As a North Carolina landlord, knowing the regulations that dictate when tenants can break a lease is essential to avoid problems later on.

This post will detail the justified and unjustified reasons for breaking a lease early. This information is crucial so that you understand your rights as a landlord, as well as your tenants’ rights.

North Carolina Lease or Rental Agreements

Drafting a detailed lease agreement is vital for your rental business. Before letting the tenants sign the lease agreement, it’s the landlords responsibility to explain its provisions including the penalties for breaking a lease without a justifiable reason.

What’s more, under North Carolina law, tenants may be able to sublet the rental if it’s not clearly prohibited in the lease. You may include a provision that requires tenants to obtain your approval before they can sublet the unit. The tenant must write a request and send it through certified mail. The request should include:

  • Sublet term
  • Name and address of the prospective subtenant
  • Reason for subletting
  • Written consent of any co‑tenant, if applicable
  • Copy of the proposed sublease

As a landlord, you may only reject the request to sublet for legitimate reasons.

Notice to Break Lease

The lease should state how much notice the renter should give their landlord when terminating their periodic lease.

landlord looking over a lease agreement in a red folder

The number of days of notice in North Carolina will depend on the term of the lease:

  • Renters who rent the property on a weekly basis should give their landlords a 2-day notice.
  • Tenants who rent the unit on a monthly basis are required to give 7 days’ notice.
  • If the lease term is on a yearly basis with no end date, the written notice should be given at least one month before the end of the year of the current tenancy.

It’s worth noting that for leases with a specific end date, tenants are no longer required to provide a written notice to terminate the lease. If you’re renting out a manufactured home, tenants are mandated to send at least 60 days' notice prior to the end of the lease period, no matter the lease term.

The rental agreement should also include the landlord’s responsibility to re-rent the unit. North Carolina landlords aren’t required to take steps to re-rent their properties if a renter breaks the lease.

Unjustified Reasons for Breaking a Lease in the State of North Carolina

If a tenant breaks the lease for any of the reasons stated below, they will have no legal protections from penalties for not seeing the lease through:

  • The renter bought a new house and would like to move in before the end of their current lease
  • The renter is looking to upsize or downsize
  • The renter is moving for school or a new job opportunity
  • The renter wants to be closer to family
  • The renter wants to move in with a friend or partner

gavel, balance and house figurine on a table to symbolize housing laws

Ending the lease for these reasons, without gaining court approval can result in legal consequences for renters. If a renter wants to break their lease for any of the listed reasons, the renter can ask the landlord to agree to lease termination terms.

Justifiable Reasons for Breaking a Rental Lease in North Carolina

As a North Carolina landlord, you must know the justified reasons for renters to end a lease early.

Early Termination Clause

North Carolina landlords may include an early termination clause, which will allow the tenants to break the lease before the tenancy end date for a penalty fee. The provision should include the amount of the fee and the required notice period.

Active Military Duty

Renters who start active military duty during their tenancy can be allowed to legally terminate a lease if they are relocated due to deployment or a permanent change of station. Tenants are protected from getting penalized from the date they entered active duty up to 30 to 90 days after they are discharged.

Tenants who are active service members are required to prove that they entered the military before they signed the lease agreement. Also, they need to prove that they will be on duty for at least 90 days. They should deliver a notice to the landlords with a copy of the orders to deploy or a letter signed by their commanding officer.

person looking through the pages that make up a lease agreement

Unit is Uninhabitable

As a landlord, you should be aware of your responsibilities to provide a habitable place to your tenants. If you violate any building, safety, and health codes, or if you fail to make the necessary maintenance and repairs within a reasonable timeframe, your tenants may claim that the rental home is not habitable which allows them to break the lease without being penalized.

Other Reasons

  • Violation of Privacy: North Carolina landlords have the right to enter the premises as long as they do not violate their tenants’ privacy. While there is no statute about landlord entry under North Carolina rental laws, landlords are encouraged to provide at least 24 hours notice prior to entering the rented unit.
  • Changing locks: In North Carolina, landlords are prohibited from changing the locks without their tenant's knowledge.
  • Domestic Violence: Tenants who are victims of domestic violence and need to move out for their protection may be allowed to break their lease.

Bottom Line

Landlords need to know the legally justified and unjustified reasons for tenants to terminate their leases early. You should also stay up-to-date on security deposit laws, the legal eviction process, and rent increase policies.

If you have any questions regarding the North Carolina landlord-tenant law, contact House In Order Property Management at 828-484-1571 and we’ll be happy to serve you!

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regard to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.