Landlord/Tenant Issues In the Midst of COVID-19

In an effort to reduce courthouse traffic and slow the spread of COVID-19, Chief Justice Beasley has halted all eviction hearings through April 17, 2020. Below is some clarification of what this means for landlords and tenants in North Carolina. Keep in mind that each lease is different, so it is important that you carefully read the terms of your lease to determine exactly what your rights and obligations are. If you are in doubt, the attorneys at Black, Slaughter & Black can assist you with offices in Greensboro, Charlotte, Wilmington and the Triangle.

*Be aware that this information is subject to change based on future orders from the court or other government official.*

The summary ejectment hearing occurred before March 16, 2020. Can the tenant still be removed from the property?

Once an Order Granting Summary Ejectment is entered by a Magistrate, either side has ten (10) days to file a notice of appeal to District Court. If the time for filing the notice of appeal expired on or before March 13, 2020 and no appeal was filed, a landlord is currently still permitted to have a writ of possession issued by the court and the tenant removed from the property. For now, if the deadline to appeal the summary ejectment order falls between March 16, 2020 through April 17, 2020, the court will not issue a writ of possession to remove the tenant until after April 17, 2020.

Is the tenant required to continue paying the Rent Bond payment to the court?

Normally, during an appeal to district court, the tenant can stop execution of the Magistrate’s order by paying to the clerk of superior court (1) any rent that the Magistrate determined was past due and (2) paying rent as it comes due each month.

This has been temporarily amended under Justice Beasley’s order. For now, if a rent bond payment is due between March 16, 2020 and April 17, 2020, the tenant has until the close of business on April 17, 2020 to make the rent bond payment.

Is the Lease still in effect?

Most likely, yes. Most lease agreements do not contain language that would allow either party to be released from the lease in the event of a pandemic. This means that, even though the Court has postponed eviction hearings, the parties must still abide by the terms of the lease. Unless otherwise notified by the landlord, a tenant is required to continue timely paying rent and abiding by all other rules or regulations as set forth in the lease. Tenants may continue to receive lease violation notices and, if the landlord chooses, a lawsuit initiating an eviction may still be filed against the tenant for violations of the lease, with a hearing date to be scheduled in the future.

Given the daily developments of COVID-19, whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you should:

  • Check your lease to determine your specific rights and obligations;
  • Stay informed of the requirements of authorities to report infectious diseases, close for quarantine periods, clean the premises;
  • Think about what action you can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  • Keep your landlord or tenants updated as the situation progresses;
  • Keep very clear records of all communications.