Eviction Process in Durham, North Carolina

System - Friday, March 19, 2021

Being a landlord can be both rewarding and demanding. It can be smooth sailings when you have great tenants that abide by the terms of the lease. 

However, it can become less wonderful when certain things go south. For example, you can face major headaches when a tenant stops paying rent or causes excessive property damage. 

Sadly, dealing with such issues can emerge in any landlord’s career. As such, learning how to handle such issues is key. Many North Carolina landlords choose to enlist the services of an established local property management company.

When everything else has failed, removing the tenant may be the only option left. And as a landlord in Durham, you are obligated by the state’s tenancy laws to follow the proper judicial process. 

Guide to the Eviction Process in North Carolina

Step #1: Have Legal Justification

A proper lease gives each tenant the right to remain on the property until the lease term expires, unless they violate the lease. 

eviction justification

Some of the most common lease violations by tenants in Durham include:

  • Failing to pay rent. 

  • Habitually paying the rent late.

  • Failing to adhere to the terms of the lease agreement. For example, keeping an unauthorized pet or subletting the unit without the landlord’s permission. 

  • Committing illegal activities at the property, such as the manufacturing or selling of illegal drugs. 

  • Causing excessive property damage. 

You cannot evict someone simply because you no longer get along.

Step #2: Notify the Tenant of the Violation. 

An awareness of North Carolina's landlord tenant law is key to understanding how to proceed with notices.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also had an effect on how evictions are handled in the state of North Carolina.

Once you have a legal reason to evict the tenant, the next step is to serve them with an eviction notice. In the notice, you must state two important things. 

The first important disclosure is the reason for the eviction; the second is the time the tenant has to correct the violation (if that’s an option). 

eviction notice north carolina

There exist different notice types available for landlords, depending on the violation committed. 

  • Eviction for nonpayment of rent: You must serve the tenant with a 10-days’ Pay or Quit Notice. The notice tells the tenant that they have 10 days to pay all due rent or move out. If the tenant does neither, you can proceed to court for further action. 

  • Eviction for violation of the lease agreement: You may also evict a tenant who fails to uphold their responsibilities as per the lease terms. Common lease violations that fall under this category include keeping an unauthorized pet, and exceeding the rental limit. 

For such lease violations, the law doesn’t require you to serve the tenant with any notice. You can proceed to court immediately. 

Eviction Process for Holdover Tenants

A holdover tenant is one who continues to stay on the property after their lease is over. The type of notice to serve depends on the length of the lease. 

For a weekly rental agreement, you must serve a 2 Day Notice to Quit. For a monthly agreement, you must serve them with a 7-Day Notice to Quit. And for a yearly lease, you must serve them with a 30-Day Notice to Quit. 

Again, if the tenant doesn’t move out after the notice period, you can move to court for further help.

Eviction Process for Illegal Activities

You aren’t required to serve a tenant found to have committed an illegal activity any notice. Illegal activities can take either of two forms. 

One category of illegal activity is that that affects the safety, health or peaceful enjoyment of the property by other tenants. Another form of illegal activity can come in the form of the manufacturing, possession, or use of a controlled substance. 

Step #3: File the Complaint in an Appropriate Court

The next step in the eviction process is to move to court and file a complaint. There will be a filing fee involved, usually about $100. 

eviction court

The summons will then be served on the tenant by a process server, typically the sheriff. This will happen within 5 days after the complaint is filed. 

Step #4: Attend the Court Hearing

If you file the complaint in a small claims court, the hearing could happen in as few as 7 days once the tenant is served with the summons. 

However, the same could take longer if you do the filing in a district court. Generally, expedited hearings may be held within 30 days. 

eviction legal process

If the tenant doesn't show up to court, the court will probably issue a default judgment in your favor. However, if the tenant does appear, the court will first listen to both parties prior to making a determination. 

In their defense, the tenant may give any of the following defenses. 

You used “self-help” eviction procedures: As a NC landlord, you must use the proper judicial process to evict a tenant from your rental property. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-25.6.). 

You cannot attempt to remove the tenant in any other regardless of the violation committed. Examples of illegal eviction procedures include changing the locks and shutting off utilities.

You failed to follow all the necessary procedures: Even in the judicial eviction process, you must ensure you follow all procedures meticulously. One common blunder is failing to serve the tenant with a proper notice. 

A mistake in the eviction process will mean a longer time in evicting the tenant. 

The eviction is a retaliatory act against the tenant: Tenants have a right to live in a habitable rental property. And they have a right to complain when the unit fails to meet habitable standards. 

If you try to evict a tenant for complaining about the unit’s indecent conditions, that would be a retaliatory act. 

The eviction is discriminatory: You cannot try to evict a tenant based on protected characteristics. Protected characteristics include: sex, religion, color, race, familial status, national origin, and disability. 

Step #5: Get Possession of the Property Back

If the court rules in your favor, you’ll be issued with a writ of restitution. This is a legal document that gives the tenant the final notice to leave. The court normally issues it 10 days after a successful ruling. 

No landlord in Durham wishes to evict a tenant. But as a landlord, this can be an inevitable process. Having this knowledge will help you navigate it much smoothly. If you're looking for more assistance, get in touch with a local property management company today. 

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes. For legal help, please consult a qualified attorney.