Timeline. 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 (read more).
Introduction. North Carolina’s landlords must have legal reason to evict a tenant. There are rules and regulations they must follow to have a valid eviction lawsuit. Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in North Carolina.
Step 1: Notice is Posted
Landlords in North Carolina can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:
- Nonpayment of Rent – Once rent is past due, notice may be given to the tenant prior to the eviction hearing.
- Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – Landlords are not required to provide tenants with written notice prior to beginning an eviction action for violation of the lease terms/rental agreement.
- No Lease / End of Lease Term (Tenant at Will) – If there is no lease or the term of the lease has ended, the landlord does not need any additional reason to end the tenancy as long as proper notice is given.
- Illegal Activity – If a tenant is engaged in illegal activity, landlords are not required to give written notice prior to beginning an eviction action.
- Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for joining, supporting, or organizing a tenant organization or union.
- Evicting a Squatter. If the individual occupying the property did not have the permission of the landlord when initially moving in, does not have a lease (or verbal agreement) and has no history of paying rent, then a landlord/tenant relationship may not be established. As a result, the normal eviction process may not be applicable (read more).
Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.
Eviction Process for Nonpayment of Rent
A landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.
According to North Carolina law, rent is considered late the day after it’s due; grace periods, if any, are addressed in the lease/rental agreement. However, late fees may not be assessed until rent is five days past due.
Once rent is past due, the landlord must give tenants a 10-day grace period prior to beginning an eviction action. While statute requires that landlords “demand” the rent due and wait 10 days before filing a complaint with the court, the demand could be verbal or written.
If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the 10-day grace period and remains on the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement
A tenant can be evicted in North Carolina if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease or rental agreement.
North Carolina landlords are not required to give tenants written notice prior to beginning an eviction action for violating the lease or rental agreement.
Typical lease violations under this category could include things like damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, and having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy.
A tenant who negligently or deliberately destroys the rental property is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Note that illegal activity is not included in this category.
The landlord may skip directly to Step 2 below without giving tenants prior written notice.
Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease
In the state of North Carolina, if tenants “hold over,” or stay in the rental unit after the rental term has expired, then the landlord must give tenants notice before evicting them. This can include tenants without a written lease and week-to-week and month-to-month tenants.
Often this type of eviction applies to tenants who are at the end of their lease and the landlord doesn’t want to renew.
The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy.
- Week-to-Week – If rent is paid on a week-to-week basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 2-Day Notice to Quit.
- Month-to-Month – If rent is paid on a month-to-month basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
- Year-to-Year – For year-to-year tenancies, landlords must provide tenants with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
- Manufactured Home – Regardless of how long a tenant has occupied the rental space of a manufactured home, landlords must provide tenants with a 60-Day Notice to Quit.
If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Illegal Activity
North Carolina landlords are not required to give tenants who are involved in illegal activity written notice prior to beginning an eviction action.
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.
If tenants can show that they were not the ones involved in the criminal activity, and that they did everything that “could be reasonably expected” to stop the criminal activity from occurring, such as alerting the landlord and/or law enforcement officers, they may be allowed to remain in the rental unit.
Landlords may proceed directly to Step 2 below without giving tenants prior written notice in these instances.
Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served
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:
- Personally deliver 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
- Post a copy in a conspicuous place of the premises.
Five days. The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant within five days of the date the complaint was filed with the court.
Step 3: Court Hearing and 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.
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.
7-30 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.
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.
10 days. The writ of possession will be issued 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.
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.
Immediately to five 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
Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in North Carolina. With that being said, these estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.
- Initial Notice Period – Between 2 and 30 days for no lease/end of lease evictions; no written notice required for any other type of eviction.
- Issuance/Service of Summons and Complaint – Five days.
- Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – 7-30 days, longer for non-expedited hearings or if an appeal is filed.
- Issuance of Writ of Possession – 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.
- Return of Possession – Immediately to 5 days, depending on the reason for the eviction.
Tenant’s Defenses for Evictions. A tenant may have a defense to prevent the eviction. Some common defenses include:
- The landlord forcefully and illegally removes the tenant without a sheriff present and a court order.
- The landlord turns off essential services and utilities.
- The landlord attempts to evict a tenant because of a tenant’s race, religious, disability, family status or national origin.
- The landlord does not make necessary repairs to the rental unit after notice was given to them by the tenant.
- The landlord attempts to evict a tenant because the tenant complained to a government agency that the landlord has not provided safe, sanitary and decent housing.
Flowchart of North Carolina Eviction Process
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.
- 1 NC Gen Stat §42-46 (2019)
- 2 NC Gen Stat §42-3 (2019)
- 3 NC Gen Stat §42-14 (2019)
- 4 NC Gen Stat §42-59 (2019)
- 5 NC Gen Stat §90-95 (2019)
- 6 NC Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4 (2019)
- 7 NC Gen Stat §42-29 (2019)
- 8 NC Gen Stat §42-28 (2019)
- 9 NC Gen Stat §42-68 (2019)
- 10 NC Gen Stat §42-34.1 (2019)
- 11 NC Gen Stat §42-63 (2019)
- 12 NC Gen Stat §42-36.2 (2019)