Evicting Drug Traffickers and Other Criminals in North Carolina

Learn the special legal rules and procedures for evicting a tenant who sells drugs or engages in other criminal activity on North Carolina rental property.

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The standard eviction process can be lengthy in North Carolina. For example, in some cases, a tenant who chooses to fight an eviction may be able to stay in the leased premises for as long as 45 days after receiving the initial eviction notice. (For information about fighting an eviction in North Carolina, see the Nolo article Tenant Defenses to Eviction Notices in North Carolina; for details on how to evict a tenant in North Carolina, see the Nolo article How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina.)

Eviction rules and proceedings vary, however, for tenants who are engaging in drug trafficking or other criminal activities on leased premises in North Carolina. In the interest of efficiency and to protect residents’ rights to safe, peaceful, and quiet enjoyment of their homes, North Carolina’s legislation provides expedited procedures for expelling criminals from residential rental units. (See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-59.1.)

Who Is Subject to Expedited Eviction Proceedings in North Carolina?

Article 7 of the North Carolina General Statutes §§ 42-59 and following outlines the law surrounding expedited eviction of drug traffickers and other criminals. A landlord may bring an expedited eviction, called an “Article 7 eviction,” against a tenant, a tenant’s household members (whether or not those members are on the lease or rental agreement), or a tenant’s guests. In doing so, a landlord may pursue a “complete eviction” or a “partial eviction.”

Complete Eviction

A complete eviction occurs when the landlord evicts the tenant and anyone else who resides on the leased premises. To successfully pursue this type of an eviction, the landlord must prove any of the following in front of a judge or magistrate:

  • Criminal activity has occurred in the tenant’s unit.
  • The tenant’s unit has been used to promote criminal activity in any manner.
  • The tenant or any guest or household member of the tenant has engaged in criminal activity anywhere on the property where the tenant's unit is located.
  • The tenant has invited any person previously evicted and barred from the premises to return or re-enter any portion of the property where the tenant's unit is located.
  • The tenant has failed to immediately notify law enforcement officials or the landlord upon learning that a person who was previously evicted and barred from the premises has returned or re-entered the tenant's unit or any portion of the property where the tenant's unit is located.

(See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-63.)

The law makes it clear that tenants are responsible for their guests and household members and may be evicted for the acts of others. As described below, tenants in some cases may have a defense to a complete eviction.

Partial Eviction

A partial eviction occurs when a landlord evicts household members or guests of a tenant, but not the tenant himself/herself. Partial eviction will be the result of one of two situations: 1) the landlord does not wish to evict the tenant, or 2) the tenant has presented a successful defense to the eviction. The outcome of a partial eviction is that the culprit is immediately removed from the leased premises while the tenant remains on the premises.

What Types of “Criminal Activity” Warrant an Expedited Eviction?

According to the North Carolina statute, Article 7 evictions can be initiated for drug trafficking and “other criminal activities.” A tenant (or tenant’s household member or guest) does not have to be formally charged with a crime to engage in “criminal activity” for the purposes of this statute. A criminal conviction, however, will serve as conclusive proof that criminal activity has occurred. (See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-69(b).)

Criminal activity includes:

  • manufacturing, selling, or delivering a controlled substance
  • possessing a controlled substance and intending to manufacture, sell, or deliver it
  • creating, selling, or delivering a counterfeit controlled substance (a controlled substance that bears the trademark or other identification of a manufacturer)
  • possessing and intending to sell or deliver a counterfeit controlled substance, or
  • other criminal activity that interferes with the health, safety, or peaceful enjoyment of the entire premises (tenant’s rental unit in addition to any common or shared space) by other residents or employees of the landlord. For example, public urination on common grounds of an apartment complex would constitute such activity.

Mere possession of a controlled substance, however, is not an Article 7 criminal act. (See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-59 andN.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(a) (3).)

These definitions may not directly apply to activities conducted on public housing grounds. This is so because Section 8 and other federally-funded housing must comply with federal HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) standards.

How Courts Expedite Evictions for Drug Trafficking and Criminal Activities in North Carolina

If a tenant, tenant’s household member, or guest engages in criminal activity on the leased premises, expedited hearing procedures will be available to the landlord. For example, a court will be obligated to give the landlord’s case priority and set a hearing date within 30 days of filing a complaint. District courts are also prohibited from granting extensions and continuances in Article 7 evictions—in other words, parties will not be granted additional time to take procedural legal steps. In addition, a tenant will be immediately evicted if the tenant either gives permission to--or fails to notify authorities when--any person who has been barred from reentering the leased premises (due to criminal conduct) reenters the premises. (See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-68 and N.C. Gen Stat. § 42-66.)

A Tenant’s Defense to a Complete Eviction

If a tenant did not engage in the criminal activity stated in the landlord’s complaint, that tenant may launch an eviction defense and fight the eviction. An innocent tenant will evade eviction only if the tenant was not involved in the alleged activity and can show one of the following:

1) the tenant did not know or have reason to know of the criminal activity, or

2) the tenant knew of the criminal activity, but did everything reasonable in his or her power to prevent the criminal activity.

(See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-64.)

A successful defense will stay or stop the eviction. Alternatively, a successful defense may result in a partial eviction.

Although waiver, or voluntary relinquishment of the right to sue, is a common defense to a standard eviction in North Carolina, it is not a defense to an eviction for criminal activity. A landlord may therefore continue accepting rent after learning of criminal activity on the leased premises without relinquishing the future right to sue and evict a tenant for that same criminal activity. (See N.C. Gen. Stat. 42-73.)

Resources on North Carolina Evictions and Landlord-Tenant Law

For an overview of landlord-tenant law and eviction rules and procedures, see the Renting and Evictions section of LawHelpNC.org, the Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) Landlord-Tenant brochure, and HUD.gov. To read the law itself, see Chapter 42: Landlord and Tenant of the North Carolina General Statutes. To find legal help to assist with an eviction, check out the North Carolina landlord-tenant attorneys in Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.

Evicting Drug Traffickers and Other Criminals in North Carolina

The standard eviction process can be lengthy in North Carolina. For example, in some cases, a tenant who chooses to fight an eviction may be able to stay in the leased premises for as long as 45 days after receiving the initial eviction notice. (For information about fighting an eviction in North Carolina, see the Nolo article Tenant Defenses to Eviction Notices in North Carolina; for details on how to evict a tenant in North Carolina, see the Nolo article How to Evict a Tenant in North Carolina.)

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