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The Misery of NC Evictions

As the daughter of an attorney, I have grown up around the court room. I didn't necessarily visit Dad all that much while he was working, but there were a handful of times my sister and I got to see him in action. And we were bored to pieces. He's a civil litigator, so his cases were predominantly personal injury, insurance, contracts, etc. B-O-R-I-N-G. Still, looking back, it could have been worse; we're really proud of all he accomplished in his life and profession, and we're thankful he worked so hard to provide for us when we were growing up.


That said, to this day, I still visit the inside of a court room; only lately it has been a duty I loathe even more than an elementary school aged kid watching her dad cross examine Ben Stein on politics. Seriously. I'm visiting the courthouse almost monthly for our crazy evictions process. It's crazy to me as a manager because of the extreme length of time it takes for the process to be finalized: approximately 2 months at earliest! Let's visit a hypothetical timeline:


The starting month is September of any year:


September 1st: Rent is Due and Payable. Landlord has to make a demand for rent at this time; NC Residential Rental Contract used by a licensed REALTOR® suffices for the demand. If this specific form is not in place, then the Manager or Landlord can send a text/email/letter/auto generated email; etc. to make this written demand.


September 6th at 00:00 hours: Rent is late if it has not been received by the manager. State Law calls for a late fee of 5% of the rent OR $15.00; whichever is greater. This gets tacked onto the tenant's ledger.


September 11th (or first business day following the 11th should it fall on a weekend or holiday): A full 10 days has passed since the initial demand for rent, and this is now the earliest date we can file with the County for Small Claims Action. It costs us $96.00 to file with the Clerk and another $30.00 to file with the Sheriff for the delivery of the summons and paperwork to the tenant. At The Key Group, we charge these back to the tenant whenever allowed by law. The only time an owner would be responsible for these charges is if we were to lose in court.


September 23 (Approximately): Court Appearance Date. If we as the managers attend court, even to dismiss the case, we can legally charge a court appearance fee (based on the terms of the lease agreement). This is where the Small Claims Magistrate hears both sides (if the tenant shows), and will do one of four things: 1.) Judgement in our favor for monies owed and "possession" of the property. 2.) No monetary judgement (this happens if the tenant was "served by posting" and fails to show to court, but we can still get "possession". 3.) Rules in tenant's favor if there are extenuating circumstances (which we will counsel our owners of this potential prior to filing against any tenant). 4.) Dismiss the case entirely. The first two are the most common.


"Possession" doesn't mean we can take the property back immediately, unfortunately. Basically this gives the tenant 10 days to "Pay or Quit". If they fail to pay, or if the owner refuses payment in order to proceed with eviction, then the tenant will need to be gone from the residence by the end of that 10 days. If they are not gone, then they are holding over, and we will need to move forward with the actual eviction


October 3: 10 days are up for possession.


October 4: We can file for the formal eviction if necessary. We have only a 20 day window in which to do this, and it costs another $25.00 to the Clerk and $30.00 to the Sheriff.


October 18: Actual eviction takes place. The Sheriff and Locksmith are arranged to meet at the house. The Sheriff clears it out of any people still there, and the locksmith changes the locks. Windows and all other points of entry are then secured to prevent tenant from accessing the home.


October 28: Tenant's last day to get any remaining personal property from the residence. NC Law states the value of the possessions left behind determines the timeline for tenants to get their things. That said, who determines the value of their property? Management and Landlords find a lone fork left behind on the counter. They throw it away. Tenant claims it was worth more than $750 because it was silver and part of an antique set given to them by their recently deceased Aunt, so now the set is no longer complete and and and. So it's always good practice to hold onto all things for the full 10 days, even if they seem insignificant, just to avoid further court appearances and time off market.


Note: The one thing to go "right" here is NC Law states the Manager/Landlord only has to let them into the residence one time. So there should not be multiple trips. And it should all be done in one day; the tenant will have to make all their own arrangements. Anything left behind that can be sold, the Landlord is welcome to sell to recoup losses.


October 29: Cleaning and repairs can begin to get a new tenant into the property, finally. And if this really is October, then the market is starting to slow down. So now you face even more of a vacancy period. This is also the first date the Manager or Landlord may begin to process the tenant security deposit.


As you can see, we've now spent about 2 months to go through this entire miserable process. Tenants are upset because they got evicted, and more often than not have caused more damages inside the house in retaliation (because, you know, paying your bills on time is an unrealistic expectation as an adult ::sarcasm::). The owners are upset because they're now two months or more in the hole with rents, with a security deposit that may not cover all the damages. Managers are upset because they're getting the tenants and (some) owners harsh tongues in their ears, when they are just trying to stick to the law and help to minimize the deficit.


It's a miserable time for all. As managers, the goal is to try to avoid putting these kinds of tenants into homes, or at least getting a higher deposit for the applicants who are higher risks. Still, even in the best homes with the best applicants, life can happen. People lose jobs, or get injured and cannot work, or have unexpected emergencies which wipe out their savings and then some. Man makes a plan, and God laughs, after all.