North Carolina Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, HVAC, and other facilities and appliances which are required by the landlord tenant agreement in good condition (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within a “reasonable time” after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenants can file an action in Small Claims Court to obtain rent rebate or report the issue to a public official (read more).
  • Retaliation. Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under North Carolina law. (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in North Carolina does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs Not specifically addressed
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Yes
Condos Not addressed
Hotels/Motels No

Additionally, rental agreements are not allowed to include any provisions that waive the tenant’s right to live in a habitable residence.

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in North Carolina, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Yes
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Yes
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Yes
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). No
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Yes
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Yes
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Yes
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Yes, if required
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Yes
Provide a working washer/dryer. Yes, if required

Rodents

Landlords are required to treat rat infestations that are caused by issues with the building, such as large cracks or holes, but they are not required to treat rat infestations caused by the tenant’s actions.

Security

Landlords are required to provide locks on exterior doors and locking mechanisms on all first floor windows.

Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Failure to provide or repair a carbon monoxide or smoke alarm will result in a fine of up to $250 against the landlord.

Standing Water/Drainage

Landlords are required to mitigate standing water or drainage problems and repair any leaks that could cause mold.

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending notice. All requests for repairs must be sent to the landlord in writing. The landlord shall be given a reasonable amount of time to get the repairs done. “Reasonable time” may depend on the nature of the required repair.
  • Landlord access. Tenants are not required to give the landlord access to the property, even to make necessary repairs, unless it’s written into the rental agreement

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Tenants may not withhold rent payments in order to force landlords to fulfill their duties without the permission of the court unless the landlord agrees to it in writing or a judge allows the tenant to withhold rent pursuant to a court order.
  2. Rent abatement – North Carolina law allows tenants to seek money damages by way of rent abatement. To obtain a rent rebate, a tenant must file an action in Small Claims Court for the reduced value of the rental property.
  3. Reporting to Public Officials – landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

It is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant within 12 months of the latter exercising their legal rights by:

  • Complaining to the landlord about a needed repair at the property
  • Filing a complaint to a government agency about a health or safety violation
  • Organizing or joining a tenant’s union.

Retaliatory conduct includes:

  • Raising a tenant’s rent
  • Decreasing services
  • Refusing to make necessary repairs or perform maintenance
  • Harassing the tenant
  • Evicting the tenant.

Sources