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What should I do if my tenant stops paying rent?

It can be difficult for landlords when a tenant gets behind on rent. While you want to be understanding about extenuating life circumstances, it's also important that your tenant honors the terms of the lease he or she signed. According to Landlordology.com, the following steps can help you address the issue with as little hassle and stress as possible. 

Before pursuing any legal avenues, have a talk with your tenant as soon as the rent is late. Putting off a discussion or waiting too long will only set a precedent for future issues, which could result in rent not being paid at all. Informing the tenant that the rent must be paid immediately or further action will be pursued will show that future late payment will not be tolerated. While it may seem harsh, having a polite but tough talk early on can benefit both landlord and tenant in the long run.

If the tenant still refuses to pay, landlords in North Carolina have a number of options depending on the language in their lease. A well-crafted lease will allow a landlord to file an eviction action against the tenant as soon as the rent is late. However, a landlord using a poorly drafted lease or who has a tenant with an oral lease would have to wait until the rent is late, then give the tenant 10 days' notice that the rent must be paid or an eviciton will proceed.

If the tenant still fails to act, scheduling an eviction hearing in Small Claims Court is the final step. The magistrate will decide whether the reason for eviction is sound and if so, the tenant will be ordered to pay back rent and be removed from the property. The tenant must be removed from the home by a sheriff. Landlords aren't allowed to change locks or otherwise force a tenant outside of the property. 

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