It’s an ugly word that connotes anxiety, despair, and homelessness.
And, unfortunately, it’s a word that will soon feature in the mealtime discussions of many families in our community.
Eviction proceedings in Mecklenburg County have begun again, after being suspended since mid-March 2020. There is already a backlog of over 1,000 cases, and new filings are expected to steadily rise.
Among the thousands of families who will soon face potential homelessness are our most vulnerable neighbors, many of whom were served at Crisis Assistance Ministry long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. But due to the pandemic’s sweeping economic devastation, many who felt financially secure are suddenly experiencing the reality of not being able to pay rent.
Being served with a summons to eviction court is panic inducing. If you or someone you know receives court papers like the one below, the best advice is to stay calm, learn the process, and know your rights.
Keep in mind, landlords generally do not want to evict their tenants. Reaching a compromise is the best way to keep tenants housed and landlords in business. Everyone who is served a court summons for eviction is encouraged to pursue mediation. Contact the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Dispute Settlement Program or call their Landlord Tenant Line at 704-336-5330.
The Eviction Process: Six Key Points
1. Landlords must follow a formal, legal process for eviction.
- The only legal way for a landlord to evict you is by filing a lawsuit and getting an eviction judgment against you.
- It is illegal for a landlord to change the locks without a court order, disconnect utilities, or use other means to force you out.
- Only the sheriff can legally remove you from your home.
2. The eviction lawsuit has two main parts:
- The summons, which is a notice of the date, place, courtroom, and time of the hearing.
- The complaint, which outlines the landlord’s case against you. (Section 3 in image above)
3. You are not required to go to court and will not be arrested for not appearing. However, the magistrate will then rule based only on the landlord’s evidence, and it’s likely an eviction judgment will be entered against you.
4. If you want to dispute any of the landlord’s claims, you must go to court.
- Arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled hearing.
- Bring 3 copies of any relevant documentation (receipts, requests for repairs, lease, etc.).
- Print out any electronic evidence such as texts, emails, and photos. The magistrate will not look at your phone.
5. You have the right to appeal, even if you didn’t attend the hearing.
- An appeal must be filed within 10 calendar days after the date of the judgment.
- If you appeal, you will get a new trial in front of a new judge.
- Forms are available at the SelfServe Center in room 3350 at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
- If you pay a rent bond to the court, you can stay in your home while you wait on your appeal trial.
6. If you don’t appeal, you may stay in your home for 10 calendar days after the court date.
- If you are unable to reach a payment agreement during that time, your landlord will file for the Writ of Possession.
- You will receive notification of the date of eviction. If you have not moved out before then, the sheriff will arrive on that day to padlock the home.
- Your landlord must provide you the opportunity to retrieve your possessions from the home. If you don’t remove your possessions within 7 days of when the sheriff removes you from the home, the landlord can dispose of your property.
For more information and legal consultation, contact Legal Aid of North Carolina online or by phone at 704-594-8662.
Want to do your own research? Here’s Chapter 42 of the North Carolina General Statues: Landlord and Tenant.