No matter what part of the state you live, there is a market for property owners to rent out their property. Most people rent from real estate agents and property managers, but it is not uncommon to rent a home or property from a private owner. A downside to renting out your property is that sometimes the tenant fails to pay rent, uses the property for an improper purpose, or just refuses to leave after the agreed upon rental agreement period has expired. A legal process exists in the event you are forced to evict a tenant, but it must be properly followed. If the property owner does not adhere to the correct legal process or engages in self-help eviction, the property owner could be liable to the tenant for civil damages. NEVER engage in self-help by changing the locks, turning off utilities, or any other action that makes the home uninhabitable.

To evict a tenant from your property, you must file a summary ejectment complaint with the county magistrate in the small-claims division. The first step to properly evict is to make a demand on the tenant to leave the property and provide a 10-day grace period to allow them to move out. While this can be done orally, it is best to place this demand in writing. If they refuse to leave, then you may file a summary ejectment complaint. There is a specific form to fill out at the magistrate’s office. Also, make sure the complaint is filed in the proper county.  The complaint should be filed in the county where the property in question resides.

Next, the defendant (the tenant) must be properly served with a copy of the summons and complaint. This can be served by registered or certified mail, or by having it served by the county sheriff for a fee. The plaintiff (property owner) must pay the court costs in advance at the time of filing, but they can recover these costs from the defendant if the plaintiff’s complaint is successful. Once the defendant is properly served, a date will be assigned for the magistrate hearing and the plaintiff and defendant must be present at the hearing or risk judgment being ruled against them. If either the plaintiff or defendant disagrees with the magistrate’s ruling, they have 10 days to appeal. If the plaintiff (property owner) is successful in having the defendant (tenant) evicted and once the property owner has been placed with legal possession of the property, the tenant has 7 days to remove any personal property. After that 7 days, the property owner may dispose of the tenant’s personal property by selling it or throwing it away.

Even though the process of summary ejectment can be performed without an attorney, it can be overwhelming and take up a lot of time for those who are not familiar with the judicial process. While this is a basic overview of how to evict a tenant, it is not always this cut and dry.  Failure to pay rent is the most common reason to evict, but tenants can also be evicted for other reasons such as for holding over after the lease period has ended, breaching a condition of the lease agreement, or conducting criminal activity on the premises. If the property owner properly follows the judicial process, they can demand immediate possession and be awarded damages for past due rent and property damage. If you find yourself in need of having to evict a tenant from your property or you are a tenant and you believe you are being wrongfully evicted, contact Ludlum Law Firm. Our professional attorneys and staff can help you efficiently and expediently get through this process and at the same time, make sure that you are not exposing yourself to any legal liability. We have over 45 years of experience in dealing with the courts in Duplin and Sampson County and it would be our pleasure to serve you.