There is no self-help eviction of a tenant in North Carolina. A landlord cannot unilaterally change the locks or forcibly remove a renter from his or her home. Instead, landlords must follow a legal process in front of a magistrate for eviction called Summary Ejectment. How does this process work? Read on to find out.
Before filing for eviction, the landlord must give the renter 10 days notice of any past due rent. After the notice period is expired and the renter has not paid the rent due, an action for Summary Ejectment may be filed in Small Claims Court. A complaint can request either possession of the property or possession plus damages (often for unpaid rent or damage to the rental unit). You can find current information about the cost of filing a complaint here.
Once a complaint has been filed, a hearing in front of a magistrate will take place in no more than seven days. Because the hearing takes place in Small Claims Court, the maximum amount of damages requested cannot exceed $5,000.00. If the damages are in excess of $5000.00, the action cannot be filed in Small Claims Court and should instead be filed in District Court.. The landlord may appear or may send a representative to the hearing. With commercial landlords, this process is often handled by the property manager. If the lessee is personally served, the Magistrate can award possession of the property plus any costs owed. If the tenant was not served personally and does not appear for the hearing a Magistrate may only award possession of the property. This does not bar a later action for any money owed to landlord.
Either party is entitled to appeal the Magistrate’s ruling within ten days. The new hearing will be a de novo hearing in District Court , meaning the magistrate’s previous decision is discarded and a new hearing on the issues will take place. In order for a renter to appeal a magistrate’s ruling in favor of a landlord, the tenant’s rent arrears must be paid to the clerk of court as a bond until the new hearing takes place.
If, after the ten day appeal period from Small Claims Court has expired, an appeal has not been filed, a landlord may then file a Writ of Possession. This Writ gives notice to the lessee when the sheriff will be executing the Writ. At this time any remaining property belonging to the tenant may be removed from the property. This will occur no more than seven days from filing of the Writ. If the tenant vacates the property and leaves personal possessions behind, the landlord may remove the personal property and must store and make it available to the former tenant for at least ten days. After ten days, storage fees and court costs shall constitute a lien against any such property.
This basic information is not intended to serve as legal advice. Each case has a specific set of facts. Please contact an attorney for more specific information about this process. You can read more about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants from the NC attorney general here.
Check out our previous post to learn more about specific rights and duties of Landlords and Tenants in North Carolina.