This is a summary of North Carolina Landlord-Tenant laws that apply to residential (non-commercial) rentals. These references were compiled from the North Carolina General Statutes and various online sources to serve as a reference and for people wanting to learn about North Carolina landlord-tenant laws, North Carolina eviction laws, and North Carolina renters’ rights.
However, this guide is not comprehensive and PayRent does not warrant the accuracy of this information. Statutes can change any time the state legislature passes a new law. Additionally, counties and cities may have different regulations. Given its limitations, this guide is not an adequate substitute for legal advice from a knowledgeable lawyer. If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue, you seek guidance from a qualified attorney. If you need help finding an attorney, we’ve included a list of attorney referral services in this guide.
Rules and Regulations Governing North Carolina Landlord-Tenant Laws
- N.C. General Statute § 42 – Landlord and Tenant
- N.C. General Statute § 41A – State Fair Housing Act
- N.C. General Statute § 7A-19 – Small Claim Actions in District Court.
North Carolina Lease Terms Provisions
- What is the maximum allowable security deposit?
The security deposit shall not exceed an amount equal to two weeks’ rent if a tenancy is week-to-week, one and one-half months’ rent if a tenancy is month-to-month, and two months’ rent for terms greater than month-to-month. (N.C.G.S. § 42-51(b))
- Are security deposits required to earn interest?
No. There is no North Carolina law requiring security deposits to earn interest.
- Do landlords need to store security deposits in a separate bank account?
No, but security deposits must be held in a federally insured depository institution licensed to do business in North Carolina, with few exceptions. (N.C.G.S. § 42-50)
- Are non-refundable fees, such as pet fees, prohibited?
No. A reasonable nonrefundable pet fee is allowed in North Carolina. (N.C.G.S. § 42-53)
- How long do landlords have to return security deposits?
30 days, or, if more time is needed to determine damages, an extra 30 days provided an interim notice is sent. (N.C.G.S. § 42-52)
- Can landlords withhold security deposits?
Yes. Landlords can use the deposit to cover accrued rent and the repair of any damages to the property caused by the tenant, any unpaid utility bills, the cost of re-renting the unit in case of a breach by the tenant, the cost of removing and storing the tenant’s property as part of eviction, and any court costs. (N.C.G.S. § 42-51(a))
- Are landlords required to itemize damages and fees deducted from security deposits?
Yes. An itemized list detailing the amount withheld and the reasons for withholding must be mailed or delivered to the tenant within 30 days after the termination of the lease, or, if more time is needed to determine damages, an extra 30 days provided an interim notice is sent. (N.C.G.S. § 42-52)
- Do landlords have to issue receipts upon receiving security deposits?
No. There is no North Carolina law requiring landlords to issue receipts for security deposits.
- Are there any specific requirements for record-keeping for deposit withholdings?
No. There is no North Carolina law requiring any specific record-keeping of withholdings.
- What happens when a landlord does not return a security deposit within the required timeframe?
If the landlord fails to account for and refund the balance of the tenant’s security deposit, the tenant may institute a civil action to require the accounting of and the recovery of the balance of the deposit. The tenant may also recover attorney’s fees and any other damages resulting from a wrongful withholding of the security deposit. (N.C.G.S. § 42-55)
- Is there a cap on how much landlords can charge for rent? (rent control)
No. Rent control is banned from regulating the amount of rent charged. (N.C.G.S. § 42-14.1)
- When is rent due?
There is no statute regarding when rent is due in North Carolina. Parties may contract for payment dates in the lease.
- Does rent need to be paid using a certain method of payment?
No. There is no North Carolina law requiring a certain payment method for rent.
- Can landlords charge late fees when rent is late?
Yes. A month-to-month landlord can charge the greater of $15 or 5% of the rent, while a week-to-week landlord can charge the greater of $4 or 5% of the rent. (N.C.G.S. § 42-46)
- Do landlords have to allow for a grace period for paying rent before charging late fees?
Yes. There is a 5 day grace period in North Carolina by statute. (N.C.G.S. § 42-46)
- Can landlords charge application fees?
Yes. There is no North Carolina law forbidding application fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.
- Can landlords charge returned check fees?
Yes. Landlords can charge a returned check fee of $35. (N.C.G.S. § 25-3-506)
North Carolina Landlord-Tenant Relations
- Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms?
No. There is no North Carolina law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms.
- Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the property?
No. There is no North Carolina law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the rental property.
- What notice is required to terminate a fixed-end lease?
No notice is required — the lease ends on the date stated in the lease.
- What notice is required to terminate a week-to-week periodic tenancy?
Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 2 days notice. (N.C.G.S. § 42-14)
- What notice is required to terminate a month-to-month periodic tenancy?
Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 7 days notice. (N.C.G.S. § 42-14)
- Is notice of the date and time of the move out inspection required?
There is no statute in North Carolina law covering this issue.
- When can landlords enter the rental premises with notice?
- There is no statute governing when a landlord can enter a premise without notice in North Carolina, but 24 notice is recommended for non-emergencies.
- What notice must a landlord give a tenant before entering the rental unit?
- There is no North Carolina law requiring landlords to give tenants notice of entry.
- When can landlords enter the rental premises without providing notice to their tenants?
- There is no North Carolina law requiring landlords to give tenants notice of entry.
Landlord’s Duties (N.C.G.S. § 42-42)
- Landlords must comply with applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
- Landlords must make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition.
- Landlords must keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.
- Landlords must maintain in good and safe working order all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances.
- Landlords must provide smoke detection devices (operable, either battery-operated or electrical) and carbon monoxide detection devices(minimum one per dwelling unit per level, either battery-operated or electrical).
- Within a reasonable period based upon the severity of the condition, repair or remedy any imminently dangerous condition on the premises after acquiring actual knowledge or receiving notice of the condition. Imminently dangerous conditions include:
- Unsafe wiring.
- Unsafe flooring or steps.
- Unsafe ceilings or roofs.
- Unsafe chimneys or flues.
- Lack of potable water.
- Lack of operable locks on all doors leading to the outside.
- Broken windows or lack of operable locks on all windows on the ground level.
- Lack of operable heating facilities capable of heating living areas to 65 degrees Fahrenheit when it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside from November 1 through March 31.
- Lack of an operable toilet.
- Lack of an operable bathtub or shower
- Rat infestation as a result of defects in the structure that make the premises not impervious to rodents.
- Excessive standing water, sewage, or flooding problems caused by plumbing leaks or inadequate drainage that contribute to mosquito infestation or mold. (N.C.G.S. § 42-42)
- Upon request, the landlord must change or rekey the locks, or give the tenant permission to do so, at the tenant’s expense within 48 hours if the perpetrator does not live in the same dwelling unit as the victim, and 72 hours if the perpetrator lives in the dwelling unit. If a landlord fails to change the locks within 48 hours, a tenant may do so, but must give a copy of the keys to the landlord within 48 hours. (N.C.G.S. § 42-42.3).
Tenant’s Duties (N.C.G.S. § 42-43)
- The tenant shall:
- Keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the conditions of the premises permit and cause no unsafe or unsanitary conditions in the common areas and the remainder of the premises that the tenant uses.
- Dispose of all ashes, rubbish, garbage, and other waste cleanly and safely.
- Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits.
- Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, or remove any part of the premises, nor render inoperable the smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm provided by the landlord, or knowingly permit any person to do so.
- Comply with all obligations imposed upon the tenant by current applicable building and housing codes.
- Be responsible for all damage, defacement, or removal of any property inside a dwelling unit in the tenant’s exclusive control unless the damage, defacement, or removal was due to ordinary wear and tear, acts of the landlord or the landlord’s agent, defective products supplied or repairs authorized by the landlord, acts of third parties not invitees of the tenant, or natural forces.
- Notify the landlord, in writing, of the need for replacement of or repairs to a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm. The landlord shall ensure that a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm are operable and in good repair at the beginning of each tenancy.
Required Landlord Disclosures
- Before renting pre-1978 property, landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on lead-based paint hazards. (16 CFR 1303, 42 U.S. Code § 4852d) . If the landlord fails to disclose all known lead paint hazards, the landlord can face fines of up to $19,507 for each violation (24 CFR 30.65).
North Carolina Renters’ Rights
- What are North Carolina renters’ rights if landlords breach their duties? (See Landlord’s Duties)
North Carolina law calls for enforcing renters’ rights in civil actions. (N.C.G.S. § 42-44(a))
- Are tenants allowed to withhold rent for needed repairs or other breaches of their landlords’ duties?
A tenant cannot withhold rent in North Carolina without a judge or magistrate order. (N.C.G.S. § 42-44)
- What are the protections for tenants against retaliation from their landlords for exercising their North Carolina renter’s rights?
For a year following the tenant’s action, North Carolina law prohibits a landlord from terminating or refusing to renew a lease because the tenant made a good faith complaint, exercised a legal right, filed a complaint with a Government Authority, or participated in a tenant’s organization. (N.C.G.S. § 42-37.1)
North Carolina Eviction Laws
- What are the reasons that landlords can evict tenants under North Carolina eviction laws?
- Nonpayment of rent. (N.C.G.S. § 42-3)
- Holding over past the term of the lease. (N.C.G.S. § 42-26)
- Tenant’s breach of the lease. (N.C.G.S. § 42-26)
- What notice do North Carolina eviction laws require that landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process?
- For evictions based on non-payment of rent, the landlord must make a demand for rent and wait 10 days or more after the demand for rent to file the eviction. (N.C.G.S. § 42-3)
- For evictions based on breach of the lease, the landlord must have a written lease, proof of breach by the tenant, and a provision in the lease governing landlord’s re-entry, and must exercise the right of re-entry promptly. (N.C.G.S. § 42-26)
- For evictions based on a holdover tenancy, landlords must provide the proper notice required to end the tenancy. If the tenant remains on the rental property after the termination date, the landlord can begin the eviction process without providing additional notice. (N.C.G.S. § 42-26)
- Do North Carolina eviction laws allow landlords to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities?
No. Landlords must receive a court order to proceed with an eviction.
- Are landlords permitted to recover damages from an evicted tenant?
Yes. In North Carolina, landlords may use the sale of abandoned property by the tenant to cover damages to the premises. (N.C.G.S. § 42-25.9(g))
COVID-19 Changes to North Carolina Landlord-Tenant Laws
- The CDC’s national eviction ban was effective through August 26, 2021, and is no longer in place.
- The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is no longer effective.
Squatter’s rights in North Carolina
Under Homestead Act of 1862, individuals (squatters) can possess the property if they have lived there for a specific period of time, done so publicly, made repairs to the property, have deed to the property and have paid rent or taxes on this property.
North Carolina has no specific laws recognizing squatters.The squatter must continuously possess the property for 20 years (N.C.G.S. § 1-40), or for 7 years with color of title (N.C.G.S. § 1-38) to be able to claim adverse possession.
- North Carolina Department of Insurance
- North Carolina Consumer Protection
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – North Carolina – Tenant’s Rights
- North Carolina Real Estate Commission
- North Carolina Fair Housing Project
- North Carolina Housing Coalition
Attorney Referral Services
Realtor and Landlord-Tenant Associations
- North Carolina Association of Realtors
- Charlotte Regional Realtor Association
- Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors
- Greensboro Regional Realtors Association
- Durham Regional Association of Realtors
- Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors
- Long Leaf Pine Realtors
- Apartment Association of North Carolina