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Monday, 02 January 2023 21:30

What’s the Process If Your Tenant Doesn't Pay?

Sometimes owning a rental property isn't always roses. When irreconcilable issues come up between you and your tenant, it is important to know the laws to ensure that you are not breaking them, especially when your tenant refuses to pay rent. 


The whole point of owning a rental property is to, indeed, make money, and if your tenant isn't paying, then not only are you missing out on profitable income, but also cash flow to take care of any bills that come up due to owning a rental property.

So, what do you do if your renter doesn't pay their rent? We have put together a guide going over the eviction process and how it must be handled per the law in North Carolina.

About Evictions

Simply put, eviction is the act of legally removing a tenant from rented property. This can be for any reason as long as it is laid out in a legal lease and typically ranges from nonpayment to breach of contract.  

Every eviction process is different and depends on what is contained in a signed rental agreement. Filing and eviction can take time and be costly if it gets drawn out in court. You must have a bulletproof lease before you begin executing eviction papers so that you have a leg to stand on when things get tough. 

More often than not, landlords should find a way to work things out with a tenant outside of court. Once an eviction gets to this point, things can get complicated. However, if you are at the point where an eviction must be executed, there is a legal process that must be followed. 

The Eviction Process

Step One - Provide a Notice

When you have a tenant that is breaking their lease through nonpayment, it is time to issue a Notice to Quit, also known as an eviction notice. This notice serves as a way to notify the tenant that they are in danger of eviction. 

The notice should provide a reason for eviction along with a solution and timeline. Landlords must not evict a tenant without serving them a notice. 

Step Two - File a Legal Complaint

If a tenant does not comply with the solutions laid out in the eviction notice, then it is time to file a legal complaint with the correct justice court. Complaints can only be filed after the notice period has passed. Evictions rely on correct filings, so make sure that you fill out all of the forms correctly. 

The form entitled “Complaint in Summary Ejectment” is the form that landlords in North Carolina must fill out. There are filing costs associated with this form, depending on the court, so be sure to have payment on hand. 

Step 3 - Serving a Tenant

Within five days of filing a legal complaint, your tenant must be served with the eviction documents. Landlords cannot carry this out themselves; therefore, the Summons and Complaint must be served by a Sheriff or other individual who can legally serve legal documents. 

Included in the eviction papers should be a copy of the Summons and any supporting documents. It should also contain information about an eviction hearing. 

To serve a summons, you can use a variety of methods:

  • Personal Service - Summons and Complaints are served by a person.
  • Certified Mail - Documents are mailed to the tenant.
  • Substituted Service - Summons and Complaints can be left with someone at the tenant's place of residence.
  • Posting - Summons is placed on the entrance of the tenant's rental property.

Once a Summons and Complaint are served, the tenant must attend the eviction hearing if it is held in small claims court. If the eviction is held in District Court, then the tenant must file an answer within 20 days from when they received their summons.

Step 3 - The Hearing and Final Judgment

Once a hearing is scheduled to win, landlords must provide a strong argument with solid evidence against their tenants. In some cases, if tenants fail to show up; therefore, the landlord could win by default. Landlords must win the eviction hearing to remove a tenant. 

When a landlord wins the case, they will receive a Writ of Possession 10 days after the hearing. This is a court order that informs the tenant that they must move out or be forcibly evicted. There is an appeals process that gives tenants 10 days to file an appeal with a list of tenant defenses.

If the eviction hearing ends up in district court, tenants have the opportunity to disagree and file an answer. In the district court, a Judge can rule that a tenant can stop an eviction case if they pay all due rent, including any late fees, in a timeline in favor of the landlord. 

Step 4 - Moving Out

If a tenant loses an eviction case, then they must move out of the landlord’s rental property within five days of receiving a Writ of Possession. Even with court hearings and paperwork, moving a tenant out can be the messiest part of eviction. 

More often than not, tenants will leave on their own. However, if a tenant refuses to leave, they can be forcibly removed by the appropriate authorities. If a tenant leaves personal property in the rental, they have up to seven days to retrieve it. Otherwise, the property is considered abandoned and moved to a storage unit.

While owning a rental property is a great step to financial freedom, sometimes you have to evict a tenant to keep your business going. Working with a property manager can make the eviction process much easier to handle. 

If you would like to spend less time worrying about the day-to-day decisions about your rental property, as well as have an ally when major issues come up, contact Asheville Phoenix Properties today. We have over two decades of real estate management experience and know-how to assist owners and tenants in all aspects of your rental business. Reach out to us today.