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In North Carolina, landlords may remove a tenant who does not pay their rent. This is how.

A lease or rental agreement requires a renter to make accurate and timely rent payments. Paying rent is a basic requirement of every tenant, and if a tenant fails to do so, a landlord may initiate eviction procedures. However, before a tenant may be evicted from the leased premises, the landlord must strictly adhere to the law.

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The Rent Payment Demand in North Carolina

One of the most critical elements in a valid eviction is providing adequate notice to a tenant. In reality, the majority of eviction mistakes occur when a landlord fails to provide timely notice or files an eviction complaint too soon. Failure to submit legal notice will almost certainly delay the eviction procedure and may result in the tenant staying on the leased premises for longer than required.

In North Carolina, the default rule is that a landlord must give a tenant a 10-day notice to vacate and issue a “demand for payment of rent” (also known as a “notice to quit”) before initiating eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent. (See also N.C. Gen. Stat. 42-3.) A demand for payment of rent, as opposed to an unconditional notice to quit, provides a tenant the choice of paying or leaving the rented property.

The following should be included in a demand for rent payment:

the date the notice is given to the tenant, the tenant’s name and address, the landlord’s name, the amount of rent owed by the tenant to the landlord, the landlord’s signature, the deadline by which the tenant should make the said payment, and a statement that the landlord will file eviction papers if the rent is not received by the said deadline.

How to Serve a Demand for Rent and a Notice to Quit

The lease or rental agreement will define how a landlord delivers a demand for rent payment to the tenant. A lease, for example, may specify that the notification be in written and hand-delivered to the renter. Without additional qualification, “written notice” will normally encompass emails and, in certain cases, text messages. As a result, if the rental agreement specifies the mode of distribution and the format of the notification, those provisions will take precedence. Even if the rental agreement is ambiguous, it is best to give formal notice and send it to the renter by US first class mail, return receipt requested. This precaution will prevent the renter from subsequently claiming that he or she did not get the notification.

When should the Demand for Rent Payment be served?

A landlord may generally serve a demand for nonpayment of rent on the tenant the day after the rent is due. As an example, if rent is due on the first of the month, the landlord may serve the notice on the second.

However, if the lease provides for a grace period before the payment is declared late, the landlord must first wait for the grace period to expire before serving the demand. When a lease or rent agreement specifies a grace period, such as three days, the rent is not deemed late until the term has expired. So, if rent is due on the first of the month, but the lease allows for a three-day grace period before the rent is declared late, the landlord must wait until the fourth of the month to serve the demand for rent nonpayment.

How a Lease Forfeiture and Notice Clause May Alter Eviction Rules for Nonpayment of Rent

As previously noted, if the tenant fails to pay rent in full and on the due date, the landlord may initiate eviction proceedings by filing a demand for nonpayment of rent on the tenant. However, this is the default rule. If the lease or rental agreement has a forfeiture provision and a notice clause, the landlord is obligated to make such a demand and provide notice. A forfeiture clause is a provision that allows the landlord to terminate the lease or rental agreement before it would have normally ended. A notice provision specifies the kind of notice that the landlord must provide to the tenant prior to initiating eviction proceedings. Many leases combine both terms into a single clause that addresses both termination and notice. Importantly, in North Carolina, forfeiture and notice provisions govern how a landlord must remove a tenant.

These clauses may serve a variety of purposes. A forfeiture provision, for example, may indicate that the landlord is not obligated to provide any notice to the tenant prior to filing eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent. The renter totally waives, or willingly relinquishes, the tenant’s entitlement to notice in the case. As a consequence, the landlord might file the eviction without alerting the renter.

A forfeiture and notice clause, on the other hand, may describe additional notice conditions rather than functioning as a total waiver. In contrast to the ten-day notice required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 42-3, the provisions may stipulate that the landlord must first deliver a five-day written notice and demand that the tenant pay the rent owing or evacuate the premises.

In North Carolina, how Long Should You Wait Before Filing Eviction Papers?

If a tenant fails to make an accurate and timely rent payment, the eviction process will be governed by the contract. The following is a short rundown of the factors to consider when determining how and when to file eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent:

Is there a grace period in the lease?

If the response to (1) is YES, the landlord must let the grace period out before taking any action.
If (1) is NO, the landlord may take action the day after the rent is due.

Is there a forfeiture clause and a notice clause in the lease?

If the answer to (2) is YES, then the conditions must be fulfilled, and the landlord must provide any notice needed under the lease to the renter.
If the response to (2) is NO, the default rule applies, and the landlord must issue a demand for rent and a 10-day notice to pay or depart.

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