Kerri Sigler | Former Partner at Wait Law, P.L.L.C.
BEFORE YOU READ: Many landlord/tenant issues can be resolved through a properly drafted lease agreement. Call today for a quote, and let us know if the information below is useful to you.
PART III: GETTING LEGAL POSSESSION OF RENTAL PROPERTY
When it comes to possession of leased property, the rules of the game can seem very counterintuitive. After all, the property belongs to the landlord, right? So the landlord should have the right to come and go as they please, right?
Not so much. For as long as the tenant resides in the premises, the tenant has the right of possession. If the lease term ends when it should and the tenant moves out when they should and the money changes hands as it should, then there is no issue of possession. The landlord gets possession back when the lease ends and the tenant moves out.
But when the tenant abandons the premises – or appears to have abandoned the premises – or is in breach before the end of the lease and is going to move out at some point before they get legally kicked out, then possession becomes a fuzzy issue. Most landlords understandably want to leap back in. The grass is 3’ high; the locks haven’t been changed and no one knows how many people have keys; and the property seems generally unsafe. But before you, the landlord, go charging into the premises, you must have legal possession. In other words, the law must give you the right to be there. And that’s why we have a summary (e.g., quick) eviction process in North Carolina: to aid a landlord in getting possession back in cases of breach and abandonment.
The rules for applying for and getting possession through summary eviction can be found HERE in sections 42-26 through 42-36.3. Receiving an order in your favor through the summary eviction process gives legal possession of the property back to the landlord. That legal possession allows the landlord to enter the property, change the locks, clean, repair, cut the grass, and do what is necessary to re-rent the property. Doing any of those things before receiving legal possession places the landlord at a big risk of legal penalties. It’s a slight delay, but it’s a delay that can save you a big legal headache down the road.