In landlord-tenant law, there are specific duties that the landlord and tenant each owe to the other that also make their mutual obligations dependent on each other. The landlord is required to make the rental unit habitable, maintain the property, effect repairs in a timely manner and provide safety to the common grounds.
The renter owes an obligation to pay for the space they rent, to not damage the property and to not use the property for illegal purposes.
The mutual obligation that the tenant and landlord enter into make many issues easier to resolve when there is good communication between the two sides. Constructive eviction can be difficult to justify for the renter, and for the landlord, a preemptive eviction that does not follow legal procedures can end up in a court battle.
Because landlord-tenant laws in North Carolina are complex, it benefits the party seeking resolution to know where to look to get knowledgeable legal advice if an issue arises.
Tenant’s rights in North Carolina
In North Carolina, there were very few laws that could protect tenants from adverse actions of their landlords before 1977, when the state’s General Assembly passed legislation protecting tenants’ rights and clarifying the duties and rights between landlords and their tenants.
The North Carolina Residential Rental Agreements Act of 1977 established a number of duties required of landlords:
- the landlord’s duty of compliance with state and local building codes
- the landlord duty to keep the unit habitable and in working condition
- maintaining safety and cleanliness in common areas
- providing and maintaining electrical, heating, air conditioning, sanitation and ventilation systems
- supplying tenant with an operational and certified smoke detector, new batteries at the start of the rental, and repairs within 15 days of notification of a necessary repair
The tenant’s legal remedies
If the landlord breaches one of their duties, the tenant has three basic remedies: termination, damages or rent adjustment. A tenant must obtain permission from a North Carolina court in order to use their right to equitable relief, and rent repair and deduct are not allowable without this express permission. Tenants can file in small claims court for a breach of lease obligations, or to request rent abatement.
Tenants must give landlords reasonable time for the landlord to effect repairs except in the case of emergency repairs. Tenants can also file suit for a return of all rent paid during the months of noncompliance and non-repair.