In our last post in this series on expedited evictions, we noted that there are certain recognized legal defenses for tenants in complete conviction cases, the most drastic type of eviction actions.
As we said, it is important for tenants to be aware of these defenses and the other legal protections available to them when they are faced with a complete eviction action so that they know how to protect their rights and so that their landlord doesn’t have a clear path to pursue complete conviction on any terms. Landlords, too, need to know how the process works so that they can protect their interests.
First of all, a tenant can defend himself or herself in a complete conviction case by establishing that he or she did not play any part in the alleged criminal activity, and that: (a) the tenant didn’t know or have reason to know that any such activity was occurring or would likely occur on the property; or (b) the tenant acted reasonably under the circumstances to prevent the criminal activity from occurring.
Even in cases where a tenant successfully asserts the above affirmative defense, landlords may still be able to obtain partial or condition eviction if they can prove that an offense was committed by an individual other than the tenant. Also, tenants who are brought into court a second or third time for a complete eviction proceeding may not assert the above affirmative defense unless they can do so with clear and convincing evidence. In other words, subsequent eviction actions require an accused tenant to meet a higher burden of proof in order to assert the affirmative defense.
It is also worth repeating that even in cases where a landlord successfully meets the requirements for complete conviction, the court will not grant the order if the tenant can prove that doing so would be a serious injustice that outweighs the rights, safety and health of other tenants and residents on the property.
Certainly, both landlords and tenants can benefit from working with an experienced attorney in expedited eviction proceedings. Both have their own unique interests and rights to consider, and an experienced attorney can help ensure they put the best foot forward in the legal process.
Source: North Carolina Statutes, § 42-59