‘Key is communication’: Rent payments due, legal expert explains eviction process

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — For a lot of people, the first of the month means rent is due. With thousands of people out of work due to Coronavirus, some are worried about not making that payment and even being evicted.

If you’re not able to pay your rent come Wednesday, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be evicted overnight.

“It’s kind of like we’re figuring it out week to week right now,” tenant Jake Jones said. “Me and my roommates have been stressing day on, day off. So some days we’re a little bit more stressed than others.”

Jones is able to pay his rent for April, but beyond that, he’s not sure.

“Right now it’s kind of mellowed out a bit, but like I’m saying, in the next month or so it could become a little bit worse,” Jones said.

Not making that payment could have some concerned about evictions. But the eviction process isn’t quite that simple.

“The process would begin by the landlord providing notice to the tenant of their failure to timely pay rent,” Attorney Stephen Coble said.

Coble works with both tenants and landlords. After that notice, he says landlords can file a complaint to set up a court hearing.

“Between the filing and the appearance, there will have to be service made upon the tenant. Typically service is done by the sheriff’s department,” Coble said.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office says serving eviction notices has been suspended for the next few weeks. While eviction hearing are currently halted until mid-April, a new order signed by the Governor Tuesday goes one step further.

“This order strongly encourages the delay of any evictions that have already been entered,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “People should pay their bills, and the vast majority want to and do, but during this crisis some people just don’t have money.”

However, Coble says this isn’t a free pass on your payments, because there is still a contractual agreement between the tenant and the landlord. He says a lot of landlords have their own mortgage payments they have to pay on time too.

“The key is communication, so if something’s happened where you’re waiting on unemployment or you’re waiting on a check, I think it’s important you communicate with your landlord and/or your tenant to make sure everyone knows what’s going on,” Coble said. “You’ve got to remember this is a two-way street.”

Coble also says North Carolina doesn’t allow self-help evictions, meaning landlords can’t cut off utilities, or lock tenants out for not paying rent. He says they need to go through the eviction process.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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