50 million people rent their homes in America. And every one of them has rights. In some parts of the country, renters have the right to hot water during the winter or predictable rent rates. Every American has the right to a safe, habitable rental home.

What are your rights and protections as a renter in North Carolina? Read on to find out and learn more about your tenant rights with the links at the bottom of this article.

The information on this page is provided as a free resource for renters in North Carolina. It is not legal advice. If you need legal advice or additional legal help, contact Legal Aid of North Carolina, which provides free assistance related to landlord-tenant issues for individuals who qualify for their services.

Their website is http://www.legalaidnc.org, and their toll-free number is 1-866-219-5262.

Does North Carolina have “rent control?”

Rent is not regulated in North Carolina. This means that the only limit on how much a landlord in North Carolina can charge for rent is what people are willing to pay. This is sometimes called a “market rate.”

What does it mean to have a “safe, habitable” place to live in North Carolina?

Under North Carolina law, landlords are required to:

  • (1) comply with applicable building and housing codes;
  • (2) Make all repairs to put and keep the home in a fit and habitable condition;
  • (3) Keep all common areas in a safe condition;
  • (4) Keep utilities in good working repair when given proper notice if not an emergency;
  • (5) Provide smoke alarms;
  • (6) Provide at least one carbon monoxide alarm;
  • (7) Fix any imminently dangerous conditions they are in actual knowledge of in a reasonable amount of time; statute lays out 12 examples 42-42(a)(8)
  • Doors

If the perpetrator of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking is not a tenant in the same dwelling unit as the protected tenant, a tenant of a dwelling may give oral or written notice to the landlord that a protected tenant is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and may request that the locks to the dwelling unit be changed.

A protected tenant is not required to provide documentation of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to initiate the changing of the locks, pursuant to this subsection. A landlord who receives a request under this subsection shall change the locks to the protected tenant’s dwelling unit or give the protected tenant permission to change the locks within 48 hours. 42.42.3

Elevators

The landlord must maintain elevators in good and safe working order, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.

Does my landlord have to provide smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in North Carolina?

North Carolina law requires landlords to provide smoke alarms and at least one carbon monoxide alarm. 42-42

How long does my landlord have to fix problems at my apartment in North Carolina?

Repair has to be made in a reasonable timeframe in accordance with the severity of the issue. 42-42. .

What can I do if my landlord can’t or won’t fix problems at my apartment in North Carolina?

Rent Abatement

North Carolina law does not allow for the withholding of rent when landlords fail to make a required repair. The only time this can be done is the landlord’s consent in writing or by order of a judge.

Repair and Deduct

A tenant may file a small claims suit against the landlord requesting the court’s permission to withhold part of the next month’s rent to pay for repair costs.

The tenant will need to show:

  • (1) proof of the lease;
  • (2) that the repair requested is required by law;
  • (3) evidence of the landlord’s actual knowledge of the issue or that they received notice, and the landlord did not do so in a reasonable amount of time;
  • (4) copies of the bill and the tenant’s receipt for paying it;
  • (5) proof, normally tenant testimony, that the value of the rental went down because of the issue.

Tenants needing information on how to file a small claims lawsuit can obtain a Small Claims Court information package similar to this one from the Consumer Protection Section of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

It is posted on the Consumer Protection Section’s website at http://www.ncdoj.gov/.

Consumers can be obtained by phone by calling 919-716-6000 or by mail by writing 9001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001.

Vacate

We cannot find laws in North Carolina that allow the tenant to vacate the premises for nonrepair. However, if the location is uninhabitable, most state common law will allow tenants to terminate the lease.

Sue

If the landlord simply took a very long time to make repairs but eventually got around to making them, the tenant may be able to bring a Small Claims Court lawsuit seeking a monetary judgment for the reduced rental value of the rental unit during the months that the problem went 8 unrepaired.

This type of Small Claims suit called a suit for “rent recoupment” (recovery of rent already paid), also requires that the tenant show the court the following:

(1) that the tenant had a lease with the landlord when the problems occurred;

(2) that the problem needing repair was the responsibility of the landlord under the Residential Rental Agreements Act, local building codes, and/or the terms of the lease agreement;

(3) if necessary, based on the Residential Rental Agreements Act’s provision concerning the problem needing repair, evidence that the landlord had actual knowledge of the problem, received notice of the problem, or received written notice of the need for repair and that the landlord then failed to make the needed repairs within a reasonable amount of time;

(4) some evidence (usually the tenant’s own testimony) showing how much the rental value of the house or apartment was reduced by the landlord’s failure to make required repairs.

Tenants needing information on how to file a small claims lawsuit can obtain a Small Claims Court information package similar to this one from the Consumer Protection Section of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

It is posted on the Consumer Protection Section’s website at http://www.ncdoj.gov/. Consumers can be obtained by phone by calling 919-716-6000 or by mail by writing 9001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001.

Where a problem has not been repaired by either the landlord or the tenant, the Court can enter an order allowing the tenant to withhold a percentage of future rent payments until the problem is repaired by the landlord.

After hearing the evidence the Court will make a determination of how much the monthly rental value of the rental unit has been reduced by the problem needing repair. For example, if the monthly rent is $600.00 and the Court determines that the problem reduces the value of the rental unit by one-third, the judge or civil magistrate will enter a “rent abatement” order allowing the tenant to reduce monthly rental payments to $400.00 until the problem is corrected by the landlord.

What are the rules for security deposits in North Carolina, and how do I get my security deposit refunded?

Cannot be more than 1 1/2 of the month’s rent. § 42-51. Landlord must place the deposit in a trust account and notify the tenant within 30 days fo the start of the lease of the name and address of the bank where the deposit is held or the name and address of the bondholder.

Deposits can only be used for:

  • (1) The tenant’s possible nonpayment of rent and costs for utilities.
  • (2) Damage to the premises.
  • (3) Damages as the result of the nonfulfillment of the rental period.
  • (4) Any unpaid bills that become a lien against the demised property due to the tenant’s occupancy.
  • (5) The costs of re-renting the premises after breach by the tenant, including any reasonable fees or commissions paid by the landlord to a licensed real estate broker to re-rent the premises.
  • (6) The costs of removal and storage of the tenant’s property after a summary ejectment proceeding.
  • (7) Court costs.
  • (8) Any fee permitted by law. 42-51  The landlord must return the deposit with 30 days of termination of the lease along with an itemized list of any deduction.  42-52

What kind of notice does my landlord need to give me in North Carolina?

Eviction

To evict tenants, landlords MUST take them to court. The landlord cannot use self-help measures such as changing the locks or stopping the utilities.

Tenants can only be evicted by the Sheriff’s Office and only after the Court has entered a judgment against them and the Clerk issues a “Writ of Possession.” Normally, the eviction process takes about 3 weeks.

The tenant will receive a summons to the small claims court. This is normally within 10 days of the landlord filing the summons and complaint. For a detailed look at the eviction process, see here.

A few days before the padlocking, you should receive a “Writ of Execution.” A Writ is a court order that directs the sheriff to make you move.

You should also get a notice from the sheriff. The notice states the date and time when the sheriff will come to escort you out of the home.  If you have not moved by then, you must leave the residence when the sheriff orders you to go.

The law does not allow a landlord to order a tenant to leave.  After being removed, you must arrange with the landlord to remove your property from the home within five to seven days. If you do not, the landlord will have the right to sell your things, throw them away, or otherwise dispose of them.

If the landlord sells your things, she or he can keep the money for the rent or other amounts you owe. Legal Aid of NC

Rent Increases

Rent increases are handled by contract law. The terms of the lease cannot be changed except by agreement by both parties. If the lease does not give the landlord the ability to increase rent during the lease, the landlord cannot do so unless the tenant and the landlord agree on new terms.

Entry

We cannot find laws in North Carolina that explicitly place restrictions or requirements on entry. Most common law requires reasonable notice and for it to be at a reasonable time while allowing the contract to rule. See your lease for any requirements.

Can I end my lease early in North Carolina?

If something comes up in your life, you may find that you need to end your lease early. This can be stressful and very expensive, with most leases including steep penalties and fines for early termination. Here are some potential options.

Military

If you’re active military, you may be able to terminate your lease early under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides certain protections for active-duty military members, including the right to terminate a lease early if you receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or deployment.

To terminate your lease early under the SCRA, you must provide your landlord with written notice and a copy of your orders. The notice must be provided at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to terminate the lease.

Subleasing

Any tenant who resides in a residential real property containing less than 15 rental units that are being sold in foreclosure may terminate the rental agreement for the dwelling unit by providing the landlord with a written notice of termination to be effective on a date stated in the notice of termination that is at least 10 days, but no more than 90 days, after the sale date contained in the notice of sale.  42-45.2

Survivors of Domestic Violence

A tenant may terminate their lease by providing the landlord with a written notice that is at least 30 days after the landlord’s receipt of the notice.

The notice to the landlord shall be accompanied by either:

  • (i) a copy of a valid order of protection issued by a court pursuant to Chapter 50B or 50C of the General Statutes, other than an ex parte order,
  • (ii) a criminal order that restrains a person from contact with a protected tenant or
  • (iii) a valid Address Confidentiality Program card issued pursuant to G.S. 15C-4 to the victim or a minor member of the tenant’s household.

A victim of domestic violence or sexual assault must submit a copy of a safety plan with the notice to terminate. The safety plan, dated during the term of the tenancy to be terminated, must be provided by a domestic violence or sexual assault program that substantially complies with the requirements set forth in G.S. 50B-9 and must recommend relocation of the protected tenant. 42-45.1

Where can I get help if I’m being evicted in North Carolina?

Tenants having trouble locating an attorney for a consultation on landlord-tenant questions may want to try the North Carolina Lawyers Referral Service. Their website is http://www.ncfindalawyer.org/, and their toll-free number is 1-800-662-7660.

The Lawyers Referral Service should be able to give you the name of an attorney to consult with on landlord-tenant matters for a relatively low consultation fee.

Legal Aid of North Carolina provides free assistance related to landlord-tenant issues for individuals who qualify for their services.

Their website is http://www.legalaidnc.org, and their toll-free number is 1-866-219-5262.

What can I do if my landlord harasses me or discriminates against me in North Carolina?

A landlord shall not terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, refuse to enter into a rental agreement, or otherwise retaliate in the rental of a dwelling based substantially on:

  • (i) the tenant, applicant, or a household member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
  • (ii) the tenant or applicant having terminated a rental agreement because of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 42-42.2

North Carolina law does not allow landlords to retaliate against tenants for lawful actions.

Therefore, the following activities of such persons are protected by law:

  • (1) A good faith complaint or request for repairs to the landlord, his employee, or his agent about conditions or defects in the premises that the landlord is obligated to repair under G.S. 42-42; NC General Statutes – Chapter 42 18
  • (2) A good faith complaint to a government agency about a landlord’s alleged violation of any health or safety law or any regulation, code, ordinance, or State or federal law that regulates premises used for dwelling purposes;
  • (3) A government authority’s issuance of a formal complaint to a landlord concerning premises rented by a tenant;
  • (4) A good faith attempt to exercise, secure, or enforce any rights existing under a valid lease or rental agreement or under State or federal law or
  • (5) A good faith attempt to organize, join, or become otherwise involved with any organization promoting or enforcing tenants’ rights. 42-37.1

SixFifty can help!

Now that you know your rights as a renter in North Carolina, what can you do? Take action! SixFifty built HelloLandlord with the University of Arizona and Brigham Young University as a free resource for people who can’t afford legal help. You can use HelloLandlord to:

Tens of thousands of Americans have used HelloLandlord to assert their rights. It only takes 5 minutes to generate a high-quality letter—the kind of letter a lawyer would write. And we offer discount codes so you can send your letter by mail, right from your computer.

SixFifty is building more tools to help renters all the time. For more information, email probono@sixfifty.com.

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