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North Carolina General Legal Blog

Can a landlord keep my security deposit?

For many renters in North Carolina, coming up with a security deposit along with the first month's rent is difficult. It is a lot of money to hand over at one time, so it is natural to wonder what the landlord does with it. It is also natural to want it all back when you move out.

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission explains that most landlords require a security deposit to cover any damages, accidental or intended, to the property during a lease period. Property owners/landlords and rental agents they may use to manage a property must follow the guidelines established by the North Carolina Tenant Security Deposit Act.

The next step when you've been stiffed

Despite inevitable glitches with obtaining supplies and building materials, you completed the project on time and are rather proud of the work your company did. You may have even allowed the customer to make last minute changes that were inconvenient for you but satisfied the client. Perhaps you hoped this would help you build a positive reputation and a repeat customer.

However, day after day you check your account for payment, and it is not there. You are watching your account balance dwindling while you wait for the customer to pay for the work you did, but weeks have passed since you mailed the invoice, and you are starting to wonder if you will ever get your money.

Understanding a commercial lease

A commercial lease can be very complex in North Carolina or any other state. Start-up entrepreneurs and other business owners usually lease the property where they do business rather than owning it because the cost is lower. As FindLaw explains, unlike most residential leases, commercial leases have negotiable terms since each one is tailored to the needs and desires of the particular landlord and tenant.

Other ways in which a commercial lease is different from a residential lease include the following:

  • Fewer legal protections exist because business people are presumed to have greater knowledge about leases than the typical residential lessee.
  • Lease terms are varied and also negotiable.
  • The lease length normally is for several years, rather than for a single year as is common with residential leases.

What are my rights when my landlord won't fix HVAC or plumbing?

As a renter in North Carolina, you rely on your landlord to repair any plumbing or HVAC problems as soon as possible. But the truth is, some landlords do, and some of them do not. If you have ever rented a home or apartment, you probably know how frustrating it is to have to wait for your landlord to take care of such a problem. It is even more frustrating when they do not.

According to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, landlords are required to repair and maintain heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and similar utilities and equipment, including appliances. When repairs are needed, it falls to the tenant to notify the landlord, in writing, and repairs are to be made promptly. In emergencies, tenants themselves can arrange for immediate repairs; emergencies include events such as electrical problems that are a safety hazard, loss of heat in winter or leaks that could damage the property.

Proving bad faith

As has been detailed previously on this blog, construction contracts cannot be terminated unilaterally unless they contain some sort of termination for convenience clause. Many of the clients that we here at the Triangle Law Group have worked with in the past often feel handcuffed by such clauses. To avoid the same predicament, you may think that all you need to do is ensure your contracts do not contain them. However, a majority of public agencies in Raleigh insist upon them, and the law often provides the government with latitude when choosing to exercise them. 

You may not be left completely holding the bag should a government partner choose to terminate your contract. You are typically entitled to collect on the value of work you have already done as well as the expense that comes from closing out the contract. You may, however, be able to collect damages for breach of contract even if yours contained a termination for convenience clause. You simply need to prove that your government partner negotiated and operated in bad faith. 

Construction litigation can be contractual or based on negligence

Construction litigation in North Carolina can erupt from far more than alleged breaches of the construction contract by one or more parties. Other forms of litigation can arise as initiated by third parties not related to the construction itself.

The litigation may be based on tort and negligence, rather than breach of construction contract. If damages resulting from the negligence is provable, plaintiffs may prevail in a suit.

When is your personal safety the responsibility of the landlord?

When you look for a home or business space to rent in North Carolina, one of your main concerns is your personal safety. As a renter, you have the right to assume you will be reasonably safe while on the premises of your rental, no matter your income, budget or rental payment each month.

It is prudent for renters to know how to protect their own rights, particularly as they pertain to their health and safety. When there are issues in your home or facility that eventually cause you harm, or you suffer an injury because of factors that you believe relate to landlord negligence, you do not have to suffer in silence. In fact, you have the right to take action, hold liable parties accountable and seek reasonable compensation for what you endured.

Unpaid rent and other grounds for eviction

Evictions can be incredibly overwhelming for landlords and tenants alike. Often, both parties feel stressed out or even uncertain of which steps to take during this process. Whether you are a landlord or are renting, it is crucial to make sure your legal rights are not trampled on. With landlord/tenant issues, there may be a number of details that could have an impact on the case, and each situation is unique. There are a myriad of reasons behind landlords' decisions to evict tenants, from unpaid rent to the expiration of a lease, and it is essential to be prepared.

If your tenant has fallen behind on rent, you may feel that the time has come to evict them. On the other hand, perhaps you recently lost your job and missed a recent payment and would like to discuss an eviction notice with your landlord. There are many other reasons why an eviction may come up, such as an expired lease, allegations of damage to the property, unlawful drug activity or the violation of a rental agreement. Regardless of the reason why you want to evict your tenant, or the reason behind your landlord's decision to evict you, it is imperative to go over all details closely.

Differentiating cause from convenience

Parties enter into contracts in Raleigh all the time with the expectation that both sides will fulfill their designated obligations. That does not necessarily mean, however, that all such contracts will be carried out. Disputes over services and duties or a simple change in circumstances could prompt one side of such agreements to seek to end them. Yet how does one terminate a valid, binding contract without facing any legal consequences

People may often hear the term "with cause" associated with contract disputes, yet rarely realize what it truly means. There are typically only two ways to terminate a contract: either for cause or for convenience. Terminating a contract with cause essentially means that one side believes it has just cause to end an agreement due to a failure of the other side to meet its obligations. When defining scenarios that justify cause, the North Carolina Bar Association references the American Institute of Architects rule citing the grounds for contract termination to be: 

  • Whenever a contractor repeatedly fails to provide sufficient amounts of proper materials or skilled workers
  • When a contractor fails to make payments to subcontractors for labor or materials
  • Whenever a contractor repeatedly disregards laws, ordinances, codes or orders from a public authority 
  • When a contractor is in breach of any of the provisions of contractual documents

Waivers of consequential damages can be unwise for owner-developers

Contract law, particularly when there is a breach of a North Carolina contract, will address the issue of compensable damages to the injured party to the contract. As explained by the American Bar Association, damages are typically divided into two categories: direct damages and consequential damages.

Direct damages, as you might guess, are the kind that result directly from the breach. An example might be having to hire a new contractor to repair shoddy work done by a prior contractor in breach of the contract. Consequential damages, on the other hand, are those damages that flow indirectly from the breach.

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