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North Carolina General Legal Blog

What Should I Know as a Landlord in North Carolina

If you own rental property in North Carolina, it's vital that you're aware of your rights and responsibilities. Remaining in compliance with local laws and statutes is crucial, especially if you experience an issue with tenants. The North Carolina Real Estate Commission answers some frequently asked questions regarding landlord and tenant issues that may occur in the state.

Written Leases Are Not Always Necessary

Looking into some benefits of eviction

For landlords and tenants, eviction can be an incredibly sensitive subject that causes a great deal of stress. On the one hand, a landlord may feel uneasy about telling a tenant that they have to leave, while a tenant who receives an eviction notice may be unsure of where they are going to live or how the eviction will affect their future. However, there are times when it becomes necessary to evict a tenant, for one reason or another. On this blog, we have discussed some of the reasons why eviction may become necessary, but it is also important to go over some of the advantages of eviction.

From a landlord's perspective, evicting a nightmare tenant can provide an incredible sense of relief. More importantly, it can protect the property from damage, address recurring instances of a tenant's failure to pay rent on time, and even avoid costly issues from arising down the road. In some instances, eviction may even have certain benefits for a tenant. For example, a tenant may feel as if they are stuck in life, but make progress after moving to a new location. Of course, this certainly does not always work out and some tenants have faced many challenges after an eviction, which is especially upsetting if the landlord unlawfully evicted them.

Options for pursuing a refund for shoddy home repairs

After you saved enough money or bit the bullet and took out a home improvement loan, you got estimates for the renovations and repairs you needed and hired the contractor who offered the best deal. Months later, your money is gone with the contractor, and you are less than satisfied with the final product. Perhaps the work is substandard, or maybe the contractor didn't even complete the work he or she agreed to in the contract.

Like many homeowners, it may be tempting to consider it a lesson learned and just bid a fond farewell to the money you spent. However, this is not your only choice. While it won't be easy, you can fight and potentially get your money back.

Construction contract basics

North Carolina contractors who accept or are awarded projects no doubt are eager to get started on the work. However, before anything is done, they should take the time to create a clear contract with their customers. This may well benefit both parties and hopefully prevent problems later on. If a problem does arise, however, the construction contract may help to direct a resolution.

As explained by the American Bar Association, a solid construction contract should include a clause detailing any warranties and bonds to be provided by the contractor to the client. In addition, if one or more subcontractors are to be used during the project, a clause regarding indemnification is a must. This will identify who is the responsible party should any claim be made by a third party.

Grounds for eviction in North Carolina

The hope of every rental property owner in Raleigh is that his or her relationship with tenants remains amicable. However, if one does happen to sour, the question then becomes when is a landlord within his or her rights to evict? One cannot simply evict a tenant over matters such as personality conflicts; rather, he or she must have legitimate grounds. Those guidelines are established by state law. 

According to the website ManageMyProperty.com, there are three basic grounds for eviction in North Carolina: 

  • A failure by the tenant to pay rent
  • The tenant violating his or her lease agreement
  • The tenant engaging in drug trafficking or other criminal activity

Construction disputes may involve environmental concerns

Protecting and healing the environment are two of the biggest concerns when it comes to power consumption and construction. In North Carolina and elsewhere, politicians, activists and the general public often worry that developing communities and obtaining domestic sources of fuel will harm the local environment and have a devastating impact on native species and the climate as a whole. Not surprisingly, this may lead to construction disputes.

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a subject of contention among climate activists and developers for many years. While proponents, particularly investors for the project, say that the natural gas pipeline will open up countless jobs for people in the U.S. and reduce our dependence on foreign fuel sources, others are adamant that construction of the pipeline will disrupt or destroy the ecosystems surrounding hundreds of streams and rivers. The governor of North Carolina is known for supporting the pipeline, but he is opposed to plans for gas and oil mining off the state's coast.

What is "course of performance"?

Typically, when you enter into a contract with another party in Raleigh, the obligations of both sides are clearly spelled out. However, even in instances of ambiguity, if you fulfill your terms of the contract as you perceive them to be (and your partner raises no objections), then you may justly believe that you are holding up your end of the bargain. So what if your partner later comes to you and claims that (at least according to its interpretation) you never fulfilled your side of the agreement? Can they then go after you for breach of contract

A legal principle exists known as "course of performance," which is often cited when questions over ambiguous contractual terms arise. According to North Carolina's General Statutes, two elements must be present for you to show that course of performance may apply to your contract. The first involves repeated occasions of performance on your part. The second is your contractual partner's knowledge of your performance with the chance to object to it. A good example may be the work of framing. You secure a contract with a developer to frame multiple residential units being built in a new subdivision. You perform the work over an extended period of time, during which time the developer observes it. The developer's lack of objection to your work amounts to them acquiescing to what you have done. 

Landlord sues tenant to pay for repairs to rental unit

Most in Raleigh may view the agreement made between a landlord and a tenant to be a simple one: The landlord provides the tenant with suitable living conditions, and then tenant pays to utilize them. A failure by either side to fulfill its obligations could leave the other with just cause to seek compensation. When issues regarding the state of a rental property arise, typically it is the responsibility of the landlord to address those. On the flip side, he or she is usually only afforded recourse when tenants fail to make their rent payments. 

This fact is what makes the case currently playing out between a landlord and his tenant in Tennessee all the more unique. While a landlord is tasked with ensuring that his or her tenants have access to functioning utilities, the landlord in this case is taking the strange step of suing the tenant to make repairs. The landlord is actually facing criminal charges related to the fact that the tenant had no power in her unit. She had the landlord arrested on felony vandalism charges after he cut the power cord running from a generator to her home. The generator was necessary, however, due to the unit's electrical box having been removed months earlier due to an overdue citation against the landlord by the state's fire marshal. The landlord, however, is suing the tenant for $10,000 in back rent and fines related to her having animals in the home, along with the demand that she pay for the needed electrical repairs. 

Understanding conditional zoning

Completing large-scale construction projects in Raleigh can be quite a complex task. Having the resources needed is only half the battle; those managing and leading such projects must also ensure that their work is in compliance with local ordinances. Many developers often find themselves at odds with officials over zoning regulations. A location perceived to be ideal can quickly become anything but if the proposed use of the land does not match the type of properties it was zoned for. 

According to Section 160A-382 of the state's General Statutes, North Carolina recognizes four distinct types of zoning districts: 

  • General use: Areas permitting a variety of different uses
  • Special use: Areas upon which uses are only authorized through special or conditional use permits
  • Overlay: Areas that impose additional requirements on properties situated in both general and special use districts
  • Conditional: Individualized development conditions are imposed

I don't own much. Do I need a will?

If you don't think you need a will, or just haven't gotten around to getting one, you are in good company. Up to two-thirds of Americans, including many here in North Carolina, don't have one. Right now, you may be thinking that if that many people don't have a will, what's the big deal?

Maybe you don't think you own enough to need a will. Do you have a bank account, a car and personal belongings? Who would you like to designate who receives those items in the event of your death? If you have minor children, having a will becomes even more important. Who will care for them after you are gone?

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