North Carolina - Roost

North Carolina renters rights laws

Rights, rules and responsibilities for where you live

Knowing your rights as a renter (often referred to as tenant rights) helps protect you from housing discrimination or unfair practices like rent or fee gouging. It also helps ensure you always have a clean, safe place to live and that there's no confusion about which responsibilities are yours and which are your landlord's.

Every state's laws are a little different; read on for details about North Carolina's.

Roost tip: Some cities and counties have additional rental and housing rules. If you need more specifics or have questions after reading the info below, it might be a good time to chat with an expert (an attorney that's focused on tenant/renter laws).

Your responsibilities

While lease agreements tend to be pretty lengthy, we strongly recommend you get yourself a tasty beverage, find a comfortable chair, and read the lease—at least three times. If this is your first time renting or the lease feels especially overwhelming, fear not. We’ll walk you through a couple of things to look out for.

As a renter, you have essentially agreed to pay a monthly rent to the owner of the house or apartment serving as your home. First and foremost, pay this rent! By signing a lease, you’re contractually obligated to submit this payment each and every month that you live at this home.

REMEMBER: The tenant's obligation to pay rent under the rental agreement or assignment and to comply with his obligations and the landlord's obligation to comply with his own obligations shall be mutually dependent, meaning, the landlord’s obligation to perform his duties is dependent on your performance of your duties as a tenant.

While rent is your number one responsibility, there may be other things that you need to take care of, depending on what you agree to in your rental agreement/lease. For example:

  • Electricity 
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Trash
  • Yardwork (Cutting the grass, trimming the trees, etc.)
  • Parking
  • Renter insurance
  • Cable & Internet
  • Snow removal (if applicable)

Depending on how your lease reads, you may be expected to pay for or perform the work yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing so, try to negotiate in advance of signing a lease. (Some cities also required landlords to cover the cost of certain utilities so check your city or state website to confirm.) It’s okay if you are not comfortable paying for or performing these responsibilities—try and negotiate with the landlord if possible. If you cannot come to an agreement on the terms of the lease agreement, shop around for a home and landlord that is willing to work with you.

Roost Tip! For a more comprehensive look, take a look through the statutory language that governs renter duties, which lives in North Carolina State’s code: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-41.

Your landlord's responsibilities

Your landlord’s responsibilities begin when the lease is signed and continue until shortly after you move out. At a minimum, the landlord is responsible for providing you with an acceptable place to live (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-42). This means the rental unit must be, by legal standards, relatively clean and safe.

The landlord must also take care of things like trash and utilities (basically, everything mentioned above under “Renter Responsibilities”) unless they’ve been specifically outlined as your responsibility in the lease. If there’s no language in the rental agreement that specifically requires you, as the renter, to mow the grass outside your rental unit, it is safe to assume that your landlord will take care of it. If there is any confusion about who is responsible for what, it’s a good idea to talk with your landlord before signing the lease.

Rental repairs and maintenance

In general, most landlords want to keep their rental units in decent shape. The longer they delay repairs, the more it costs them in the future. Here's Roost's guide on how to request repairs from your landlord, and here’s what you need to know specifically about North Carolina:

  • Landlords are generally allowed to enter your rental unit to make repairs, but they must give you reasonable notice ahead of time. You should never feel like you have to let them in if they show up announced. 
  • Tenants are only responsible for repairs as agreed to in their rental agreement, so be aware of what you signed. 
  • If a landlord does not fix a much-needed repair, you do have some options as a renter. These options include termination of the lease or other legal remedies.

Example Repair

Who’s usually responsible? 

A leak in the roof or ceiling

Landlord

Paint mistakenly splashed on the walls

Tenant

Broken steps to the front door

Landlord

Light bulbs burned out in your unit

Tenant

Broken water heater or dishwasher

Landlord

Power outage due to loose wiring

Landlord

Rental security deposits

In North Carolina, there is a limit on the amount of security deposit a landlord can require. For week-to-week rentals, the max deposit can be equal to two weeks' worth of rent. For month-to-month rentals, 1.5 times the monthly rent is permitted. Longer-term rentals can have a max deposit of two months' rent. (For alternatives to paying a full upfront security deposit, check out companies like Rhino and The Guarantors.) 

When do you get your security deposit back after you move out? Assuming you leave your unit in good shape and have not missed any rent payments, your landlord must return your security deposit (minus any deductions) within 30 days after you have moved out of the rental unit. (North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 42) Read Roost's How to get your security deposit back for additional tips.

Rental agreements: rent increases, payment, and fees

If you are entering into a new rental situation, it’s very important to understand the financial side of your new living arrangement. While most people tend to base their decision on the rent amount,  don’t be surprised if your landlord requires you to pay other fees. These include:

  • Security deposit - this is permitted by state law, so long as the amount does not exceed the requirements provided above;
  • Screening fee - state law is silent on this, so it is permitted by advance notice by the landlord;
  • Late rent fees - late fees can be imposed if a rent payment is at least 5 days past due. The fee cannot exceed 5% of the total rent for a month, or $15, whichever is greater.
  • Cleaning fee - state law is silent on this, so it is permitted by advance notice by the landlord;
  • Application/reservation fee - state law is silent on this, so it is permitted by advance notice by the landlord;
  • Rent increases - rent increases are pretty rough in North Carolina, as state law does not impose an advance notice requirement. While the increase must occur between terms, the advance notice can be as little as 7 days.
  • Pets - Check your lease before you get a pet. North Carolina law doesn’t require landlords to accept pets, and if you don’t get permission in advance, it can be considered a violation of your lease and be cause for eviction. Additional pet rent or pet security deposit is not uncommon.
  • Emotional support and service animals - If you have a mental or emotional disability, federal laws state landlords must make “reasonable accommodations”, which can include an emotional support or service animal. There are a few exceptions and this tends to be a pretty tricky area for both renters and landlords to navigate together, so be upfront about what you need and follow all required steps. Landlords cannot charge you extra for an emotional support or service animal. 

Roost Tip! Make sure to factor these types of fees into your rental budget before signing on the dotted line. Also, make sure you know whether or not your landlord requires you to purchase renters insurance.

Read Roost's What to know before signing that rental lease for additional tips.

Rent termination and eviction

Once you’ve moved into your rental unit, the place is yours until your lease is up, your landlord terminates the rental agreement early, or you’re evicted. Eviction is an unpleasant process for everyone, so it’s best for you and your landlord to do everything you can to avoid it. Being evicted makes it hard to find housing, can affect your credit, and does not relieve you from paying rent unless the landlord finds someone new to move in.

North Carolina provides for special circumstances for when a tenant is permitted to terminate a lease early:

Your landlord can only evict you under certain circumstances. The most common reasons for eviction are missing rent or violating the lease (unauthorized pets or occupants—things like that).  However, they can’t simply change the locks, dump your stuff on the front yard and kick you out. In order to legally evict you, a landlord must follow proper procedures and serve you an eviction notice before you are required to move out of your rental unit. The process includes:

  • Giving you a notice of nonconformance of lease that must be remedied - 10 days for missed rent, 2, 7, or 30-day expiration of lease notice (depending on lease length), 10 days to cure other lease breaches.
  • The landlord filing a suit for the removal of the renter.
  • Wait for the appeals process timeline to pass.
  • And, if your landlord has legal grounds to evict you, they have to provide proper notice and give you sufficient time (10 days) to move your stuff out.

Renting with roommates

Sometimes your roommate situation just doesn’t work out. Unfortunately, you’re both responsible for the lease, and in many ways, you’re both responsible for each other’s actions. Depending on how your rental agreement is written, if your roommate bails, you could be stuck having to pay the full rent on your own. While you can use legal action to go after your former roommate, you may still have to pay full rent when it’s due.

One of the most common questions that comes up when there’s a problem with a roommate is whether you can evict them. In short: no. If your roommate’s name is on the lease as a tenant, you cannot kick them out, so sending an eviction notice would be pointless. If they are not on the lease, they may not be considered a tenant, which technically means they don’t have any legal obligations to fulfill in regards to your lease anyway.

Rental housing discrimination

Like so many other states, Georgia relies on the federal Fair Housing laws to prevent housing discrimination (42 U.S.C. 3601). As is fairly standard, landlords are not allowed to prevent you from living in a  particular rental unit based on your:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status
  • National Origin

If it is found that a landlord has discriminated against you for any of the above reasons, you are entitled to compensation and should check with your legal counsel immediately.

Several cities within the state offer additional city ordinances to protect against housing discrimination and can be found near the end of this guide.

COVID-19

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, several laws are temporarily changing and the governor of North Carolina issued an order prohibiting utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during this pandemic such as electric, gas, water and wastewater services for 60 days reckoned from April 1, 2020. Also, it addresses the housing industry hence, 

  • There should be no new eviction proceeding until the Chief Justice’s order expires on June 1st, which has passed. 
  • No new rental bonds are due during this time.
  • The Clerks of the Superior Court are strongly encouraged not to issue Writs of Possession prior to the expiration of the Chief Justice’s Order.
  • Property owners are strongly encouraged to work with tenants to implement payment plans and avoid evictions,
  • Private lenders are strongly encouraged to avoid the eviction of tenants.

Clearly, as a tenant, you still have the obligation to pay your rent. As to how and when this is a matter of arrangement between you and your landlord by explaining your predicament. There is no landlord who will not understand your situation. The state is even protecting those living out of motels or hotels. For more information, learn more.

Federal protection

The Trump administration recently announced a new executive order for a rent moratorium through the end of the 2020 year. The order was put forward by the Centers for Disease Control to help prevent Covid-19 spread. Under the updated directive, families must prove they tried to pay their rent and that eviction would force them into a shelter or close quarters with others. If this covers you, then you’ll need to attest to your situation and a substantial loss of income on a form. Forms are to come available via the CDC website.

The order does not waive any rent debt — it just defers it — still leaving many renters vulnerable. And, it still allows landlords to charge fees, penalties, and interest, according to the draft document posted on September 1st.

The executive order covers more renters than the former CARES Act moratorium which only protected those living in housing with a federally backed mortgage loan, public housing, Section 202 housing for the elderly, Section 811 housing for people with disabilities, rural rental housing, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, USDA housing voucher, or VA voucher. That Act protection expired on July 25, 2020.

The executive order covers more renters than the former CARES Act federal moratorium on evictions which only protected those living in housing with a federally backed mortgage loans, public housing, Section 202 housing for the elderly, Section 811 housing for people with disabilities, rural rental housing, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, USDA housing voucher, or VA voucher. That Act protection expired on July 25, 2020.

Stay tuned... Congress is currently working on a bill called the CARES Act 2, which could afford more protection for renters if passed.

Community resources

If you need some more information, check out some of the resources listed below: 

State rules and regulations

Advertising disclosure
You probably already know that we’re not a law firm, but just to make sure we get this out of the way: We can’t provide any advice or opinions about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms, or strategies. And by hanging out with us here at Roost, you agree to our Legal disclaimer.
Last Updated: May 26th, 2020