North Carolina Landlord Tenant Laws
In general, North Carolina rental law attempts to balance protections for both landlords and tenants, and does not lean strongly in favor of one party or the other. However, there are some unique qualities to it that both parties should be aware of.
Tenants should be aware that North Carolina offers no statutes or legal protections on entry by the landlords and their agents. In other states, prior court case precedent sometimes fills in gaps where there are no statutes, but that is not really the case here. Landlords are not only free to legally enter pretty much whenever they want without notice, they can allow repairmen and other agents of theirs to do the same. It is important to keep the home secured as repairmen have sometimes been caught taking advantage of this policy to steal or invade people’s privacy.
On the landlord side, evictions must be handled by a lawsuit filed in small claims court. The landlord must present evidence that the tenant has failed to stay current on their rent. If the landlord wins the lawsuit, the tenant has 10 days to appeal the judgment in District Court. In general the eviction process usually takes a little over a month in total if everything goes in favor of the landlord.
Keep in mind that while the information listed here is drawn directly from current state statutes, it can change over time and should not be considered a substitute for qualified legal advice. Cities and counties may also have their own ordinances governing rental law that replace the state statutes.
What Laws Cover Landlord-Tenant Relationships in North Carolina?
Landlord and tenant law is covered under N.C. General Statute 42. North Carolina also has a State Fair Housing Act that renters and property owners need to be aware of. Finally, in the case legal action is required, N.C. General Statute 7A-19 covers small claims court procedures and limitations.
Security Deposit Rules
N.C. General Statute 42-51 covers the handling of security deposits. Deposits cannot exceed the equivalent of two months’ rent for a lease of a year or longer, 1.5 months’ rent if the lease is month to month, and two weeks rent if it is on a weekly basis. The landlord must deposit the funds into a trust account with a North Carolina bank or obtain a bond from a state insurance company, and must notify the tenant of the name and address of that institution within 30 days of receiving the deposit. Upon move-out the deposit must be returned within 30 days, unless the tenant has caused damage to the premises, in which case the landlord must send notice within 30 days and can take up to 60 days to evaluate the cost of repairs. There is no statute requiring landlords to pay interest on a security deposit.
Non-refundable pet deposits are allowed, but N.C. General Statute 42-53 specifies that the amount asked must be reasonable.
Lease, Rent and Fee Rules
There are no statutes in North Carolina governing rental due dates, advance notice of an increase in rent, application fees or prepaid rent.
N.C General Statute 42-46 gives tenants a grace period of five days in which to pay their rent. Late fees depend on whether rent is paid weekly or monthly. In both cases, the landlord can charge a fee of 5%, but for monthly arrangements the minimum fee is $15 and for weekly arrangements the minimum fee is $4. Landlords may charge a flat fee of $25 for a returned check.
There is no statute addressing a tenant’s right to repair and deduct rent, or to withhold rent for failure to provide utilities. There is also no statute requiring a landlord to attempt to mitigate damages in the event the tenant abandons the lease. N.C. General Statute 42-25 does specify that landlords cannot recover attorney and court fees, however.
Members of the military are allowed to terminate their lease early with notice of 30 days if they are ordered onto active duty or are deployed at least 90 miles away from their residence. Written notice and a copy of orders or a letter from the service member’s commanding officer are required. There are differences in law depending on whether the person has been in the dwelling for nine months or more, however. Service members should consult the N.C. Military Personnel Residential Lease Termination pamphlet published by the state to determine which conditions apply to their current situation.
Notice and Entry Rules
N.C. General Statute 42-14 covers rules of notice for a tenant to terminate a lease. Ongoing year-to-year leases require a month’s notice. Month-to-month leases require a week’s notice, and weekly rentals require two days of advance notice. If a tenant is renting a lot for a manufactured home, they must give 60 days advance notice to move out in all circumstances.
N.C. General Statutes 42-3 and 42-26 govern termination of a lease by the landlord for nonpayment or violation. Ten days notice must be given in the event of nonpayment, but as mentioned at the top of the article, the eviction must go through small claims court and the process generally takes at least a month. Landlords are allowed to terminate a lease immediately for a lease violation.
As mentioned at the outset, there are no state statutes at all that mention required notice prior to entry. Check with the local state and county to see if they have any regulations, however. Landlords are never allowed to lock a tenant out or perform a utility shutoff to pressure them out of the unit. Self-help evictions are illegal, and if a landlord knowingly engages in one they can be held liable for all actual damages to the tenant. After the landlord lawfully evicts a tenant and gains possession of their property, they must provide the tenant with written notice of any belongings left behind. Seven days after notice is served the belongings can be considered to be abandoned.
Required Disclosures and Notes
Under General Statute 42-42, landlords are required to comply with building and housing codes, keep the premises fit and habitable, keep common areas safe, provide operational smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, and remedy complaints of unsafe conditions by the tenant. The tenant is required to keep the area they are renting clean and safe, dispose of waste properly, comply with housing and building codes and notify the landlord promptly in writing if there is an issue with the smoke or carbon monoxide detectors that requires their attention.
Domestic violence victims receive special protection under North Carolina law, specifically General Statutes 42.2 – 42.3. Landlords are entitled to verify domestic violence victim status. Once verified, the landlord cannot terminate their tenancy or refuse to extend it. The tenant also gains the right to terminate the tenancy with 30 days notice if they desire. Locks must be changed promptly at the tenant’s request, but also at their expense.
Retaliation is illegal under North Carolina law. It will be considered retaliation if a landlord terminates a lease, refuses to renew a lease or reduces services for 12 months after a tenant files a formal complaint with a government authority, works with a tenant’s organization or exercises a legal right related to their lease. Further details can be found in N.C. General Statute 42-37.1.
Small Claims Court
The small claims court limit in North Carolina is $10,000. Eviction cases are heard in small claims court and can be appealed to the district court.