nasty eviction process.

6. Consider Changing Locks

Change the locks on your rental unit immediately after a tenant vacates your property. Doing so deters a former occupant from accessing the premises for whatever reason.

You can change the locks in the sheriff's presence or hire a professional locksmith to change the locks on every door inside the rental property. You can file for a trespass warrant if the tenant continues to access the rental unit using forceful means.

If the tenant leaves some of their belongings behind after vacating, you should serve them with a notice to collect. There is no further notice if they fail to come and pick up their belongings, you are at liberty to donate, sell, or dispose of the tenant's personal property.

How long is the Eviction Process in North Carolina?

The North Carolina eviction timeline can take up to a maximum of 100 days from the day you issue the first notice until you get the writ of possession order. It takes between 2-30 days to get the official written notice, followed by the serving of summons and complaint order within five days.

The eviction lawsuit may take more than 30 days, depending on the court's schedule, and another 20 days if the tenant decides to appeal the judgment. Remember, you also have to wait 14 days (including weekends and holidays) before filing for a writ of possession.

What are My Alternatives to Reclaim My Rental Units?

Dealing with tenants can be frustrating, especially if you need a functional vetting procedure. Landlords seeking to evict tenants suffer because they lack the knowledge and capacity to expedite the eviction case and appropriate court for the process.

Seeking the help of a professional property management firm to help you manage your rental properties is among the proficient ways to achieve a return on investment on your properties.

Steadily services ensure that you keep earning your monthly or weekly remittance, protecting you from a financial collapse and the legal cost of the eviction hearing.

Contact Steadily right away to get the right landlord insurance policy .

This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal, financial, or tax advice. Consult your own legal, financial, or tax advisor for matters mentioned here. The information on this site is general in nature. Any description of coverage is necessarily simplified. Whether a particular loss is covered depends on the specific facts and the provisions, exclusions and limits of the actual policy. Nothing on this site alters the terms or conditions of any of our policies. You should read the policy for a complete description of coverage. Coverage options, limits, discounts, deductibles and other features are subject to individuals meeting our underwriting criteria and state availability. Not all features available in all states. Discounts may not apply to all coverages. Steadily is not liable for any actions taken based on this information. If you believe any of this information may be inaccurate please contact us.

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