How To Evict A Tenant in North Carolina
This primer on how to evict a tenant in North Carolina was prepared by Linchpin Property Management’s CEO, a licensed North Carolina attorney. For many landlord’s in North Carolina, the eviction process can be a nightmare, and we hope this guide provides you with the assistance on how to evict your tenant in North Carolina.
How do I evict a tenant In North Carolina is a common questioned asked by property owners. As a property management company, we wish the eviction process could go as quickly and as smoothly as possible, but unfortunately this is not the case.
From start to finish, the eviction process includes several major steps, which must be satisfied prior to you being able to repossess your property. How you carry out the eviction process is of utmost importance. If you fail to follow the law before, during, and after possession, you could end up in hot water during the eviction process.
At Linchpin Property Management, we are fortunate to be the only property management company led by a retired military attorney. As an advantage to you as a landlord, you have a dedicated attorney to ensure your property is taken care of for free.
As a resource for you, we will walk you through how do you evict a tenant in North Carolina. We will include the substantial steps you must take to evict a tenant in Fayetteville, Raeford, Lillington, Sanford, Hope Mills, or anywhere in Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, and Robeson Counties.
This information, however, is relevant to the eviction process anywhere in the state of North Carolina, as the eviction process is relatively consistent throughout the state.
The steps to evict a tenant in North Carolina may seem simple, but they really aren’t. At Linchpin Property Management, our clients receive FREE legal assistance throughout the process.
It is important to note that the eviction process isn’t as quick as you would like it to be. The timeline is usually anywhere from 1-3 months in Fayetteville. This is just a timeline however, and can easily move to the right or left.
Before we get into the meat of the North Carolina eviction process, make sure you download your copy of our eviction kit by filling in the form below. The kit will be delivered to you by email, so you don’t have to worry about leaving the page, and will be able to continue reading.
How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina Step 1: Notice to the Tenant
Notice to the tenant of the eviction process is the first step in North Carolina, and is arguably the most important. If the tenant does not receive proper notice, then you cannot file an eviction in North Carolina.
There are a number of reasons as to why the tenant can be evicted, and many of them should be covered in your lease agreement with your tenant.
Some of the common reasons to evict a tenant in North Carolina, and the ones we will discuss in this primer, include:
- Tenant Non-Payment of Rent
- Violating Material Terms of the Lease Agreement
- Expiration of the Lease Agreement
- Engagement in Illegal Activity
The notice requirements for each of these types of grounds for an eviction are all different. Some require notice, while others do not require any notice at all.
Tenant Nonpayment of Rent North Carolina Eviction Notice Requirement
Evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent is by far the most common type of eviction in North Carolina. How to evict someone in North Carolina is sometimes not an easy process.
In North Carolina, the terms of when, how, and what amount is to be paid should be clearly spelled out in your lease agreement. Rental grace periods should also be contained in the lease agreement.
A common confusion with landlords and the eviction process in North Carolina is that the day after the grace period is the date the rent is late. This is not an accurate interpretation of the law.
In North Carolina, the rent is due on the date that is specified in the lease agreement. This is the point at which you can evict a tenant. In other words, you can begin the process to evict if rent is late one day. What the grace period applies to is when you will start assessing late fees.
Specifically North Carolina General Statute, section 42-46, Authorized Late Fees and Eviction Fees, as it applies to late fees, states, in relevant part that:
“In all residential rental agreements in which a definite time for the payment of the rent is fixed, the parties may agree to a late fee not inconsistent with the provisions of this subsection, to be chargeable only if any rental payment is five days or more late.”
Once the rent is late, the landlord is then mandated by the law to provide a notice to the tenant to pay the rent. This notice is referred to as a Notice to Quit.
Specifically, however, you are providing your tenant with a “10 Day Demand for Rent.” We recommend that language in your notice include directly, or by reference, that the tenant has ten days to make full payment of the rent.
Form of North Carolina Eviction Notice for Tenant Nonpayment of Rent
While the ten-day notice can be drafted a number of different ways to satisfy the requirement of notification for the eviction process to begin.
At a minimum we recommend the following 8 items be included in your 10 Day Eviction Notice Demand for Rent:
1. The date of the notice.
2. The names of all tenants on the lease agreement.
3. The address of the property.
4. Language stating the tenant has 10 days from the date of the letter to pay rent owed.
5. The total amount of late rent owed.
6. The amount of all late rent owed, identified by each individual month.
7. Enter the exact due date of when the late rent is due.
8. Notify the tenant that they must vacate the premises if they fail to pay the late rent.
In the event the tenant pays the late rent, or decides they will vacate the premises, there is no need for the eviction process. You can sue the tenant in court for money the back rent owed, without the need to satisfy any further requirements for the eviction process.
If the tenant does not vacate, or does not pay the money owed, then you can proceed with the additionally requirements of the eviction process as set forth in Step 2 of this guide.
Holdover Tenants North Carolina Eviction Notice Requirements
In North Carolina, a holdover tenant is a tenant who has stayed past the term of their lease agreement. When you rent out a property, you may occasionally have a tenant who could not find another property to lease, and as a result, attempts to stay in your property.
While, by all accounts, the tenant is there illegally, because the tenant had a preexisting lease, unlike a squatter, in North Carolina you must evict the tenant.
The common scenario where you may see a hold over tenant is when you, as a landlord, decide you do not want to renew the lease agreement with the tenant.
As a landlord, you are under no obligation, housing discrimination laws aside, to renew a lease with a tenant. In the event you do not renew the lease agreement, the tenant now has to surrender the property to you.
If the tenant decides to stay after the expiration of the tenant’s lease term, the notice requirement for an eviction in North Carolina will depend on the length of the tenant’s lease agreement.
The following is a guide as to the eviction notification requirements in North Carolina for holdover tenants:
Week to Week: Two days notice.
Month to Month: Seven days notice.
Year to Year: One month notice.
Form of North Carolina Eviction Notice for Holdover Tenants
The form of the notice you provide to the tenant during a holdover tenancy is different than what you will provide to a tenant who is late paying rent.
With a tenant who is late paying rent, ideally your goal may not be to go through the eviction process, but instead to recover your rental amount. With a holdover tenant, we can assume, because you didn’t renew the lease, you want the tenant to be evicted from your property.
To evict a tenant in North Carolina who is a holdover tenant, the notice you want to provide is called an unconditional notice to quit. What this means is that the tenant doesn’t have a choice. There is no A or B decision. The tenant must vacate the property by the date contained in the letter.
In the event the tenant fails to comply with the date you set in the letter, you can begin the eviction process.
As a point of practice, you may end up with a tenant who attempts to pay you money prior to your filing of your complaint. Although you may be tempted to take the money, DO NOT ACCEPT ANY PAYMENT FROM THE TENANT.
If you accept payment, of any kind, the previous lease agreement you had with the tenant will automatically renew.
Violating Terms of The Lease North Carolina Eviction Notice Requirement
Evicting a tenant for violating the lease agreement is arguably the easiest and quickest way to get the steps in the eviction process started. Unlike a holdover tenant, or a tenant who fails to pay the rent, there is no notice requirement in North Carolina for the eviction process.
As a landlord, you can begin the eviction process on your tenant in North Carolina for violating terms of the lease, without waiting any additional time.
Because of the ease by which you can evict a tenant for violating the North Carolina lease agreement, we always recommend including specific things in the lease that you will not tolerate. In this way, you have the ammunition to proceed without having to provide notice a notice to cure, or stop, the problem before beginning the eviction process in North Carolina.
It is equally important that you do not put in a time frame by which the tenant can cure any lease violations. If you include a time frame, then you have essentially written in a notice period, when none was required to begin the eviction process in North Carolina.
Illegal Activity North Carolina Eviction Notice Requirement
We know we said tenants who violate the lease are the easiest to evict, but in terms of quickness of the process, illegal activity ranks as the fastest method to evict a tenant.
Similar to a violation of the lease, there is no notice requirement in North Carolina to begin the eviction process for illegal activity.
For purposes of North Carolina Landlord Tenant Law, criminal activity is defined in North Carolina General Statute, section 42-59. Section 42-59 allows for the expedited eviction of drug traffickers and other criminals.
This expedited eviction, commonly referred to as an Article 7 eviction, is by far the fastest way to get rid of tenants, however, you must be cognizant of the fact that the burden is on you to demonstrate one of the following:
- The tenant was involved in the illegal activity;
- The tenant was negligently unaware of the illegal activity; or
- That the tenant did not do things they reasonable could to stop the illegal activity, or notify you or law enforcement.
In the event that you cannot meet this burden, then you may lose in court.
How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina Step 2: Summary Ejectment
The next step in the process is to file your complaint in court. This is called a Complaint in Summary Ejectment.
The Summary Ejectment, in layman’s terms, means that the tenant has:
- failed to comply with your request to correct something (such as paying the rent);
- has failed to comply with the lease; or
- has failed to surrender the property.
You can receive a sample copy of the Summary Ejectment Complaint in our North Carolina Landlord Eviction Kit at the link at the end of this guide. In the eviction kit, we walk you step by step through the process of filling out the required paperwork correctly.
Where Do You File Your Summary Ejectment Complaint in North Carolina
Where you file your complaint in the county court. You will file your complaint with the Clerk of Court in the county WHERE YOUR PROPERTY IS LOCATED. This is a mistake a lot of landlords make. Landlords sometimes file in the county where they live, which may be different from the county where the property is located.
Filing in the county where the property is located is important because the court in another county does not have jurisdiction to hear a case that is not located in the county. You will end up wasting time filing out eviction forms, and attempting to file a case, only to be told you have to go somewhere else.
For the areas around Fort Bragg, North Carolina, you will file your complaint at one of the following courthouses:
|County Court for Evictions||Address||Clerk of Court Phone Number|
|Cumberland County Courthouse Evictions||
117 Dick Street
Fayetteville, North Carolina 28301
|Hoke County Courthouse Evictions||
304 N Main Street
Raeford, North Carolina 28376
|Harnett County Courthouse Evictions||
301 W Cornelius Harnett Blvd
Lillington, North Carolina 27546
|Lee County Courthouse Evictions||
1400 S Horner Blvd
Sanford, North Carolina 27330
|Moore County Courthouse Evictions||
102 Monroe Street
Carthage, North Carolina 28327
|Robeson County Courthouse Evictions||
500 N Elm Street
Lumberton, North Carolina 28359
Once you prepare your paperwork, and select the proper court, the clerk of court will check over all of your documents, and ensure you have the proper paperwork, as well as ensure you have filled in all documents correctly.
Be nice to the staff in the clerk of court office. You will talk to them frequently, and they are an invaluable asset to help you throughout this process.
Service of the Complaint and Summons for North Carolina Evictions
In addition to the complaint, you will also be issued a summons. A summons essentially tells you when you and the tenant will you have to appear in court.
The timeline for appearance in small claims court is set by law within 7 days from the date the summons is issued, but this date can shift depending on the workload of the court. For expedited cases heard in district court, the date is within 30 days. If the case is not a North Carolina eviction that’s expedited, it will take longer in district court.
Once you have filled out the complaint form, and filed it with the court, your next step is to serve the complaint and the summons on the tenant within 5 days. Service can be done a couple of different ways in North Carolina. Although you can select the best method for your situation, we always recommend having the sheriff or other court official serve your tenant with the summary ejection and summons for eviction.
Service can be done one of the following ways:
- By personally delivering a copy of the complaint
- Mailing a copy to the tenant’s last known address
- Providing a copy to someone at the tenant’s residence over the age of 18
- Posting a copy on a conspicuous part of the property
- Having the sheriff, or other process server, deliver a copy of the complaint (preferred method)
Similar to the Clerk of Court locations, the sheriff location will be in the country where your property is located. If you are having the sheriff serve the summons and summary ejection at a place other than your rental property, you will have to have a sheriff in that county serve the tenant.
What Sheriff Department Serves Your North Carolina Eviction Summons and Complaint
For the areas around Fort Bragg, North Carolina, you will have one of the following sheriffs serve the complaint and the summons:
|County Sheriff for Evictions||Address for Evictions||Phone Number|
|Cumberland County Sheriff Department||
131 Dick Street
Fayetteville, North Carolina 28301
|Hoke County Sheriff Department||
429 E Central Avenue
Raeford, North Carolina 28376
|Harnett County Sheriff Department||
175 Bain Street
Lillington, North Carolina 27546
|Lee County Sheriff Department||
1401 Elm Street
Sanford, North Carolina 27330
|Moore County Sheriff Department||
302 S McNeill Street
Carthage, North Carolina 28327
|Robeson County Sheriff Department||
120 Legend Road
Lumberton, North Carolina 28358
What is the Best Court to File My North Carolina Eviction
Another point of consideration is what is the proper forum for your complaint. While the majority of eviction cases are handled in small claims court, also referred to as magistrate court, there may be a time when you need to go directly to district court for your North Carolina eviction proceeding.
A prime example of skipping small claims court is where the damages exceed $10,000. Small claims courts are limited to the amount of money you can recover in damages. What this means, is that if you are evicting someone in North Carolina, and you are entitled to more money, you need to file in district court.
In our opinion, if you are filing in district court, you should have an attorney representing you. You may be entitled to your tenant having to pay your court costs if you win, so the out of pocket costs to you will be able to be recouped.
There is a huge difference between small claims court and district court. The amount you can recover for damages in a North Carolina eviction action is just one of them. If you are unsure of your options, you may want to discuss the amount in question, as well as the best forum with an attorney. Our clients at Linchpin Property Management are fortunate to receive this advice and also representation FREE OF CHARGE.
How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina Step 3: The Court Process
The court process can cause much anxiety for both you as well as your tenant. Despite having been to court hundreds of times, our CEO still gets anxiety when he appears in court on the behalf of clients.
The stress of appearing in court for a tenant eviction in North Carolina can be reduced with proper preparation, as well as an understanding of the possible outcomes.
First, as we stated earlier, small claims court is vastly different from district court.
Not only is the maximum dollar amount different, but small claims court rules are designed to benefit the landlord and tenant who are not represented by an attorney. What this means, is that the rules that are usually applicable at district court, don’t apply in small claims court.
District court, on the other hand, comes with entire volumes of rules, and procedures, as well as the proper method to file paperwork, and provide responses. Because of the dense nature of the practice in district court, we recommend you seek out an attorney if you decide to go that route.
And for this reason, our advice will focus on the small claims court eviction process in North Carolina.
Tenant and Landlord Appearance in Court for a North Carolina Eviction
Both the tenant and landlord must appear before the magistrate at the time and place identified in the summons.
Failure to appear on the part of the tenant, will result in the landlord receiving a default judgement. What a default judgement means, is that whatever the landlord wanted according to the summary ejectment the landlord filed for eviction, the landlord will get.
If the landlord fails to appear, the landlord’s North Carolina eviction complaint against the tenant will probably be dismissed.
There is a possibility that a continuous can be granted, but you must have a good reason as to why you want the case continued, and will have to notify the court prior to the court date. A continuance is essentially asking the court to hear the case at another day.
What to Bring to Small Claims Court for a North Carolina Eviction
As we stated earlier, being prepared is one of the ways to reduce your anxiety when evicting a tenant in North Carolina. Preparation, doesn’t mean merely knowing the information.
To prepare for your eviction proceeding in North Carolina, you should bring as many documents as possible, as well as any witnesses that can substantiate your case.
Some good things to bring with you include:
- A copy of your lease agreement
- Any notices your sent to the tenant
- Any electronic communications you sent to the tenant (email, text, social media)
- A witness who has firsthand knowledge of the facts and circumstances
- Financial information indicating non-payment
- Police reports
- Photos or video of damaged property or lease violations
Your goal during the hearing is to let as much information talk for you as possible. Your goal is not to be the only witness in your case. The more documentary information you have to substantiate your complaint, the more likely you are to win. The more you have to talk to justify, without proof, the more the likelihood of success drops.
Presentation of Evidence in North Carolina Evictions
During the course of the hearing, both sides will be allowed to present evidence. The landlord will go first, followed by the tenant. As a landlord, you may think you have enough evidence to evict the tenant, but this isn’t always the case.
While a tenant may have violated the lease, the tenant could still win their case based upon certain conduct by you as the landlord.
Some of the things that get landlords in North Carolina in trouble with eviction proceedings, and cause them to lose, include:
- Self Help Measures. Self help evictions are when you, as the landlord, attempt to evict your tenant without going through the eviction process. These methods include changing locks, shutting off utilities, or harassing the tenant.
- Retaliatory Evictions. Retaliatory evictions are illegal in North Carolina. A retaliatory eviction is when a landlord attempts to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord, or competent government authority about the condition of the rental property.
- Failure to Maintain the Property in Accordance with the Law. As a landlord, you have the responsibility under the law, as well as the lease, to maintain the property to a certain standard. Deviating from these standards can end you up in hot water.
- Improperly Served Notice. This is a big one. If you failed to serve the North Carolina eviction notice on the tenant properly, the tenant will have a plausible reason to have your case dismissed.
- The Breach Wasn’t Serious Enough. This is another area where you have to pay attention. Every little violation will not result in an eviction. The court will always balance the seriousness in relation to the requested remedy from the court.
How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina Step 4: The Judgment
There are two possible outcomes in the North Carolina eviction process: either the tenant stays, or the tenant goes. Ideally, since you filed for eviction, you want the tenant gone, so our focus will be on what happens if you win.
Appealing North Carolina Eviction Judgments
The first thing you must understand is that a judgment in small claims court in North Carolina for evictions is not absolute. The only exception is if the tenant accepts the ruling.
In the event the tenant does not accept the eviction ruling of the small claims court, the tenant can appeal to the district court, and have their case heard by the district court.
What this does is add more time to the process, as even after the district court level, the tenant can appeal to the appellate courts.
While a lot of property management companies overlook this entirely, and also fail to advise landlords and property investors of the same, it is an important consideration for you as a property owner in North Carolina.
Judgment for Possession In North Carolina Evictions
If you “win” your case, the next step in the eviction process is for the court to issue you a Judgment for Possession. If you asked for monetary damages, the court will also award you those.
Despite what some landlords and property management companies believe, the Judgment for Possession does not allow you to possess the property the same day. In other words, the tenant is not evicted from the property immediately.
The only exception to immediate eviction is when you evict a tenant for illegal activity. If the tenant is evicted for illegal activity, the tenant must vacate the premises immediately.
For Judgments for Possession not based upon illegal activity, the writ of possession will be issued 10 days after the judgment. This 10-day requirement is to give the tenant time to appeal the judgment.
The writ of possession is the formal order detailing that you can lawfully possess the property. The writ of possession is provided to the sheriff, who has the duty to carry out the possession order. The law states that the sheriff has 7 days to execute the writ of possession after the sheriff receives the writ.
Once notified, of the judgment by the court, as well as the writ of possession by the sheriff, the tenant has the option of voluntarily leaving the property, or being forcibly removed by the sheriff.
It is important for you to remember, as a property investor, it is not your job to remove the tenant. Leave service of the writ of possession, as well as execution, up to the sheriff.
How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina Step 5: After the Tenancy Ends
Removal of the tenant after the eviction judgement voluntarily, or by the sheriff, does not end the process. There are a couple of things you should consider whenever you are completely severing the ties with the tenant.
How to Change the Locks After Receiving a North Carolina Eviction Judgment
One of the first things you want to do is to change all of the locks and security codes for the property. Now that you have an order and writ of possession from the court, you should do this immediately.
While you may be tempted to do this on your own, we suggest that you have the locks changed by a locksmith, and do it while the sheriff is present.
How to Return Property After Receiving a North Carolina Eviction Judgement
Ideally, the tenant would have removed all personal property from the home after the eviction hearing. This is not always the case.
In North Carolina, after an eviction, you cannot simply get rid of the tenant’s property. North Carolina law provides for a number of avenues to get rid of the property from gifting the property to a non-profit organization, to disposing of the property.
For property worth less than $750: You may donate the property to a nonprofit. The nonprofit has to store the property for 30 days before they can provide it to those in need.
If the property is worth less than $500: You must wait 5 days before disposing of the property. You are not, however, required to provide notice of your intent to dispose of the property following the eviction.
If the property is worth more than $500: You must wait seven days before disposing of the property. Disposal can include throwing away or selling the property after the eviction.
If you decide to sell the property, there are certain notice requirements you must follow. You must provide the tenant with:
- A description of the property;
- The estimated value;
- The location where the property can be claimed;
- The date, time, and location of the sale; and
- A statement indicating that any proceeds left over after paying expenses owed to the landlord can be claimed by the tenant for up to seven days.
If the tenant does not claim the property within the seven-day notice period, you can hold the property sale. In the event the tenant does not claim the leftover proceeds within seven days, you must provide the funds to the county in which the property is located.
Final Thoughts on How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina
This primer only touches the surface of the many issues you may face during the process to evict a tenant in North Carolina. Although we have attempted to make the eviction process look simple, it is truly more complex than what it appears.
As the only property management company in Fayetteville, North Carolina led by a retired military attorney, and licensed North Carolina lawyer, we are in a unique position to help you through the eviction process.
We provide a ton of Free resources on our website to help you as a landlord and property investor manage your property. Just sign up for our Linchpin Property Management Academy, for access to our content
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And if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to get your free North Carolina Eviction Kit at the link below
The Team at Linchpin Property Management.