Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly Asked Landlord/Tenant Questions:  The following information is intended as guidance only and is neither intended as comprehensive legal responses, nor does it replace or represent the advisement of legal counsel.

In addition, the city maintains a list of helpful resources for homeowners and renters.


Lease Agreements

1. Can I take another leaseholder's name off of my lease?
This is dependent upon whether the other leaseholder's income was a requirement for obtaining the particular property. Tenants should consult with the landlord regarding the removal of other lessees.

2. Do I have to list all applicants?  
Yes, if asked to do so on the lease agreement.

3. How many people can live in my house/apartment?  
This is dependent upon the lease agreement and housing code.

4. Can I break my lease?  
Yes, but usually with a penalty.

5. Can I sublet my apartment?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

6. When my lease expires, do I have to renew it?  
No, unless the lease agreement states otherwise.

7. Can my landlord charge me more if I do not renew my lease? 
No.

8. Who can request a key (in the case of a lock out) to my home?  
Only the tenant, unless the tenant authorizes others to do so.

9. Can I have pets?  
This is dependent upon the lease agreement. It is also dependent upon whether a pet is medically necessary (i.e., a seeing eye dog).

10. Can my landlord charge me a pet deposit or pet rent?  
Generally, yes, if it is a reasonable fee in accordance with North Carolina law.

11. Should my landlord explain my lease when I move in?  
No, the landlord has no obligation to explain the lease. It is the tenant's responsibility to read the lease and ask questions for clarification.

12. Do I have to pay a fee to be let into my unit if I lose my key?  
Yes, there may be a charge for the new key.

13. Can I change my locks on my doors?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. If the tenant does change the locks, the landlord should be notified and provided with a copy of the key.

14. Can I make changes in my home (carpet, light fixtures, etc.)?  
Generally not; however, see the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. Also, any permanent fixtures become the property of the landlord.

15. Do I have to keep the utilities on in my home at all times?  
For subsidized housing, this is a requirement. For non-subsidized housing, this is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

16. When my lease ends, can I just move out?  
No, tenants must give notice based on the length of the lease. For a week-to-week lease, the tenant must provide a two-day notice; for a month-to-month lease, the tenant must provide a seven-day notice; for a year-to-year lease, the tenant must provide a 30-day notice.

17. What utilities am I responsible for?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

18. What do I do if I do not have a lease agreement?  
Without a lease agreement, it is an "at will" agreement. This means that the tenant is afforded minimum protection regarding notice for the lease's duration. Tenants should request a written lease agreement to be signed by both the landlord and tenant(s).

19. Can I enter into a verbal lease agreement?  
In most instances, a verbal lease agreement is not a valid contract, but it is still covered by North Carolina's landlord/tenant laws. Also, without a lease agreement, it is an "at will" agreement. This means that the tenant is afforded minimum protection regarding notice for the lease's duration.

20. Can my landlord change my locks without notifying me?  
If the lease is still current, a landlord may not change a lock without notifying the tenant and providing a key to the tenant. Only a sheriff can padlock the doors upon a summary ejectment proceeding and the subsequent 10-day appeal period.

21. Can I use an electric or kerosene heater in my home?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

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Evictions

1. Can my landlord evict someone who is not on my lease?  
A landlord can possibly file trespassing allegations against someone after the tenant has been evicted since the tenant is no longer in possession of the unit.

2. Can my landlord lock me out of my home without filing for eviction?  
No, the landlord must go through the summary ejectment process through the court in order to evict a tenant. Under new case law (Rucker) the landlord may obtain an accelerated eviction for criminal activities in a household whether the tenant knew of the activities or not.

3. How many complaints does my landlord need to receive before he can evict me?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

4. After eviction, how long do I have to remove my things?  
Once the eviction has been filed with and decided upon by a magistrate, a tenant has 10 days to appeal the eviction and/or remove personal items.

5. How many days can my rent be late before my landlord can file for eviction?   This is dependent upon the terms and condition of the lease agreement.

6. Can my landlord file for eviction for reasons other than late rent?  
Yes, a landlord can file for eviction if the terms and conditions of the lease agreement state that tenants can be evicted for particular and specific violations.

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Rent

1. Can I withhold rent because I have an unresolved maintenance issue?  
No, a tenant may not withhold rent; however, a tenant can seek reimbursement for rent.

2. When do late fees apply?  
When the rent is paid after the due date stated in the lease, a landlord may apply late fees.

3. How much of a late fee should I pay?  
The amount for the late fee is not to exceed $25 or 5% of the total monthly rent, whichever is greater, for rent that is more than five days late.

4. Should I receive a receipt when I make a payment to my landlord?  
Yes, tenants should always request a receipt for any rent (or other fees) paid.

5. What agencies are available to help me with rent assistance?  
The City's Housing Development Department is a good resource for providing information regarding rental assistance.

6. How much notification does my landlord have to give me for a rent increase?   For a year-to-year tenancy, the landlord cannot increase the rent during that lease period; however, the landlord may increase the amount of rent once the lease expires. For a month-to-month tenancy, there is no notice requirement.

7. Can my rent be based on my income?  
Yes, if you are seeking federally assisted (subsidized) housing.

8. Can I make partial payments on my rent?   
Only if you are living in federally assisted (subsidized) housing.

9. Can my landlord call my job to inquire about late rent?  
There are legal restrictions regarding such inquiries, particularly if the tenant has not consented.

10. Should I be notified in writing if my rent is late?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. An eviction may be immediate if the lease provides for this. Usually, the landlord requests a summary ejectment and can only evict the tenant after 10 days have passed after the summary ejectment by the court.

11. Can my landlord charge more rent if additional people move in?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. The City's Zoning Department should be contacted regarding the allowable number of people per unit.

12. Do I have to give my consent for someone to receive rental information about me?  
Tenants are usually required to list previous landlords on rental applications. This information is not considered confidential.

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Maintenance

1. When should I report my maintenance issue?  
It should be reported immediately, in writing, unless it is an emergency maintenance issue (i.e., electrical, heating during the winter time, etc.). Also, the tenant can agree to perform some or all maintenance, but this must be written in an agreement separate from the lease and the tenant must be compensated.

2. How long does my landlord have to take care of my maintenance request?  
It depends on the circumstances; however, the landlord is afforded a "reasonable time" to make repairs.

3. Who can I contact if my maintenance issues are not addressed?  
For housing code issues (heat, plumbing, locks, walls, windows, doors, infestations, etc.), call the City or County Housing Inspectors. For fire code issues (heat and electrical), call the Fire Department. For health code issues (sewage disposal and well water), call the Health Department. For legal advice, call Legal Aid or a private attorney.

4. What is normal wear and tear in my unit?  
Deterioration due to normal, non-abusive use is considered normal wear and tear.

5. What repairs am I responsible for in my apartment/house?  
Tenants are responsible for maintaining the dwelling and keeping it clean, safe, and habitable.

6. What repairs are my landlords responsible for?  
Landlords are responsible for providing basic items that are necessary for safe, clean, and habitable living standards (including, but not limited to, plumbing, heating, sanitary and electrical equipment, locks, doors, roofs, providing an operable smoke detector, and providing safe stairs, walkways, and common areas etc.).

7. What is considered emergency maintenance?  
Examples of emergency maintenance are needing heat in the middle of winter; needing electrical wiring repaired; needing major leaks repaired, etc.

8. How long do I have to pay a maintenance charge?  
Usually, for the duration of the lease.

9. Can my landlord/maintenance come into my unit without notifying me?  
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. If it is not addressed in the lease agreement, a tenant must authorize entry.

10. Is my landlord or maintenance personnel supposed to leave notice or contact me if someone has been in my home?  
Landlords should generally give tenants notice prior to entry into the dwelling.

11. Who should change my air conditioning filter?  
The tenant is responsible for maintaining appliances/equipment provided by the landlord; however, this is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

12. How often should filters be changed?  
Tenants should consult with landlords regarding changing filters.

13. How often should my home be painted?  
There is no legally prescribed requirement; however, the landlord is responsible for keeping the premises fit and habitable.

14. When should my carpet be replaced?  
The landlord only needs to keep carpeting safe, fit, and habitable once it is beyond normal wear and tear.

15. Should my landlord provide pest control?  
Landlords must comply with infestation requirements governed by the housing code.

16. Can I take the battery out of my smoke detector?  
No, tenants are responsible for maintaining smoke detectors.

17. How often should my smoke detector be checked?  
Tenants are responsible for maintaining smoke detectors and landlords are responsible for providing tenants with operable smoke detectors; therefore, tenants should regularly check smoke detectors to make sure they are well maintained. Tenants should notify the landlord if the detector does not operate.

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Public Housing

1. If I receive Section 8, should I contact them when I have a problem in my home?
Tenants should contact the landlord first and allow a reasonable time for the problem to be addressed. If it is not addressed satisfactorily, the tenant should contact the Housing Authority (HAWS) for assistance. If the issue is still not resolved, the tenant should contact the Human Relations Department.

2. What should I do if my home enters abatement?
Tenants should contact their case specialist in abatement situations. During this time, tenants are still responsible for their portion of the rent.

3. Do I have to notify my landlord if my dependent child is working?
Tenants do not have to notify the landlord if a dependent child is working; however, tenants should notify the Housing Authority.

4. Should my landlord be present during annual HAWS inspections?
Yes, the landlord should be present, but it is not required.

5. What am I responsible for during annual HAWS inspections?
Tenants are responsible for repairs beyond normal wear and tear.

6. What is my landlord responsible for during annual HAWS inspections?
Landlords are responsible for any normal wear and tear to the unit.

7. Even if I notify HAWS that I intend to move, do I still have to tell my landlord? By law, yes the tenant is required to notify HAWS. Also, HAWS encourages the tenant to notify the landlord.

8. When I move into my unit, how long do I have to wait before I know how much my portion of the rent will be?
Tenants should contact their HAWS case manager prior to moving into a unit.

9. When my rent amounts change, do I have to notify my landlord?
No, HAWS notifies the landlord when rental amounts change.

10. Do I have to pay my landlord if my HAWS subsidy is late?
Yes, tenants must continue paying their portion of the rent or they will be assessed a late fee.

 

11. I live in public housing. Could your department investigate discrimination for me?
Yes.  The Human Relations Department has jurisdiction to investigate discrimination complaints if public housing/federally-subidized units are involved. If you file a complaint with our office, we are required by HUD' s guidelines to investigate.

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Move Out

1. Do I have to clean the unit before moving out?
Generally, yes, but tenants should review the terms and conditions of their lease agreement.

2. Should I be present when my landlord does the move out inspection?
It is advisable to be present when the landlord does the move out inspection so that any discrepancies can be clarified.

3. How do I dispute charges at move out?
Disputed charges should be communicated to the landlord in writing. Tenants also have the option of going to small claims court.

4. How much can my landlord charge me to remove the items I left in the unit?
Landlords can charge a reasonable amount based on actual costs and labor fees.

5. What if I do not know my forwarding address when I move out?
Tenants should contact the landlord for how belongings can be stored.

6. Does my landlord have to allow me to make payment arrangements to pay my move out balance?
The landlord is under no obligation to allow payment arrangements for move out balances.

7. Will I still be charged if I do not return the keys on the day I am scheduled to move out, although I have removed all of my things?
Yes, because tenants are still "in possession" of the unit as long as they retain the keys.

8. Can I request a copy of the move out reports?  Yes.

9. Does my landlord have to provide me with a list of move out charges?
Yes, the landlord is required by law to provide the list of move out charges.

10. When I move out, can I still use the mailbox until my mail is forwarded?
Yes, but this could be viewed as a trespassing issue since the tenant is no longer in possession of the unit.

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Security Deposits

1. Can I use my security deposit as my last month's rent?
Security deposits are not supposed to be used to cover the final month's rent. It is intended for post move out charges only.

2. What determines the amount of the security deposit?
The amount of the security deposit is based on the type of lease the tenant has. For instance, if rent is paid weekly, the deposit can be up to two weeks' rent; if rent is paid monthly, the deposit can be up to one and one-half the month's rent; if rent is paid less frequently than month-to-month, the amount of the security deposit can be up to two months' rent.

3. How long does my landlord have to return my deposit after I move?
By law, the landlord has 30 days from the move out date to return the deposit.

4. Can my landlord collect interest on my deposit?
Yes, since the law does not require the landlord to pay interest to the tenant.

5. Does my landlord have to tell me where my deposit is being held?
Yes, the landlord has to notify the tenant, in writing, of where the deposit is being held. If the bank is outside North Carolina, the landlord must give the name and address of the insurance company for the bond for the deposit.

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Legal Filing

1. If my landlord files legal action against me, do I have to go to court?
If the tenant wishes to argue against the eviction, he or she should appear in court.

2. How much notice does my landlord have to give me to vacate the premises?
For a week-to-week lease, the landlord must provide a two-day notice; for a month-to-month lease, the landlord must provide a seven-day notice; for a year-to-year lease, the landlord must provide a 30-day notice.

3. What is the cost of court?
For small claims court, the cost is $50. For an appeal of the small claims finding, the cost is $60. These fees are waivable if the tenant is indigent.

4. Can my landlord charge me any other fees involving legal filing (i.e., an administrative fee)?
Administrative fees are dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

5. What happens if I go to court?
The tenant will have an opportunity to present his/her side and/or offer to pay any back rent and court costs before or after the court proceeding.

6. How do I remove a judgment from my credit report?
The judgment must be paid. If the judgment is incorrect, the creditor or credit bureau should be contacted.

7. What rights do I have to take legal action against my landlord? Tenants have the right to take legal action against landlords if they believe their rights have been violated. Also, if tenants have filed complaints and experience retaliation, they can also file a legal action against landlords. Tenants may be able to regain the premises or money damages against the landlord.

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Reasonable Accommodations

1. Does my landlord have to make my unit handicap accessible?
The landlord has to make the unit handicap accessible if the unit was built after March 31, 1991.

2. Is my landlord responsible for providing hearing impaired doorbells?
Landlords are responsible for providing reasonable accommodations for tenants only when the tenant in question makes the request. The landlord does not have to provide the exact accommodation requested, but must provide an accommodation that enables the tenant to have full use and enjoyment of property. The need for a hearing impaired doorbell is a reasonable accommodation, but the tenant must pay for the cost of the doorbell and for restoring the doorbell in its original condition upon moving out. For subsidy housing, the landlord pays all costs (The cost for installing any reasonable accommodation fixtures is incurred by tenants who request and are granted reasonable accommodations. Tenants also incur the cost for restoring the property to its original condition upon moving out).

3. In an apartment building, does the landlord have to designate a handicap parking space?
The percentage of designated handicap parking spaces is based on the total number of spaces available.

4. Are landlords allowed to rent handicap accessible units to the nonhandicapped? 
It is within a landlord's discretion to rent handicap accessible units to the non-handicapped; however, if a disabled person requests a reasonable accommodation, such as a handicap accessible unit, the landlord must accommodate the tenant. If the accommodation is for a handicap accessible unit, the landlord must transfer the non-disabled tenant to a comparable non-handicap accessible unit.

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General

1. How do I complain about my neighbors?
Tenants should contact the landlord or police regarding complaints about neighbors. Tenants may also contact the Human Relations Department to request voluntary mediation with one of the staff´s certified mediators.

2. If my home is broken into, who is responsible?
Tenants should contact the police if their home has been broken into.

3. If my car is vandalized or broken into, who is responsible?
Tenants should contact the police if their car has been vandalized or broken into.

4. Who is responsible for abandoned vehicles on the property?
The car's owner is responsible for any abandoned vehicles. If the vehicle was abandoned by a former tenant, the landlord is responsible. Tenants can also contact the City Inspectors regarding abandoned vehicles.

5. Can I store broken down cars on the property?
Tenants should contact City Inspectors regarding the storage of broken down cars.

6. Can I make repairs to my car on the property?
Yes, tenants can repair cars on the property if the car is lawfully there.

7. Who is responsible for cutting the grass at my house/apartment?
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. If it is not addressed in the lease agreement, the tenant is responsible for keeping the yard and grass clean and safe.

8. Who is responsible if my child/guest gets hurt in my home, parking lot, playground, etc.?
Tenants are responsible for maintaining their homes in a safe condition. The landlord is responsible for keeping the common areas safe.

9. Who do I contact if someone is illegally parked on the property?
Tenants should contact the police and/or landlord if someone is parked illegally on the property.

10. Can I have a satellite dish installed at my home?
This is dependent upon the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. The lease may prohibit satellite dish installations since it may damage the property.

11. Who do I report to if I feel I am being discriminated against?
Tenants may contact the Human Relations Department if they feel they have experienced discrimination.

12. What information can a former landlord give out about me?
Information that is disclosed by a landlord about a tenant is restricted and limited by defamation laws. For instance, a landlord cannot engage in the publication of a debt, but he can divulge the fact that the tenant made late payments or damaged property (without divulging the monetary amounts).

13. What agencies are available to help with translations?
For Spanish translations, please contact the Human Relations Department.  There are two bilingual staff members who can assist with translations. 

14. Can my landlord let a creditor into my home?
The landlord should not allow a creditor into a tenant's home. If he does, the landlord is responsible for the conduct of that creditor.

15. Can my landlord remove my things from my home?
No, unless there has been a summary ejectment procedure initiated by a court of law.

16.  If the property that I am renting is foreclosed, what are my rights?
Under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009, the new owner must honor the full term of the lease if the tenant does not want to move out after the foreclosure. Most tenants with leases are able to keep their leases. If the tenant wants to move, landlords are required to provide month-to-month tenants at least 90 days to relocate. An exception is made for the buyer who intends to live on the property because he/she does not have to honor the lease; however, the buyer/new owner still must provide the tenant with 90 days' notice. Protections under the federal law apply to Section 8 tenants, too.  Depending on the situation, tenants may have other legal rights against the landlord. 

17.  If the property that I am renting is found to be in violation of the housing code, what are my rights?
Your landlord is required to relocate you to another unit or other temporary housing/lodging until the repairs are made and your unit is brought into compliance with the housing code.

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