Rights, Regulations, & Landlord Tenant Laws - North Carolina [2023]

Learn everything you need to know about North Carolina landlord-tenant law in this full guide covering a range of rental topics like rent payments and evictions.

By
Rachel Robinson
|
Last Updated
November 1, 2023
Rights, Regulations, & Landlord Tenant Laws - North Carolina [2023]

North Carolina landlords and tenants, just like in other states, must navigate a complex network of local and state rental laws that have a significant impact on their rights, responsibilities, and the dynamics of the landlord-tenant relationship. Regardless of the comprehensiveness of these laws, this task can prove daunting, even for experienced landlords and tenants.

To help overcome this challenge, we have put together this comprehensive guide covering various rental topics such as tenant screening, evictions, rental agreements, and more. Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, you'll develop a solid grasp of North Carolina's laws as outlined in the NC General Statutes Chapter 42.

Landlords will discover how to safeguard their rental properties and foster healthy relationships with their tenants, while tenants will gain valuable insights into exercising their rights while residing in a rental property.

Let’s get started!

North Carolina landlord tenant law fast facts

  • Is a rental license required to be a residential landlord? No
  • Are there any security deposit requirements? Yes
  • Is there rent control? No
  • Are there limits on late fees? Yes
  • Are there rent payment grace period laws? Yes
  • Are there notice of entry laws? No

North Carolina landlord responsibilities and rights

Rights

North Carolina law grants landlords certain rights that allow them to operate their rental properties protected from legal issues. Landlords have the right to:

  • Charge and collect rent payments when due
  • Collect security deposits to cover unforeseen costs like rental damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Pursue legal evictions if tenants violate the lease agreement

Responsibilities

North Carolina landlords have important obligations to uphold on their end to ensure a smooth and safe living for their renters. A few of their key duties include:

  • Providing renters with a habitable and safe rental property free of discrimination
  • Making repairs within a “reasonable” time after receiving written notice from a tenant
  • Returning the tenant's security deposit within 30 days of the end of the lease

North Carolina tenant responsibilities and rights

Rights

Like their landlords, North Carolina tenants also have a set of rights that protect their safety and well-being throughout their time in a rental property. Their main rights include:

  • Living in a habitable rental unit that meets local health and safety regulations
  • Having repairs made in a reasonable time after providing the landlord with written notice
  • Taking legal action if the landlord violates the lease agreement

Responsibilities

North Carolina tenants also have a set of responsibilities to uphold while renting. They must:

  • Pay rent on time
  • Keep the unit in safe and habitable condition, including keeping fixtures clean
  • Make small repairs and do maintenance as necessary
  • Not disturb other renters or neighbors
  • Not purposefully destroying or neglecting the rental
  • Complying with all building and housing codes
  • Properly dispose of waste

North Carolina landlord tenant law through the rental cycle

North Carolina tenant screening and rental application laws

North Carolina does not have many statutes governing the rental application or tenant screening process. For instance, there is no limit on how much a landlord can charge for a rental application fee and the fee does not have to be made refundable unless the landlord chooses to do so. Landlords are allowed to ask any questions on the rental application as long as they do not lead to housing discrimination.

Furthermore, landlords are free to run any background checks, like credit reports, criminal history, and rental history, but can only do so if they first obtain the prospective tenant’s signed consent.

North Carolina rental agreement and lease termination laws

North Carolina state law does not require leases to be in writing, thus, oral agreements are acceptable. However, it’s always advised to have a written document as it outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant.

Landlords are required to include their name, address, and phone number in the lease. While it is not required, it is recommended to include the rent amount, rent due date, and lease length, along with other information in the lease agreement.

To terminate a lease or change it, a landlord must provide a 30-day written notice for year-long leases. Seven day’s written notice is required for month-to-month leases.

Renters in North Carolina can also terminate a lease early for certain legal reasons:

  • Active military duty
  • Early termination clause
  • Landlord harassment 
  • Habitability violation
  • Lease agreement violation

North Carolina security deposit laws

North Carolina landlords can collect a security deposit at the beginning of the lease to cover unforeseen costs like property damage exceeding normal wear and tear. The amount of the deposit depends on the length of the lease:

  • Weekly lease: Equivalent of 2 weeks’ rent
  • Monthly lease: Equivalent of one and a half months; rent
  • Longer than one month: Equivalent of 2 months’ rent

In regards to the security deposit, North Carolina landlords must do the following:

  • Must hold the security deposit in a trust account or post a surety bond
  • Return the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of the end of the lease

Landlords are allowed to make deductions from the security deposit for reasons including damage, court costs, costs due to a breach of the lease agreement, removal and storage of tenants’ belongings, and unpaid rent, late fees, and utilities.

If the landlord fails to comply with the notice period or wrongfully withholds funds, tenants can sue for the amount due, plus attorney fees.

North Carolina rent laws

North Carolina does not have rent control laws and prohibits its cities and states from creating their own laws. This allows landlords to charge any amount of rent and increase rent as long as it’s not during the lease term (unless the lease specifically allows for it). Additionally, North Carolina does not specify how much notice landlords must give before raising rent.

If North Carolina tenants fail to pay rent on time, landlords are required to provide a 5-day grace period before charging a late fee. It’s also important to note that late fees cannot exceed:

  • $4 or 5% of a weekly payment, whichever is greater
  • $15 or 5% of a monthly payment, whichever is greater

North Carolina renters are not allowed to withhold rent until a court approves it.

North Carolina repair and maintenance laws

Residential landlords are generally required to make repairs in a timely manner. In North Carolina, they are required to make repairs within a “reasonable amount” of time after receiving written notice from tenants.

If the landlord fails to make necessary repairs within an appropriate amount of time, tenants can take certain legal actions: sue for costs and rent abatement and file a court order to force the landlord to make repairs. They usually can’t withhold rent or use the repair and deduct remedy.

North Carolina notice of entry laws

North Carolina law doesn’t have specific statutes covering notice of entry. This means that landlords can enter their rental properties for reasonable purposes related to the tenancy such as maintenance and inspections. While North Carolina doesn’t specify a notice period, it’s generally a good practice to follow to maintain a healthy landlord-tenant relationship. The notice can range from 24 hours to two days depending on what is agreed upon in the lease agreement. As in other states, no notice is required in cases of emergency.

North Carolina eviction laws

Landlords are allowed to evict tenants for certain legal reasons in North Carolina. The process they must take depends on the reason for eviction. Reasons and required notice periods include:

  • Unpaid rent: If the tenant fails to pay rent when due, the landlord may issue a 10-day notice to quit. If the tenant still doesn’t pay, the landlord can pursue an eviction.
  • Lease violation: If the tenant violates the lease, the landlord may initiate the eviction process immediately, without any notice period.
  • Illegal acts: Like with lease violations, landlords can begin the eviction process immediately, without a notice period, if tenants are found to be committing illegal acts. North Carolina defines illegal acts as any criminal activity that affects the health, safety, or quiet enjoyment of other tenants, as well as illegal use, manufacturing, or possession of illegal substances.
  • No lease/end of lease: If tenants stay past the end of the tenancy, the landlord can issue a notice to quit. The notice period depends on the length of the lease. Week-to-week leases require a 2-day notice to quit and month-to-month leases require a 7-day notice to quit. Year-to-year leases require a 30-day notice to quit. Leases of manufactured homes require a notice of 60 days, no matter the length of the lease period.

Additional North Carolina landlord tenant laws

In addition to addressing rental concerns such as repairs and security deposits, North Carolina state laws also encompass issues such as discrimination and landlord retaliation. Let's take a closer look at some of these regulations below.

Housing discrimination

Only federal laws protect North Carolina renters from housing discrimination. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against potential renters based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. However, this law does not apply to some owner-occupied homes, buildings with 4 or fewer units, and rentals operated by religious organizations.

If a landlord violates housing discrimination laws, tenants can seek legal help and file a complaint with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings’ Civil Rights Division.

Landlord retaliation

It’s illegal for North Carolina landlords to retaliate against tenants for taking certain legal actions like reporting landlords to government authorities for health and safety violations. Threatened or attempted eviction is considered a form of retaliation in the state.

Required landlord disclosures

North Carolina residential landlords are required to provide certain disclosures at the start of a lease. The state’s disclosures are:

  • Lead-based paint: Landlords who own rental units built before 1978 must provide information about lead paint concentrations in the building.
  • Late fees: If a landlord wants to enforce a late fee, they must disclose the fee in the lease agreement.
  • Security deposit: If the landlord collects a security deposit, they must disclose to the tenant the name and address of the bank or institution where the deposit is being held.
  • Water contamination: The landlord must disclose and provide information on contaminant levels exceeding the guidelines provided by the state.

Bottom line: Understanding North Carolina’s landlord tenant laws

North Carolina's rental laws have been thoughtfully crafted to establish a clear framework of landlord’s and tenant’s rights and responsibilities. While the law’s primary objective is to ensure fairness throughout the rental process, they also promote a healthy landlord-tenant relationship, benefiting all parties involved.

It is crucial for both property owners and renters to understand and abide by the state's rental laws. For landlords, this not only protects their property investments but also encourages positive interactions with their tenants. Simultaneously, tenants will be able to assert their legal rights when necessary.

In addition to reading this guide, landlords and tenants should do their due diligence to stay informed about North Carolina’s rental laws, both now and well into the future.

North Carolina landlord tenant law FAQ

What is the limit a landlord or tenant can sue for in North Carolina Small Claims Court?

Small Claims Court in North Carolina handles disputes involving small amounts of money in a simplified and expedited manner. North Carolina’s Small Claims Court will hear rental cases between $5,000 to $10,000. The process takes roughly one to two months.

Is North Carolina considered a landlord-friendly state?

Yes, North Carolina is considered a landlord-friendly state–evident in its 23rd place on the list of landlord-friendly states. The state doesn’t have rent control, allowing landlords to set rent rates and increase them as they deem appropriate. Additionally, landlords do not have to provide notice before entering a rental and there are no minimum notice requirements for the eviction process. Trying to find a state to invest in real estate? Learn how to pick a landlord-friendly state now!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson has 6 years of experience in writing, editing, and SEO, specializing in rental property and real estate. She excels in market trends and landlord-tenant dynamics, producing content that drives traffic and informs. Outside of work, she enjoys climbing Colorado's granite boulders.

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