Thinking About Renting? Learn NC Tenant Laws and Landlord Rights
Thinking About Renting? Learn NC Tenant Laws and
With a volatile real estate market, many previous home owners are choosing to rent their homes
instead of selling to avoid significant losses on their investment after calculating if they can afford to
sell their home, and competing in a buyer's market with a surplus of houses already on the market.
In return, tenants are finding that renting right now may be a smart option while saving towards a
calculated home purchase price they can afford to pre-qualify for, and timing the local real estate
market to plateau at a bottom price range. In addition, for transient people who may not be staying
in one location for more than a year or two (young professionals, students, mobile professions) or
others recovering from prior financial strains (foreclosures, bankruptcy, divorce) who need time to
recover before buying a home, renting is an excellent choice.
North Carolina has passed two important acts to govern the actions during rental/lease agreements
that landlords and tenants would be wise to review. The Residential Rental Agreements Act
discussed in this article covers a large category of rights and protocols, while the North Carolina
Tenant Security Deposit Act governs proper uses of security deposits, amounts of deposits, and types
of property damage that can be counted.
Benefits of Rental Agreements and Legal Rights for Landlords and Tenants in N.C.
The relationship between a tenant and landlord is mutual and symbiotic. Both parties have
responsibilities and dependency on the other. Having an open and honest communication from the
beginning with a clear written rental policy is an excellent way to start on sure footing. By the legal
rules called Statute of Frauds in North Carolina, any rental agreement longer than three years
(actually, three years and a day), must be in writing and recorded to be enforceable by third parties.
(For instance, if an owner sells a home while a lease is in effect, if in writing, the new owner must
honor the rental time period.) For those who choose to be less formal with oral agreements,
understand that less protection is available to both parties, including guaranteeing the rental rates
will not rise for the tenant and that the owner will receive due prior notice before a tenant leaves the
Rental agreements are technically a bilateral contract transferring possession and the right of use of
a property for a specific time period. Rental agreements should include items such as a specific time
period, renew protocols (amount of advance notice), rent amount, security deposits, pet deposits,
included amenities or utilities (if provided by the landlord/owner), day the payment is due, what
form of payment is allowed (direct deposit, personal check, cashier's check), and expected
responsibilities of the tenant (i.e. snow removal, yard work, etc.) versus the landlord (maintain fit
premises such as plumbing, heating, changing smoke detector batteries, etc.). Agreements should
also include who to contact in a case of emergency (such as plumbing or heating issues), and
allowable renter uses (presence of pets, water beds, aquariums) should be mentioned.
The Legal Rights and Responsibilities of the Tenant
The tenant has the following obligations and responsibilities: to maintain the unit's premises in a
clean, safe manner by disposing of all garbage, keeping plumbing fixtures clean, and notifying the
landlord/owner if any smoke detectors are not working properly or other aspects of the unit are not
in working order. The tenant is prohibited from withholding rent whatsoever regardless of any
disagreements with management unless the process of constructive eviction is followed.
The landlord has basic duties to the tenant to provide fit and accessible premises. If at any time, the
tenant has notified the landlord on several occasions of a serious violation in writing and no
correction has been performed, the tenant does legally have the right to leave the premises and
discontinue paying rent until the problem is corrected (a process called constructive eviction). At no
time, however, can a tenant withhold rent and remain on the premises.
If a tenant does exercise their rights to request repairs on behalf of themselves or a group of
tenants, the landlord is not permitted to perform retaliatory eviction (where the landlord evicts the
tenant because of exercising their rights to request repairs), and the tenant has protection for up to
12 months. Protected actions by the tenant include: complaining to a government agency, requesting
repairs by the landlord, exercising legal rights under the lease, exercising rights under federal or
state law, and becoming involved in a tenant's rights organization.
If a tenant is injured inside the unit, the landlord is not responsible for the injuries unless proof of
unsafe conditions are provided from prior repair requests (for instance, a tenant slips on water from
a leaking toilet that they have not reported prior). This is in comparison of the common areas where
a landlord is responsible for monitoring and maintaining safe areas at all times. Also, tenants must
use proper caution to personal safety, as at this time, landlords are not under duty to protect a
tenant from the criminal acts of a third person on the premises unless the landlord knows or had
reason to know of a threat of harm to the tenants and fails to take reasonable precautions to protect
The Responsibilities and Rights of the Landlord
The landlord has a statutory responsibility to provide fit and habitable premises, including items
such as heating, plumbing, ventilation, safety, water, electric, and sanitation. If notified by a tenant,
prompt attention should be made to correct issues in any of these areas. (The one exception is air
conditioning--this is not a required service, just an added benefit; however, a refutable landlord
should be considerate of tenants and rectify problems immediately for goodwill.)
The landlord must also abide by all building codes and keep common air conditioning repair rancho
cucamonga areas safe. The landlord must maintain and install smoke detectors within 15 days of
notice by tenants if not in working order. The landlord is also subject to the law of negligence, where
if an injury occurs in a common area due to the landlord not maintaining safe conditions, the
landlord may liable if the injured party is not contributorily negligent (such as falling on the sidewalk
while intoxicated). Common areas include hallways, stairs, parking lots, and sidewalks.
The landlord is also required to follow fair housing laws (regarding equal opportunity renting
regardless of race, color, religion, nationality, gender, familial status, or handicap), regulations
regarding sexual harassment statutes (such as inappropriate verbal or non-verbal interactions or
attempting bartering for reduced rent in return for inappropriate relations), and complying with
ADA regulations (promoting accessibility and use of premises for the disabled).
Persons with disability have the right for accessibility to common areas and reserve the right to
notify the landlord if accessibility changes need to be made inside a unit. These changes inside the
unit can be considered expenses of tenant, and upon completion of the lease agreement, the unit
must be returned in reasonable condition at or better than before.
If a tenant does not fulfill their portion of the contract by paying rent on time, a landlord does have
the right to pursue eviction called "summary ejectment." This requires utilizing the local magistrate
and following a formal protocol to complete the process. The landlord is not permitted to use "self-
help eviction," such as discontinuing utilities, removing doors/windows, changing the locks, or
throwing out personal items of a tenant who has not paid on time. A landlord can initiate formal
eviction as early as day 11 of a month where no rent is received, if the payment was due on the 1st
and late on the 5th, as is typical in North Carolina rental agreements.
A landlord also has the right of entry to perform routine maintenance of the property permitted that
it is written in the contract and proper notice is given (at least 24 hours, but courtesy suggests a
Examples of Dangerous Conditions That a Tenant Should Report and Landlords Should Correct
Promptly to Maintain Fit and Habitable Premises
Items that should be repaired and corrected at once are:
lack of operable locks on all doors leading outside
broken windows or lack of operable window locks at the ground level
lack of operable heating facilities up to 65 degrees Fahrenheit when it is <20 degrees F outside
lack of operable toilet
unsafe roofs or ceilings
lack of potable water
lack of operable bathtub or shower
excessive standing water, sewage, or flooding problems caused by plumbing leaks or inadequate
drainage that contribute to mosquito infestation or mold
For additional information, pamphlets are available by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission
and the North Carolina Department of Justice for additional reading. Also, the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development has information available about North Carolina tenant rights. In
addition, contacting a real estate agent who has experience working as a tenant agent or property
manager can provide additional information. By understanding these regulations, as well reviewing
the basic elements of the North Carolina Tenant Security Deposit Act, tenants and landlords can
abide by and be familiar with proper practices for lease agreements and relationships.
North Carolina Real Estate Manual, 2011-2012 Edition by the North Caroling Real Estate
"Questions and Answers on Renting Residential Real Estate", published by the N.C. Real Estate
The Residential Rental Agreements Act, N.C. General Statutes 42-45
The Fair Housing Act of 1968, N.C. Fair Housing Act in Chapter 41A in General Statutes
Joseph Mchugh Lawyer Glendale