North Carolina Eviction Process

North Carolina Eviction Process

Last Updated: September 13, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

Steps of the eviction process in North Carolina:

  1. Landlord serves tenant written notice.
  2. Landlord files complaint with court (if unresolved).
  3. Court holds hearing & issues judgment.
  4. Writ of possession is issued.
  5. Possession of property is returned to landlord.

Evicting a tenant in North Carolina can take around one to three months, depending on the reason for the eviction and whether the case is held in district or small claims court. If tenants file an appeal, the process may take longer.

Questions? To chat with a North Carolina eviction attorney, click here

Grounds for an Eviction in North Carolina

In North Carolina, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include not paying rent on time, staying after the lease ends, violating lease terms or illegal activity. Even so, proper notice must first be given before ending the tenancy.

Grounds Notice Period Curable?
Nonpayment of Rent 10 Days Maybe
End of / No Lease 7 Days No
Lease Violation None No
Illegal Activity None No

Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent

In North Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. To do so, they must first give 10 days’  notice to pay rent or vacate the premises. If the tenant does neither after that time, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.

Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is due at the beginning of each pay period. In North Carolina late fees may not be assessed until rent is 5 days past due. So for example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the sixth of the month (if not paid in full).

Once rent is considered late, the landlord can begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with proper notice.

Eviction for No Lease or End of Lease

In North Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant without a lease or with a lease that has ended (known as a “holdover tenant” or “tenant at will”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving proper notice to move out (7 days for tenants that pay month-to-month).

Once the tenancy ends, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.

Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities

In North Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities under North Carolina landlord-tenant law. No prior notice is needed and the landlord may immediately proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit. The tenant does not have the option to fix the issue and the tenant must vacate. 

Tenant responsibilities include:

  • Keeping the premises clean and safe.
  • Disposing of all ash, rubbish, garbage, and waste in a clean and safe manner.
  • Keeping all plumbing fixtures clean.
  • Not destroying, damaging, defacing, or removing any part of the of premises.
  • Not tampering with the smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector.
  • Complying with all building and housing codes.
  • Taking responsibility for any damage to the dwelling unit, unless it was ordinary wear and tear.
  • Notifying the landlord in writing of any repairs or replacements to a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector.

Examples of violations include:

  • Having an unauthorized pet or guest.
  • Parking in an unauthorized area.
  • Not maintaining a certain level of cleanliness.
  • Willfully and unlawfully demolish, destroy, deface or damage any part of the dwelling unit.
  • Removing parts of the dwelling unit.
  • Burning any fence, wall or any other enclosure on the premises.
  • Cutting or destroying any timber, fruit, shade or ornamental tree on the premises.

Eviction for Illegal Activity

In North Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant for an illegal activity. No notice is required, and the landlord may immediately proceed with an eviction lawsuit. Tenants are not allowed to fix the issue and do not have the option to stay in the dwelling unit.

In North Carolina, illegal activity includes:

  • Criminal activity that affects the health, safety or peaceful enjoyment of other tenants.
  • Illegal use, possession, sale or manufacture of controlled substances.

Note, an immediate expedited eviction may be available in some illegal activity instances (i.e., drug trafficking).

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

warning

Illegal Evictions in North Carolina

In North Carolina, any of the below is illegal. If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant actual damages sustained.

“Self-Help” Evictions

No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:

  • Changing the locks.
  • Shutting off utilities.
  • Removing tenant belongings.

A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.

Retaliatory Evictions

It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:

  • Complaining about habitability issues to the landlord or any authority tasked to enforce the law.
  • Filing a complaint to a government authority.
  • Joining a tenant’s union or organization.
  • Government issuing a formal complaint to a landlord regarding a state or federal law.
  • Exercising, securing, or enforcing any rights under the lease agreement.

Eviction notice posted on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant

A landlord can begin the eviction process in North Carolina by serving the tenant with written notice. North Carolina law doesn’t specify how an eviction notice must be served at the state level; however, common methods of delivery include:

  • Personally delivery.
  • Leaving a copy of the notice with someone of “suitable” age.
  • Posting a copy in a conspicuous place of the premises.

It is important for a landlord to always maintain a copy of the signed and served notice as proof of proper service of notice. 

10-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

If a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial) in North Carolina, the landlord can serve them a 10-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice gives the tenant 10 calendar days to pay the entire remaining balance or vacate the premises.

7-Day Notice to Quit

For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in North Carolina, the landlord must serve them a 7-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This eviction notice allows the tenant 7 calendar days to move out.

For tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice differs:

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Amount
Week-to-Week 2 Days
Month-to-Month 7 Days
Year-to-Year 30 Days

Immediate Notice to Quit

In North Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of the lease or for committing illegal activity. Unlike other eviction notices, a landlord can order a tenant to vacate the dwelling unit immediately. In these instances, tenants are not allowed to fix the issue and do not have the option to stay in the dwelling unit. No prior notice is necessary for these grounds for eviction and the landlord may immediately proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit with the appropriate court.

Questions? To chat with a North Carolina eviction attorney, click here

Eviction Complaint Filed on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with Court

As the next step in the eviction process, North Carolina landlords must file a complaint in the appropriate court. In North Carolina, this costs $96 in filing fees for all cases filed in Small Claims Court.

The summons and complaint may be served on the tenant by the sheriff of the county.

First, the sheriff shall mail the summons and complaint to the tenant by the end of the next business day or as soon as they are available to do so. Within five days the sheriff must telephone the tenant requesting that the tenant visit the sheriff to accept the summons and complaint or schedule an appointment to receive the delivery of the documents. If the attempts to telephone the tenant are unsuccessful the sheriff must use one of the following methods:

  1. Personally delivery or leave a copy of the summons and complaint with someone of “suitable” age by visiting the residence of the tenant within five days of issuance of the summons and at least two days before the tenant is required to appear to answer the complaint; or
  2. Post a copy in a conspicuous place of the premises.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com5 days. The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant within five days of the date the complaint was filed with the court.

Eviction Court Hearing on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 3: Court Holds Hearing & Issues Judgment

If the eviction hearing is filed in small claims court, it could be held as soon as within seven days of the date the summons was issued.

For expedited hearings held in District Court (such as evictions for illegal activity), the hearing will be held within 30 days of the date the complaint was served on the tenant. Non-expedited hearings will take longer.

NOTES

Nonpayment of Rent. If the tenant pays the full amount of past-due rent owed at any time prior to the issuance of a judgment in favor of the landlord, the eviction proceedings will be stopped.

Filing an Answer. If the eviction case is filed in District Court instead of small claims court, tenants must file an answer within 20 days of the date they received the summons and complaint.

If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, the judicial officer may issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord, meaning the tenant will have to move out.

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, either through a default judgment or at an eviction hearing, a writ of possession will be issued and the eviction process will continue.

Tenants will have 30 days to appeal the ruling.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com7-30 days, depending on whether the eviction hearing is held in district court or small claims court. If tenants file an appeal, this could add another 30 days (or more) to the process.

Eviction Writ of Possession on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 4: Writ of Possession is Issued

The writ of possession is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit. The writ gives the approximate time the sheriff will come and remove the tenant. This gives the tenant an opportunity to remove their belongings before the sheriff returns to the property.

If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, the writ of possession will be issued 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord has been issued. This gives tenants time to file an appeal.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com10 days. The writ of possession will be issued 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.

Eviction property possession returned on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 5: Possession of Property is Returned

For evictions due to illegal activity, the tenant will be evicted immediately. For all other evictions, tenants will have up to five days once the writ of possession has been received by the sheriff’s office to move out of the rental unit before the sheriff returns to forcibly remove them.

If a tenant fails the remove their personal property after the writ of possession, the sheriff may bring the property to any storage facility in the county. The sheriff may require the landlord to advance the cost of moving and storing the property. If the landlord declines to advance the cost, the sheriff will not take the personal property and will bring the writ of possession back to the clerk of the court.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.comImmediately to 5 days. Once the writ has been posted, the tenant has up to five days to move out of the rental unit, depending on the reason for the eviction.

North Carolina Eviction Process Timeline

In North Carolina, an eviction can be completed in 1 to 3 months but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.

Below are the parts of the North Carolina eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.

Step Estimated Time
Initial Notice Period 2-30 Calendar Days
Court Issuing/Serving Summons 5 Business Days
Tenant Response Period ~20 Business Days
Court Ruling 7-30 Business Days
Court Serving Writ of Possession 10 Business Days
Final Notice Period Immediately – 5 Days
Questions? To chat with a North Carolina eviction attorney, click here

Flowchart of North Carolina Eviction Process

North Carolina Eviction Process Flowchart on iPropertyManagement.com

For additional questions about the eviction process in North Carolina, please refer to the official legislation, North Carolina General Statutes §42, §90-95, and the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4, for more information.

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