Understanding the Eviction Process in NC: A Complete Guide

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Dealing with eviction in North Carolina? Understand the eviction process in NC with our concise guide covering the key steps, from notices to final removal. It’s essential for landlords and tenants to know the legal requirements to ensure a fair and lawful eviction. Here’s what to expect and how to prepare.

Key Takeaways

• Landlords in North Carolina must follow Chapter 42 of the NC General Statutes for evictions, providing notice to tenants and having legal grounds such as non-payment of rent, lease violations, criminal activities, or holdover tenancy before filing an eviction lawsuit.

• The eviction process in North Carolina involves issuing an eviction notice, filing a complaint in small claims court if under $10,000, attending the eviction hearing, and possibly executing a Writ of Possession by the sheriff to forcibly evict the tenant if necessary.

• Tenants have rights including due process, the opportunity for a court hearing, and the ability to appeal an eviction ruling within 10 days, with Legal Aid of North Carolina available to assist qualifying tenants. Landlords must adhere to state laws, manage their records effectively, and avoid taking self-help measures like changing locks.


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Understanding North Carolina Eviction Laws

Color of Title

The eviction process in NC is governed by Chapter 42 of the North Carolina General Statutes, providing a legal framework for landlords to initiate eviction proceedings for various reasons. These reasons include:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Lease violations
  • Criminal activities
  • Holding over after a lease expires

Before initiating an eviction in North Carolina, landlords must provide tenants with advance notice, either to end the lease or demand payment for overdue rent.

Eviction records, which are public, can affect a tenant’s chance of securing future housing.

Non-Payment of Rent

The most common reason for eviction in North Carolina is failure to pay rent. This is the leading cause of eviction cases in the state. Rent is considered late a day past its due date, and landlords must have evidence to support claims of non-payment should the tenant dispute it. When a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord initiates the eviction process by issuing a ‘10-day demand for rent’ notice, giving tenants 10 days to settle their overdue rent.

Should the tenant fail to settle their past due rent in full within this timeframe, the landlord has the right to continue with the eviction process.

Lease Violations

Lease violations are another significant basis for evicting tenants under the eviction process in North Carolina. These violations can range from damaging the property to having unauthorized tenants or pets, or not adhering to the agreed terms in the rental agreement. Specific lease violations include failing to keep the premises clean and safe, having unauthorized occupants, denying landlord access, and engaging in minor property damage.

To initiate eviction, landlords must demonstrate substantial evidence of lease violation.

Criminal Activity

Criminal activities such as drug trafficking, willful destruction of property, and other criminal acts threatening health or safety are valid grounds for eviction in North Carolina. The eviction process for tenants involved in criminal activities can be expedited and does not require prior written notice, as stated by North Carolina law.

In severe cases, law enforcement officers may be authorized to remove the tenant immediately after receiving the Writ of Possession. However, tenants who were not the direct instigators of the criminal activity or who made reasonable attempts to prevent it may not be subject to immediate eviction.

Holdover Tenancy

A holdover tenant is someone who does not apply for a lease renewal and remains on the property after the lease term has ended. This situation can result in legal consequences for the tenant. Under these circumstances, landlords are required to send out unconditional notices to quit, which could range from 2 days to 1 month, contingent on the lease agreement.

Should a holdover tenant fail to leave after the expiry of the notice period, the landlord has the right to lodge an eviction lawsuit. Following a judgment for eviction by a magistrate judge, the holdover tenant must vacate the premises within ten days.

It is important to note that squatters rights in North Carolina differentiate a trespasser from a squatter, and squatters rights give certain rights to a person that has been deemed a squatter. The removal process can vastly vary if the holdover tenant is now considered a squatter.

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The Steps of the Eviction Process in North Carolina

Courthouse in NC

The North Carolina eviction process, also known as ‘summary ejectment,’ involves the following steps:

1. Properly terminate the tenancy.

2. File a ‘Complaint in Summary Ejectment’ with the clerk of court.

3. Have the sheriff or another legally authorized individual serve the Summons and Complaint to the tenant.

If the tenant does not vacate after an eviction ruling, the landlord may file a writ of possession, which is usually executed within 7 days by the sheriff to forcibly remove the tenant and restore possession to the landlord. The eviction process in North Carolina generally involves issuing a notice, lodging a legal complaint, attending the eviction hearing, waiting for the judgment, and potentially serving a Writ of Possession to execute the eviction.

Serving an Eviction Notice

Serving an eviction notice is a critical step in the eviction process. The eviction notice informs the tenant of the reason for eviction and the time they have to pay, comply, or vacate before further legal actions. In North Carolina, eviction documents, including the summons and complaint, must be served to the tenant by certified mail, sheriff delivery, or process server, not by the landlord personally.

The tenant then receives a summons and a copy of the complaint to notify them of the date, time, and location of the eviction hearing, serving as proper notice. Keeping tenants updated on the service of eviction notices and related court documents is vital for landlords to ensure understanding and adherence to legal requirements.

Filing an Eviction Lawsuit

After serving an eviction notice, the next step for landlords is to file an eviction lawsuit in small claims court. This is a more expedient process if the claim is under $10,000, with the associated filing fee being $96. An eviction complaint may include requests for:

• Eviction

• Unpaid rent

• Damages

• Other costs

It’s important that landlords accurately fill out all court forms to avoid potential issues during the eviction proceedings.

Tenants, on the other hand, are required to file an answer within 20 days after being served for District Court cases, but not for small claims court. However, tenants can request a jury trial in either court.

Court Proceedings

Court proceedings for eviction typically take place fourteen days after the summons is issued. During the hearing, both the landlord and tenant have the opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses, and may hire attorneys for representation in small claims court, although it is not mandatory. In small claims court, tenants can represent themselves but are held to the same rules as licensed attorneys.

If the tenant does not attend the hearing, the landlord may receive a default judgment in their favor. This could result in a legal decision being made without the tenant’s input. Tenants can assert defenses and counterclaims, including written counterclaims prior to trial, against charges made by the landlord. However, tenants served with eviction papers by posting only and who do not appear in court cannot be ordered to pay money, including past due rent.

Enforcing the Eviction Judgment

When a landlord wins an eviction case in North Carolina, they are awarded a Judgment of Possession, which mandates that the tenant vacate the property. Should the tenant not vacate after the eviction ruling and no appeal is filed, the landlord is entitled to receive a Writ of Possession from the court 11 days following the small claims court hearing.

Once the Writ of Possession is obtained, the eviction process includes the following steps:

1. The Sheriff’s Office serves notice to the tenant.

2. The tenant is forcibly evicted if necessary, typically within 5 days of receiving the writ.

3. After the property has been padlocked by the sheriff, the tenant has a limited period of 5 to 7 days to coordinate with the landlord to retrieve any personal belongings left within the property.

Tenant Rights and Protections

Eviction on NC

Despite the eviction process appearing intimidating, remember that tenants are entitled to specific rights and protections. For instance, tenants must be provided with due process, including notice and the opportunity for a court hearing, prior to eviction. If the magistrate rules in favor of eviction, tenants have the right to file a Notice of Appeal at the courthouse within 10 calendar days.

Organizations like Legal Aid of North Carolina provide legal assistance to some tenants facing eviction, which can be applied for by phone or online. The right to legal counsel can improve tenant outcomes and reduce the likelihood of unnecessary evictions for eligible tenants.

Upon losing in small claims court, tenants can appeal the decision in District Court by filing within 10 days and may stay in the home if they agree to pay future rent to the court until the new court date. Submitting a ‘Bond to Stay Execution’ is part of the appeal process that allows tenants to stay in the home while paying future rent to the court. The cost of appealing an eviction ruling, including court costs, is $150, but tenants receiving public assistance may be eligible to appeal as an indigent.

Tenants can assert defenses and counterclaims, including written counterclaims prior to trial, against charges made by the landlord. Requesting a continuance of up to 5 days with landlord agreement is a right that allows tenants time to pay past-due rent or to prepare better for the court hearing. Tenants in public or subsidized housing have additional rights and protections compared to those renting from private landlords without assistance.

Landlord Responsibilities and Best Practices

Landlords have a responsibility to adhere to North Carolina’s eviction laws, not accepting rent after filing a complaint and refraining from illegal self-help eviction actions such as changing locks or removing doors. Familiarity with landlord-tenant laws, including those related to evictions and security deposits, and understanding regulatory oversight helps maintain lawful practices and ensures housing safety and compliance with fair housing laws. Proper management of landlord files can further assist in maintaining compliance and organization.

Including detailed maintenance and repair responsibilities in the rental or lease agreement is essential to prevent future disputes and maintain positive tenant relations. Some key points to consider are:

• Negotiating with tenants outside of court to resolve issues can save time and money

• Providing courteous 24-hour written notice before entry, except in emergencies, fosters trust and respect

• Accurate record-keeping of services paid for property maintenance and upgrades is critical for landlords to prevent exploitation and enjoy benefits such as tax deductions.

While legal advice may be valuable, landlords should be cautious of the associated service fees an attorney may charge.

Documentation and Record-Keeping

Keeping precise records and documentation during the eviction process is fundamental as it acts as evidence in disagreements, assisting the landlord in building a compelling case for the judge. Landlords should employ a variety of record-keeping methods such as:

• Maintaining a physical paper trail

• Scanning documents for digital storage

• Utilizing cloud services for backups

• Leveraging property management software for comprehensive record management.

Documentation of all communications with tenants is vital for supporting the landlord’s position in potential eviction proceedings. It is recommended that landlords keep records of:

• Interactions with tenants

• Signed agreements

• Recorded disputes

• Payment reminders

It is also important for landlords to refrain from accepting rent after filing an eviction complaint, as doing so can negatively impact the legal eviction process.

Communication with Tenants

Transparent and concise communication, which should be documented, is vital to ensure tenants are cognizant of the issues and provided time to rectify them, contributing to a seamless tenancy. Encouraging honest dialogue about concerns and grievances can lead to mutually beneficial solutions and prevent misunderstandings or disputes.

Providing consistent updates to tenants about the status of their eviction, including court dates and potential outcomes, helps in setting the right expectations and preparing for future steps. Establishing documented communication protocols for property access and maintenance schedules contributes to maintaining a positive relationship between landlord and tenant.

Legal Assistance and Compliance

Legal Assistance

Landlords seeking to navigate North Carolina’s eviction laws should:

• Obtain legal advice from attorneys who specialize in landlord-tenant laws

• Consider the cost of attorney fees

• Recognize the benefits of having legal guidance during the eviction process and court hearings

Legal guidance can be crucial in ensuring a smooth and successful eviction process.

To avoid legal pitfalls during the eviction process, landlords of rental property must ensure adherence to all aspects of state and local rental laws, which cover landlord rights, tenant rights, and anti-discrimination housing laws.

Handling Abandoned Property and Lock Changes

Eviction Process in California

Upon eviction, landlords might have to address issues related to abandoned property and the necessity for changing locks. In North Carolina, landlords must:

1. Serve a notice to tenants to collect their abandoned property

2. Store any personal property left behind by the tenant for at least 7 days, providing an estimated value and informing the tenant where the property is kept

3. If the tenant’s belongings are not retrieved within 7 days and their value is less than $750, the landlord may dispose of the belongings.

Following a tenant’s removal, it is advisable to change the locks; ideally, a professional locksmith should perform this task under the supervision of a law enforcement officer to avert unauthorized re-entry.

Preventing Evictions: Tips for Landlords

Avoiding evictions benefits not only tenants but also landlords, considering the high costs and time drain associated with evictions. Here are some key strategies that landlords can use to prevent evictions:

1. Engage in fair and equitable tenant screening practices.

2. Foster open communication, including using trauma-informed methods, to foster connected and trusting relationships that reduce eviction risk.

3. Enhance the sense of community by proactively connecting tenants to support resources and encouraging community within the property.

By implementing these strategies, landlords can create a positive and supportive environment that reduces the likelihood of evictions.

Flexibility in rental terms and processes alongside diversionary procedures such as mediation or lease modifications can reduce the rate of evictions. Some strategies to prevent unnecessary and discriminatory evictions include:

• Adopting just-cause eviction policies

• Providing transparent leases

• Respecting income source protections

• Participation in programs like the Gold Star Landlord Program, which rewards landlords who follow practices like engaging in mediation prior to beginning an eviction.


In conclusion, the eviction process in North Carolina is a complex legal procedure that requires a thorough understanding of state eviction laws, tenant rights, and landlord responsibilities. By following the guidelines outlined in this blog post, landlords can navigate the eviction process more effectively and ensure that they are compliant with all relevant laws. Meanwhile, tenants can better understand their rights and what to expect if they are facing eviction. Both parties should aim for open communication and fair practices to maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship and to prevent unnecessary evictions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to evict a tenant in North Carolina?

It typically takes 1 to 3 months to complete the eviction process in North Carolina. Keep in mind that this timeline does not account for any potential appeals.

What is the eviction policy in NC?

In North Carolina, landlords cannot remove a tenant without filing an eviction court case and receiving an eviction judgment from a judge or magistrate. The sheriff can only remove the tenant and their belongings after an eviction judgment has been ordered.

How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out in NC?

In North Carolina, the landlord must give seven days of notice for month-to-month leases, and for year-to-year leases or those with other definite terms, the notice must be given within a month of the end of the lease. Notice for leases lasting between one week and one month must be given at least two days in advance.

What are the main reasons for eviction in North Carolina?

The main reasons for eviction in North Carolina are non-payment of rent, lease violations, criminal activity, and holdover tenancy. These are the most common grounds for eviction in the state.

What are the tenant’s rights during the eviction process?

During the eviction process, tenants have the right to due process, including notice, a court hearing, and the ability to file appeals and assert defenses. Therefore, it is important for tenants to be aware of their rights and seek legal assistance if needed.

How can Property Management Software help prevent evictions?

Property Management Software like PropertyCtrl offers a number of tools that empower landlords to make educated decisions. From tenant screening, tenant selection, tenant communication, document storage, payment tracking and much more. These tools helps landlords keep on top of their properties and address issues when they first arise.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute as legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.

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