North Carolina Tenant Rights: Relationships Between Tenants and Landlords Can Be Complex

If you do things right from day one and understand what the tenant and landlord are required to do, your relationship can be long and beneficial

Relationships Between Tenants and Landlords Can Be Complex and Can Lead to Misunderstandings
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March 27, 2018

The laws governing the relationship between a landlord and a tenant are complex and come from several different sources in North Carolina.

sources of laws governing landlord-tenant relationships

Sources for the laws governing the relationship between landlords and tenants include the law of contracts (leases are a type of contract), the law of negligence, the North Carolina General Statutes, local health, safety and building codes, federal laws and regulations governing subsidized rental housing, and the Constitutions of the United States and the State of North Carolina.

Misunderstandings often lead to big disagreements

Most disagreements between tenants and landlords occur because of misunderstandings. Where possible, you should always try to avoid these misunderstandings before they happen.

Everything needs to be in writing, even when you think a handshake will do.

As we say with everything, make sure to get it in writing. If something isn't in writing, it didn't happen as far as the courts are concerned. Further, make sure that you completely understand everything that is in writing before another problem occurs.

If there is a problem...

If there is a problem, always remain calm. The minute you raise your voice, do something you'll later regret, start complaining to government agencies without cause, organize tenant associations, or otherwise become unreasonable, the other party will be less accommodating or may stop working with you altogether. Both the tenant and landlord have a vested interest in maintaining a relationship, so a civilized and rational discussion may be all that's needed to resolve an issue.

responsibilities of the tenant

  • Pay all rent legally due under the terms of the lease.
  • Keep occupied premises as clean and safe as possible, in addition to helping to keep all common areas clean.
  • Dispose of all ashes, rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean and safe manner.
  • Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or those used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits.
  • Do not deliberately destroy, deface, damage, or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so.
  • Comply with any obligations imposed by current applicable building codes.
  • Be responsible for all damage, defacement, or removal of any property inside a dwelling unit if caused by tenant.
  • Notify the landlord, in writing, of the need for replacement of or repairs to a smoke detector.

responsibilities of the landlord

  • Comply with the current applicable building and housing codes.
  • Do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.
  • Keep all common areas in a safe condition.
  • Maintain in good and safe working order and promptly repair all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord provided that notification of repairs is made to the landlord in writing by the tenant except in emergency situations.
  • Provide operable smoke detectors, either battery-operated or electrical, having an Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. listing or other equivalent national testing laboratory approval, and install the smoke detectors in accordance with either the standards of the National Fire Protection Association or the minimum protection designed in the manufacturer's instructions, which the landlord shall retain or provide as proof of compliance.

withholding rent payments

If you are a tenant and your landlord will not make repairs required under specific housing, fire, and health codes and the Residential Rental Agreements Act, DO NOT WITHHOLD RENT PAYMENTS. North Carolina law does not allow tenants to withhold rent payments except under two circumstances: when the landlord consents to it in writing or when a judge or civil magistrate allows you to withhold rent pursuant to a court order.

Tenant’s Right to Fair Housing

All tenants in North Carolina are protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act and the North Carolina Fair Housing Act. The laws seek to prevent discrimination to persons in certain protected classes in housing matters, which includes renting property, buying property, or getting financial assistance. This means that all persons should be treated equally by a potential landlord, who cant refuse to rent to someone, change lease terms, use discrimination, make false statements about availability, or refuse to make disability accommodations.

Protected Classes in Fair Housing

Seven classes of people have been set aside for protections under the Federal Fair Housing Act and the North Carolina Fair Housing Act. These classes are:

  • Color
  • Disability
  • Familial Status
  • National Origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex

Tenant's Right to A Security Deposit

North Carolina has specific rules regarding how much a landlord can collect from a tenant for a security deposit. The law also states which reasons a landlord can use to deduct from a security deposit, the requirements for how the deposit much be stored, and how long the landlord has to return the deposit.

Maximum Security Deposit

The maximum amount of a security deposit in North Carolina depends upon the length of the tenant's lease. Generally, the longer the lease the higher the security deposit can be collected. The maximum security deposits are:

  • Weekly Renters: Amount of Rent for Two Weeks
  • Monthly Renters: Amount of Rent for One and One-Half Months
  • Yearly Renters: Amount of Rent for Two Months

Deductions from a Security Deposit

A landlord in North Carolina may only deduct from a security deposit for:

  • Damage in excess of normal wear and tear
  • Unpaid utility bills
  • Removing a tenant’s possessions after an eviction
  • Unpaid Rent
  • Breach of lease
  • Costs of re-renting the unit
  • Court costs
  • Any additional unpaid bills the tenant has accumulated during their tenancy that could cause a lien to be placed against the property.

Storing the Security Deposit

There are only two options for how a landlord can store a tenant's security deposit. The landlord must either place the deposit into a trust account or post a bond for the amount of the security deposit.

Returning the Security Deposit

The tenant typically has a right to expect the return of a security deposit within thirty (30) days of the lease termination. If any deductions are made from the deposit, the landlord must include an itemized list of those deductions.

Legal Advice

The content of this page does not constitute legal advice. For more information on renting and residential tenant rights in the state of North Carolina, contact the North Carolina Department of Justice. If you need legal assistance, please consult the North Carolina Law Directory.