When a tenant fails to pay rent or breaches the rental agreement, the process of taking the tenant to court can seem overwhelming for a landlord. North Carolina’s landlord and tenant law provides the steps that a landlord must take to legally evict a tenant for non-payment. The statute specifically prohibits landlords from using self-help in order to remedy the situation. Below is a brief summary of the steps involved in legally removing residential tenants in North Carolina when the tenant fails to cure the default by paying the delinquent rent owed under a rental or lease agreement.
Filing Your Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
Provided the amount you are seeking does not exceed $10,000, you can file your lawsuit in the Small Claims court in the county in which the property is located. This is the quickest and simplest way to evict a tenant under North Carolina tenant law. To initiate the eviction process you must file a Complaint in Summary Ejectment and pay the filing fee to the clerk of court. In the complaint, most landlords ask for the payment of the delinquent rent and possession of the property.
When you file the complaint, the clerk of court will issues a summons with the date and time of the hearing. The Summons and Complaint must be served on the tenant. Typically, this is done by a sheriff’s deputy. You are responsible for paying the fee to the sheriff for this service. If the sheriff is unable to serve the tenant personally, he will place a copy of the Summons and Complaint on the front door of the property to satisfy the service requirement.
Your eviction hearing in Small Claims court is typically scheduled within 14 days of the filing date of the complaint. As the landlord, you must appear in court and be prepared to prove the allegations of the complaint (i.e. the tenant has breached the rental agreement by not paying the rent). Documents that you should be prepared to present to the court at the eviction hearing include:
- A copy of the lease or rental agreement;
- Proof of non-payment of rent (i.e. a ledger or other accounting record);
- Copies of any notices or demand for payment of rent; and,
- An accounting of the amount you allege the tenant owes.
It is generally advisable to not accept partial payment of rent from the tenant from the time you file the complaint until the hearing. If you accept partial payment of rent, you could jeopardize your eviction case.
If you present you evidence to the court and the court rules in your favor, the judge will issue an order in your favor. The tenant has 10 days to appeal the magistrate’s decision. After the 10 days has expired, you may proceed to have the tenant removed from the property. Most landlords begin this process by sending the tenant a Notice to Vacate. If the tenant fails to vacate by the specified date, the landlord may file a Writ of Possession and pay the required fee requesting the sheriff remove the tenant. The process of removing the tenant can take up to a week after filing the Writ of Possession.
Changing the Locks
It is the landlord’s responsibility to have a locksmith present and to pay the cost of the locksmith when the sheriff acts on the Writ of Possession. The landlord cannot change the locks without the sheriff being present. If any of the tenant’s personal property remains in the unit, the landlord must allow the tenant to return to claim the personal property before disposing of any personal items.
The entire eviction process typically depends on the court’s schedule, the sheriff’s schedule, and the complexity of the case. It is always in a landlord’s best interest to consult with an attorney before beginning the eviction process if the landlord has never evicted a tenant.
Contact an Experienced Jacksonville Landlord and Tenant Law Attorney
“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”
North Carolina Landlord and Tenant Law can be complex. Even though the North Carolina eviction process is clearly defined by statute and is fairly straightforward, there may be times when a landlord may need the assistance of an experienced tenant law attorney. The landlord and tenant law attorneys of Welch and Avery have extensive experience in this area of law. If you have questions regarding the eviction process or tenant law, we would like to help.
We represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 665-9134 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.
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