North Carolina Laws Governing Residential Tenancies

Instructor: Kyle Aken

Kyle is a journalist and marketer that has taught writing to a number of different children and adults after graduating from college with a degree in Journalism. He has a passion for not just the written word, but for finding the universal truths of the world.

This lesson covers the landlord and tenant laws in North Carolina. An aspiring tenant or landlord needs to know details about the Residential Rental Agreement Act, Tenant Security Deposit Act, and the complaint and eviction procedures to stay within regulations and work out a safe and fair deal for both sides.

Residential Tenancy Law in North Carolina

Mark recently graduated from college and was looking to rent an apartment in Durham, North Carolina. He wanted to make sure he understood his rights and obligations. The first thing he learned was that main set of laws to review were North Carolina's Residential Rental Agreement Act (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 42-38). This Act set out the main rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants.

In general, a landlord is required to maintain the inside and outside of the property so that it is in a safe condition. The tenant must pay the required rent on time and maintain a clean inside space.

Specific Duties of Tenants and Landlords

Tenants will be required to avoid damaging either the inside or outside fixtures or other property features. The law realizes some 'wear and tear' may happen but tenants do need to keep the unit clean. This includes a duty to report problems in a timely manner. In other words, Mark knew that if his kitchen sink started to leak, he needed to notify the landlord quickly. Plumbing and smoke detectors received specific mention in the Residential Rental Agreement Act as items a tenant must keep clean and report about if any malfunction occurs.

The landlord does have a duty to repair items when a tenant notifies him in writing that there's a problem. Such a duty was not codified until 1977 when the Act was passed. Working smoke detectors are mandated as well as the general requirement to maintain the unit and property in a 'fit and habitable condition' that is also safe.

Both landlords and tenants need to follow the requirements of any applicable building or local safety codes. The landlord needs to ensure that tenants understand what needs to be done to stay in compliance with such codes.

Security Deposits and Lease Agreements

Article 6 of the North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 42 regarding Landlord & Tenant laws is also called the Tenant Security Deposit Act. Mark was glad to learn about the details surrounding a security deposit. A landlord can charge a security deposit in the amount limited by the law. For weekly rentals, the amounts cannot be more than two weeks' worth of rent. If the rent is paid monthly, then the security deposit was limited to one and a half month's rent. An additional pet deposit can also be charged. At the end of the rental period, the landlord needs to account for the deposit and prove any deductions are allowed.

The written lease agreement was another area that Mark needed to learn more about. The Statute of Frauds was a legal doctrine that Mark had never heard of before. This law is designed to support the enforceability of a lease agreement if terms are vague or missing. While is it best to review a lease agreement carefully and make sure all terms are in writing, most tenants lack enough bargaining power to make substantial changes to a lease offered by the landlord.

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