Understanding North Carolina’s eviction process can be a challenge, especially if you’re experiencing it for the first time. Eviction laws also vary from state to state and county to county, adding to the complexity (and frustration!). 

And while the process may seem overwhelming at first, don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know, including how evictions work, what a lease agreement is, and reasons to evict so you can feel prepared, whether you’re landlord or tenant. 

The more you follow and understand each step in the process, the more time, money, and energy you’ll save in the long run. So, let’s dive in.

How Evictions in North Carolina Work

First, what is an eviction? An eviction is a legal process allowing a landlord to remove a tenant from their property lawfully. In North Carolina, eviction is referred to as "summary ejectment" and is a type of court case typically initiated by a landlord. This step is usually taken when a tenant fails to comply with the lease agreement, does not pay rent, or if other conditions apply that warrant eviction. Even though the landlord technically owns the rental property, they cannot evict a tenant without going through the proper legal channels. This means they can't force a tenant out by changing the locks, turning off utilities, or removing doors.

Reasons to Evict

A landlord needs a reason to evict a tenant in North Carolina. There are four main reasons that may qualify for an eviction:

  1. Non-payment of Rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent or is behind by one day, the landlord can give the tenant a written ten-day Notice to Quit. If the tenant still doesn’t pay within this period, the landlord can file for eviction eleven days after the notice was given.
  2. Lease Holdover: A holdover is when a tenant remains on the property after the lease has expired without the landlord's consent. In such cases, the landlord can proceed with eviction.
  3. Lease Violation: If a tenant breaches or violates an explicit lease condition, such as causing damage to the property, disturbing neighbors, housing pets against the lease agreement, or bringing in unauthorized tenants, the landlord can proceed with eviction.
  4. Criminal Activity: If criminal activity occurs on the property for which the tenant can be held responsible, the landlord can evict the tenant.
Reasons for Eviction:  Non-payment of Rent Lease Holdover Lease Violation Criminal Activity

If you’re a landlord, make sure to provide the tenant with a written eviction notice before initiating the process. This gives the tenant a proper heads-up and shows the court that you complied with legal terms.

The Role of the Lease/Rental Agreement in Evictions

Usually signed at the beginning of the lease, a rental agreement outlines the terms and conditions the landlord and tenant must adhere to during the rental period. It's essential for landlords and tenants to thoroughly understand the terms of their lease or rental agreement. It not only helps in maintaining a positive landlord-tenant relationship but also protects both parties' rights.

If a tenant fails to understand or neglects these terms and conditions, the landlord can evoke an eviction. For instance, if the agreement states that pets are not allowed on the property, and the tenant houses a pet, the landlord can initiate eviction proceedings. (We hope you don’t need it, but just in case, here’s our guide for removing cat odors!) Similarly, the landlord can issue an eviction notice if the tenant fails to pay rent as stipulated in the agreement.

If you need help creating a lease agreement, see our guide on lease documents for landlords, where we go over the importance of a well-structured lease agreement. 

The Eviction Process in North Carolina

Eviction is an emotionally frustrating experience for anyone involved. Understanding how the eviction process works can help landlords handle such situations effectively and legally.

Eviction Process in North Carolina:  1. Provide Notice to the Tenant: - A notice to quit is issued, ranging from 2 days for week-to-week tenancies to 30 days for year-to-year tenancies. - Specifies the reason and gives time to rectify or vacate.  2. File a Complaint in Court: - If the tenant doesn't comply, the landlord files a "Complaint in Summary Ejectment" in a small claims court. - The filing fee typically ranges from $96.  3. Serve the Tenant with Summons and Complaint: - Served by a sheriff or authorized individual within five days of filing. - Includes hearing details.  4. Attend the Small Claims Court Hearing: - Tenants must attend to present their defense. - Magistrate decides based on facts presented.  5. Sheriff Initiates the Eviction: - Sheriff can remove the tenant within five days.

Provide Notice to the Tenant

The first step in the eviction process is providing the tenant with a notice to quit. This notice varies depending on the type of tenancy. A 2-Day Notice to Quit is required for week-to-week tenancies, a 7-Day Notice to Quit for month-to-month tenancies, and a 30-Day Notice to Quit for year-to-year tenancies.

This notice period allows the tenant time to remedy the situation (like paying overdue rent) or move out of the property to avoid eviction. The notice must clearly state the reason for eviction and the time given to the tenant to fix the issue or vacate.

File a Complaint in Court

If the tenant fails to comply with the notice to quit within the stipulated period, the landlord can then file a complaint in the appropriate justice court. This process often happens in a small claims court and involves filling out a "Complaint in Summary Ejectment" form. The filing fee depends on the court but typically costs $96.

Serve the Tenant with the Summons and Complaint

The next step involves serving the tenant with the Summons and Complaint. North Carolina law stipulates that the landlord cannot do this personally. Instead, a sheriff or other legally authorized individual must serve these documents. These documents must include the date and time of the eviction hearing and must be delivered within five days of filing the complaint.

Attend the Small Claims Court Hearing

In North Carolina, tenants are not required to file an answer with the small claims court to schedule a trial. However, they must attend the hearing to provide their defense. If the case is scheduled for District Court, the tenant must file an answer within 20 days of receiving the summons.

The hearing process is relatively straightforward. The magistrate calls the cases, hears from both the landlord and the tenant, and decides based on the facts presented.

Sheriff Initiates the Eviction

Following a judgment in favor of the landlord, the eviction process enters its final stage. After the 10-day appeal period, the landlord can obtain a "Writ of Possession" from the court. This writ allows the sheriff to remove the tenant within five days.

Types of Eviction Notices

The type of eviction notice a landlord must serve to a tenant depends on the reason for eviction and the lease agreement in place. Each notice must contain specific information, including the reason for eviction and the time given to the tenant to rectify the situation or vacate the property. Let's explore these different eviction notices in detail.

Types of Eviction Notices:  10-Day Notice: For non-payment of rent. 30-Day Notice: For year-to-year leases. 7-Day Notice: For month-to-month leases. 2-Day Notice: For week-to-week leases.

10-Day Notice for Non-Payment of Rent

Non-payment of rent is the most common cause for eviction in North Carolina. If tenants fail to pay their rent on time, landlords can issue a 10-day "notice to quit." This notice informs the tenant that they have ten days to pay the overdue rent. If the tenant fails to pay within this period, the landlord can proceed with eviction.

30-Day Notice for Year-to-Year Lease

For tenants with a year-to-year lease, landlords must provide a 30-day notice to vacate at the end of the lease term. This notice informs the tenant of the landlord's intention not to renew the lease agreement. The landlord can initiate eviction proceedings if the tenant fails to vacate the property within the 30-day notice period.

7-Day Notice for Month-to-Month Lease

North Carolina law requires landlords to provide a 7-day notice to terminate the lease for month-to-month lease agreements. This notice should specify the date the tenant must leave the property. The landlord can file an eviction lawsuit if the tenant does not vacate by the given date.

2-Day Notice for Week-to-Week Lease

In the case of week-to-week lease agreements, a landlord must provide a 2-day notice to end the lease. As in the other cases, the landlord can proceed if the tenant does not leave by the date specified in the notice.

Tenant Rights and Protections in North Carolina

Understanding tenant rights is one of the most critical aspects of being a landlord or property manager. The law provides several protections for tenants in North Carolina, so you must be well-informed about these rights.

Right to Court Process Before Removal

As mentioned, a tenant cannot be removed from a property without due process. This process is designed to ensure that evictions are carried out fairly and legally for both parties.

Right to Keep Belongings Before Eviction

Another important protection for tenants in North Carolina is the right to keep their belongings before eviction. According to North Carolina law, a landlord does not have the right to seize a tenant's belongings as collateral for unpaid rent. This protection remains in place even if an eviction judgment has been issued by a court.

Right to Appeal an Unfavorable Decision

In North Carolina, tenants also have the right to appeal an unfavorable eviction decision. If a tenant disagrees with the eviction judgment, they can challenge the decision in court. This process can be complex and may require legal assistance, but it is an important right that tenants have when facing eviction.

Legal Help and Understanding Landlord-Tenant Law

While navigating the eviction process can be challenging, tenants in North Carolina are not alone. There are several resources available for legal help and understanding of landlord-tenant laws. Legal Aid of North Carolina offers a Housing Helpline for tenants facing eviction, and other organizations, such as the Dispute Resolution Center in Cumberland County, offer mediation services.

Tenant Rights in North Carolina:  Right to due process before removal. Right to keep belongings before eviction. Right to appeal an unfavorable

Resources for Landlords

Evictions can be a stressful and complex process for landlords. As a landlord, it’s important to utilize the tools and resources that can help you tackle this challenge head-on. This means keeping documentation of all rent payments, lease agreements, and anything else pertinent during the entire rental process. 

It’s also important to thoroughly screen each tenant before you let them move in. Everything from references to background checks and finance checks can make a difference in the quality of tenants. If you find yourself initiating an eviction and need specific law advice, we recommend contacting an attorney specializing in North Carolina law.

Property Management Software to Your Advantage

Property management software, like TenantCloud, takes the hassle out of everyday tasks associated with property management, including assisting in the eviction process. Keeping your records organized and thoroughly documented means fewer chances of misunderstandings or mistakes down the road. 

Try a software that includes these landlord benefits:

  • Easy Rent Collection: One of the main reasons for eviction in North Carolina is non-payment of rent. As a landlord, non-payment will be less likely if you can invest in software that makes rent collection seamless and efficient. (Hint: Our online rental payment tools make it easy for tenants to pay their rent instantly from their phones using the TenantCloud app. It also helps track each tenant's payments and creates financial reports automatically.)
  • Landlord-Tenant Communication: Communication is key to a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship, and misunderstandings or lack of communication can sometimes lead to eviction scenarios. Ensure your software allows for clear and direct communication between landlords and tenants. Our tools let landlords send messages to tenants and provide a place for tenants to send maintenance requests easily.
  • Tenant Screening: Properly screening tenants before they move in can save you from evicting them later on. Find property management software that makes the screening process easy, such as our portal that allows you to do background checks, finance checks, and more.


Remember, as a landlord, you're not just managing properties—you're managing relationships. By understanding and adhering to the eviction law in North Carolina, you're not only upholding your rights as a landlord but also respecting your tenants' rights and cultivating a positive, respectful landlord-tenant relationship.

Evictions are a challenging but sometimes necessary part of property management. Now that you understand the process better and all the tools and resources at your fingertips, you can handle evictions legally and effectively. 

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Whether it's facilitating rent collection, improving landlord-tenant communication, or providing resources for understanding eviction laws, we’re here to help you confidently navigate the rental process. Take the stress out of being a landlord and try our property management software for free for 45 days.