North Carolina Eviction Laws: 2024 Step by Step Process & Costs

Introduction to Evictions in North Carolina

An eviction is the legal process a landlord must follow to remove a tenant from a rental property and regain possession of the unit. Evictions in North Carolina are governed by Article 3 of Chapter 42 of the North Carolina General Statutes. 

North Carolina has seen a steady rise in eviction filings over the past decade. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, landlords filed over 158,000 evictions each year across the state. The Centers for Disease Control's federal eviction moratorium temporarily halted most evictions for nonpayment of rent between September 2020 and August 2021. After the moratorium expired, eviction filings surged, with some North Carolina counties seeing 2-3 times more evictions in 2021 compared to prior years. Advocates warn that high rents and lingering economic impacts from the pandemic could drive eviction numbers even higher in coming years.

Reasons a Landlord Can Evict in North Carolina 

In North Carolina, landlords can legally evict tenants for a handful of reasons, including:

  • Nonpayment of rent - If the tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord can begin the eviction process. The landlord must provide proper written notice first.
  • Lease violations - If the tenant violates a provision of the lease, such as having unauthorized guests or pets, the landlord may be able to evict. Proper notice must be given.
  • Damage to property - Causing excessive damage to the rental unit could result in eviction. Police reports and documentation are usually required.
  • Drug activity - Engaging in illegal drug activity on the premises can lead to eviction. The activity must be fully documented. 
  • Violent criminal activity - Tenants who commit violent crimes in the rental unit can face eviction. Again, proper evidence is required.
  • Holdover tenants - If a lease ends and the tenant refuses to vacate, the tenant becomes a "holdover" who can be evicted.

Nonpayment of rent is one of the most common reasons landlords evict tenants in North Carolina. If the tenant fails to pay rent on time based on the date outlined in the lease, the landlord can start the eviction process with proper written notice (more details below). The landlord cannot take matters into their own hands by locking out the tenant.

Lease violations are another basis for eviction if the tenant breaks rules agreed to in the lease. This could include having unauthorized pets, guests, or vehicles. Damaging the property or common areas could also violate the lease terms. The landlord must document the violations before moving to evict.

North Carolina Eviction Laws Quick Reference Table

Problem North Carolina Eviciton Law Says... Which Eviction Notice Templates To Use
Tenant has not paid rent. You may begin the eviction process by serving the proper notice of “lawful distress,” after 10 days of rent non-payment. If the tenant still has not paid after 10 days, you may file an eviction suit with the court.
NC Gen Stat § 42-3 (2022)
10-Day Notice to Quit
Landlord does not want to renew the lease. You must serve tenants 2, 7, or 30 days' eviction notice according to the length of the lease agreement. If they have not vacated by the end of the rental period, you may proceed with eviction.
NC Gen Stat § 42-14 (2021)
Week-to-week tenants: 2 Days Notice to Quit
Month-to-month tenants: 7 Days Notice to Quit
Year-to-year tenants: 30 Days Notice To Vacate
The lease has ended and the tenant has not left. You are not required to provide any type of notice period—you may proceed with eviction.
NC Gen Stat § 42-26 (2022)
Immediate Notice to Quit
Tenant has violated terms of the lease that stipulate eviction. North Carolina eviction laws state that you are not required to provide notice. You may proceed with eviction.
NC Gen Stat § 42-26 (2022)
Immediate Notice to Quit
Tenant is engaging in criminal activity. You are not required to provide notice; you may proceed with an eviction. However, note that there are some scenarios that may protect a tenant in situations where illegal activity has occurred on the premises.
NC Gen Stat § 42-63 (2022)
NC Gen Stat § 42-64 (2022)
Immediate Notice To Quit

The Eviction Process Step-by-Step

The eviction process in North Carolina involves several steps that landlords must follow:

1. Serve Proper Notice to Vacate

The first step is for the landlord to provide proper written notice to the tenant that they must vacate the property. The notice must state the reason for eviction and give the tenant a certain number of days to move out or fix the issue before the eviction proceeding can begin.

For nonpayment of rent, the notice must give the tenant 10 days to pay the rent or vacate. For other lease violations, the notice period is generally 7 days. Specific notice requirements depend on the reason for eviction.

2. File a Complaint

If the tenant fails to comply with the notice, the landlord can file a formal complaint, called a Summary Ejectment Complaint, at the small claims court in the county where the rental property is located. This complaint explains why the tenant is being evicted and requests a court-ordered eviction.

The landlord must properly serve the complaint to the tenant. This can be done by having the sheriff deliver it or posting it on the property and mailing a copy.

3. Attend the Court Hearing

The court will schedule a summary ejectment hearing, usually within 7-14 days. Both the landlord and tenant must appear in court.

At the hearing, both sides will be able to present evidence and call witnesses. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, they will issue a judgment for possession. 

If the tenant wins, the eviction is dismissed. The tenant can remain in the property.

4. Obtain a Writ of Possession

If the landlord wins the case, the next step is to obtain a Writ of Possession from the court. This document authorizes the sheriff to evict the tenant.

The landlord must ask the court clerk to issue the Writ of Possession and pay a fee. The sheriff's office will then serve the tenant with the writ and schedule the eviction.

5. The Eviction

On the scheduled eviction date, the sheriff will arrive to supervise the process of removing the tenant and their belongings from the property if the tenant has not vacated. 

The landlord cannot conduct a "self-help" eviction by changing the locks or removing the tenant's property without a sheriff present. This is illegal.

After the eviction, the landlord legally regains possession of the property.

Notice Requirements for Evictions in NC

North Carolina law has specific notice requirements that landlords must follow before starting the eviction process. Proper notice is crucial, and failing to provide the correct notice is one of the most common reasons eviction cases get dismissed.

There are a few different notices a landlord may need to serve their tenant before filing for eviction:

Notice to Pay or Quit

If the tenant has failed to pay rent on time, the landlord must provide a written "Notice to Pay or Quit." This gives the tenant 10 days to pay the full amount of rent owed or move out. The notice should state:

  • The amount of rent owed 
  • That the tenant has 10 days to pay in full or vacate 
  • That failure to pay rent or move out may result in the landlord filing for eviction

The notice must be delivered properly, usually by posting on the property and mailing a copy. Weekends and holidays do not count in the 10 day notice period.

Notice to Remedy or Quit 

For lease violations or other non-rent issues, the landlord must give a "Notice to Remedy or Quit." Common reasons include property damage, unauthorized pets, or disturbing other tenants. 

The notice gives the tenant 10 days to correct the issue or move out before the landlord can file for eviction. The notice should list the specific violation and state the tenant has 10 days to remedy it or vacate. Like the rent notice, weekends and holidays don't count.

Unconditional Quit Notice 

If the tenant has committed a serious lease violation, the landlord can give an unconditional quit notice, demanding the tenant vacate within 10 days without a chance to remedy. This is allowed for things like violence, drug crimes, or major property damage.

Notices must be delivered properly to start the notice period. Any errors may invalidate the notice and case. Overall, North Carolina requires strict adherence to notice rules before a landlord can file for eviction.

Tenant Rights and Defenses in Evictions

Tenants in North Carolina have certain rights when facing eviction that can help them avoid losing their home. Understanding these rights is important for renters who receive an eviction notice.

Right to Proper Notice

Landlords must provide tenants with proper written notice before starting the eviction process. The notice must state the reason for eviction and give the tenant enough time to fix the issue or move out. If the landlord does not give proper notice, the eviction case could be dismissed.

Right to Fight the Eviction 

Tenants have the right to challenge and fight the eviction in court. They can raise defenses and present evidence on why they should not be evicted. If the tenant wins, the eviction will be dismissed.

Right to Ask for Repairs

If the eviction is for unpaid rent due to problems like repairs not being made, tenants can ask the court to force the landlord to make the repairs. This is called a "repair and deduct" defense.

Claim of Discrimination 

If tenants believe the eviction is occurring due to illegal discrimination over race, gender, religion, disability, or having children, they can raise discrimination as a defense.

Claim of Retaliation

If the eviction seems to be in retaliation for the tenant exercising a legal right, such as filing a complaint against the landlord, retaliation can be claimed as a defense.

Claim of Financial Hardship

If nonpayment of rent was due to a temporary financial hardship like job loss or medical problems, tenants can ask for an extended move out date.

Tenants facing eviction should seek legal aid to understand all their rights and defenses. Knowing the options available can help avoid eviction.

Eviction Timelines in North Carolina

The eviction process in North Carolina generally takes 2-4 weeks from start to finish if the tenant does not contest the eviction. Here are the typical timeframes:

  • 3-7 days for tenant to respond to eviction notice
  • 7-14 days for landlord to file eviction lawsuit after notice expires  
  • 5-10 days for tenant to respond once served with court papers
  • 7-14 days from court date to eviction judgment
  • 2-7 days for eviction warrant to be issued after judgment
  • 24 hours for tenant to vacate once warrant is served

So in total, the typical eviction timeline is 3-6 weeks from the initial notice to the tenant vacating if the eviction is uncontested. 

If the tenant contests the eviction, the case will take longer to resolve. Contested cases can add 2-8 weeks to the timeline depending on the local court schedule.

The COVID-19 pandemic also caused significant eviction delays in North Carolina. Due to court closures and eviction moratoriums, some eviction cases took over 2-3 months during 2020-2022. Currently eviction timeframes are returning to normal, but some delays are still possible.

Key steps that dictate the eviction timeline in North Carolina:

  • Notice period must expire
  • Court summons must be served 
  • Court date must be scheduled  
  • Judgment must be issued
  • Warrant must be requested and served

Following proper procedures and meeting all deadlines is critical for an efficient eviction timeline. Landlords should consult with a local eviction attorney to ensure the process goes smoothly.

The Eviction Judgment and Tenant Options  

After the court date, if the judge rules in favor of the landlord, they will issue a judgment for possession, also called an eviction judgment. This means the landlord has proven their case and has a legal right to repossess the property.  

The eviction judgment usually gives the tenant 10 days to vacate the rental unit. This is called a stay of eviction. During this time, the tenant is expected to move out voluntarily. If they do not, the sheriff can forcibly remove them after the 10 days is up.

Once an eviction judgment is issued, the tenant has limited options:

Move Out Voluntarily

The tenant can comply with the judgment and vacate the property within the 10 day period. This is the easiest and best option to avoid further legal problems.

File an Appeal

If the tenant believes there are legal errors with the judgment, they can file an appeal within 10 days. This will delay the eviction while the appeal goes through the court system. Appeals can take weeks or months.

Request Emergency Assistance

The tenant can seek emergency help from nonprofit legal aid groups to cover moving costs, back rent, or legal representation. 

Negotiate with the Landlord

The tenant can try negotiating to stay longer or pay only a portion of the back rent owed. But the landlord is not obligated to any new deal after obtaining a judgment.

No matter what option they pursue, tenants should start preparing to vacate once an eviction judgment is ordered. Ignoring the court's ruling will only lead to additional legal and financial problems down the road.

The Eviction Warrant and Removal Process

After the landlord wins an eviction judgment, the court will issue an eviction warrant, also called a writ of possession. This authorizes the sheriff to remove the tenant from the property. 

The sheriff will serve the tenant with the eviction warrant, giving them a deadline to vacate the property, usually within 2-7 days. If the tenant does not move out by the deadline, the sheriff will return on the specified date to forcibly remove the tenant.

When carrying out an eviction warrant, the sheriff has the right to enter the property and use reasonable force to remove the tenant and their belongings. The landlord does not have the right to remove the tenant or change the locks without the sheriff present.

The sheriff will oversee the removal of the tenant's belongings, which will be set out on the nearest public property. The landlord is not responsible for safeguarding or storing the tenant's property.

If the tenant threatens violence or has a weapon, the sheriff may call police for backup. They have the right to arrest the tenant for obstructing legal process if they refuse to cooperate with the eviction warrant.

Once the sheriff removes all occupants and belongings, they will turn over possession of the property to the landlord. The landlord can then change the locks and ready the unit for a new tenant. The eviction process is now complete.

Landlord Fees and Damages in Evictions

If a landlord wins an eviction case against a tenant in North Carolina, they may be awarded the following fees and damages:

Rent and late fees owed

The landlord can recover any unpaid rent, late fees, or other charges that accrued during the tenancy. Late fees in NC cannot exceed $15 or 5% of the rental payment, whichever is greater.

Court costs

The landlord can recover the costs of filing and serving the eviction paperwork, which may include the complaint filing fee, service of process fees, and any other administrative or court costs. 

Attorney's fees

If the rental agreement or lease allows for recovery of attorney's fees, the landlord may be awarded reasonable attorney's fees for the eviction action.


Landlords can recover money damages caused by a breaching tenant under NC law. This includes property damage beyond normal wear and tear.

Eviction costs

Landlords can seek reimbursement for costs reasonably related to evicting the tenant, such as costs for storing and disposing of any abandoned property.

Judgment interest

Pre- and post-judgment interest may accrue on amounts awarded. The post-judgment interest rate is 8% annually in North Carolina.

Treble damages

If the court finds the tenant deliberately caused property damage or knew rent was due but did not pay, the landlord can recover up to 3 times the amount owed.

The judge has discretion in awarding these fees and damages. It's important for landlords to properly document and prove their losses. Tenants should review the ruling carefully and may contest unreasonable charges.

Eviction Prevention Resources for Tenants

There are organizations and programs that provide assistance to renters facing eviction in North Carolina. Here are some options to explore:

Provides free legal services to low-income renters. They can help advise on eviction defenses and representation in court. 

Dispute Settlement Centers

Mediation services to help landlords and tenants avoid formal eviction through compromise agreements. Centers located across the state.

NC HOPE Program

State-funded financial assistance for rent and utilities to prevent evictions. Must meet eligibility criteria. Apply through local organizations.

Emergency Rental Assistance

Federal and local programs providing rent, utility, and relocation aid. Search for providers by county. 

Community Action Agencies

Local nonprofits with possible emergency funds or vouchers for housing expenses. 

Salvation Army

May have limited emergency financial aid for rent or basic needs.

Catholic Charities

Offer housing counseling and limited rental assistance funds in some areas. 

United Way 211

Referral helpline to connect renters with local aid programs and resources.

Seeking assistance early can help tenants understand all options and develop plans to avoid eviction judgments.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to evict a tenant in North Carolina?

The eviction process in North Carolina typically takes about 3 to 4 weeks from the filing of the eviction notice to the final removal of the tenant, depending on the circumstances of the case and any legal defenses the tenant may have.

How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the notice period depends on the type of tenancy. For month-to-month tenancies, the landlord must provide a 7-day notice to vacate. For fixed-term leases, tenants are usually expected to vacate at the end of the lease term unless otherwise stated.

What is a 10-day eviction notice in North Carolina?

A 10-day eviction notice in North Carolina is typically issued for breach of the lease terms other than non-payment of rent. This notice gives the tenant 10 days to remedy the breach. If the breach is not remedied, the landlord can proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit.

What can stop an eviction in North Carolina?

An eviction in North Carolina can be stopped if the tenant remedies the issue leading to eviction, such as paying overdue rent or fixing a lease violation, within the notice period. Tenants can also contest the eviction in court, potentially delaying or stopping it based on legal grounds.

Do you have 30 days after an eviction notice in North Carolina?

No, North Carolina does not automatically provide 30 days to vacate after an eviction notice. The actual notice period depends on the terms of the lease and the reason for eviction. For example, non-payment of rent typically requires only a 10-day notice before the landlord can file for eviction.

Can a landlord evict you immediately in North Carolina?

No, a landlord cannot evict you immediately in North Carolina. The landlord must first provide the appropriate notice and, if the tenant does not comply, then file an eviction lawsuit. Only a court order can enforce an eviction, ensuring legal procedures are followed.

How Long Does An Eviction Stay On Your Record?

It’s not exactly the eviction itself that stays on your credit report. Instead, the late rent and associated fees will appear on your credit report for up to seven years—that’s a long time!

Tired Of Overdue Rent? Eviction Services Are Available

It can be frustrating to deal with tenants who fail to pay rent on time. Hemlane can assist you in navigating the process and ensuring that you receive the rent you are owed while minimizing costly court fees. Explore our eviction services and on-demand delinquency management today.

Featured Tools
Finding and Selecting the Best Tenant
For a $2,000 monthly rental: 1. You lose $1,000 if you have your rental on the market for 15 additional days. 2. You lose $1,000+ for evictions. Learn how to quickly find and select a qualified tenant while following the law.
More Tools