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Know the Laws: North Carolina

UPDATED October 19, 2012

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Below is information about housing-related protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Basic info

back to topWhat is a housing law?

A housing law is designed to protect your rights as a tenant.  North Carolina has a law that offers housing-related protection to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The law includes protections from eviction and the right to break your lease in certain situations.  It also gives you the right to get the lock changed in your apartment.  This law does not include protection for an eviction case brought against you for not paying your rent.*

If you are not a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking but have questions about your housing rights, here are some links that may provide useful information:

  • For information on an anti-discrimination law called the Fair Housing Act, click here.
  • For basic tenant and landlord rights with contact info for legal assistance, click here.
If you are not sure if you are a victim of domestic violence, see What is the legal definition of domestic violence in NC?

* NCGS § 42-42.2

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back to topIf I am a victim, can a landlord refuse to rent me an apartment or kick me out of my apartment?

No.  In NC, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This means that a landlord cannot end a lease, refuse to renew a lease, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement with you because you or a household member of yours is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Also, the landlord cannot treat you (the tenant) differently than he treats other tenants who are not victims of abuse.  For example, s/he cannot refuse to make needed repairs in your apartment because you are an abuse victim. 

Note: The landlord also cannot discriminate against you if you terminated your lease early due to the fact that you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.*  For information on how to end your lease early, go to If I am a victim, can I terminate (end) my lease early? 

* NCGS § 42-42.2

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back to topCan I get the landlord to change the locks of my residence or to allow me to do it?

Yes.  Your landlord has to either change the locks within either 48 or 72 hours (depending on whether the abuser is a tenant in the home or not) or give you permission to change the locks yourself.  However, whether the landlord does it or you do it, you are responsible for the expense of changing the locks.

There are different procedures that you have to follow to change the locks depending on whether the perpetrator (abuser) is a tenant in the same household or not.  Also, if you live in an apartment building that has a main entry door shared by many tenants, the landlord is only required to change the lock to your apartment, not to the main entry door.

If the perpetrator is not a tenant in the same residence as you:

  • You (the tenant) may give verbal or written notice to the landlord that you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and may request that the locks be changed.  You are not required to provide documentation of the abuse to the landlord.
  • The landlord must change the locks or give you permission to change the locks within 48 hours of receiving the request from you.*
If the perpetrator is a tenant in the same residence as you:
  •  You (the tenant) may give verbal or written notice to the landlord that you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and may request that the locks be changed.
  • However, there must be a court order that orders the perpetrator (abuser) to stay away from the residence and you must provide a copy of this order to the landlord.   The order can be a protective order, a criminal judgment, a pre-trial release order, or any other order that says the abuser has to stay away from the home.
  • The landlord must change the locks or give you permission to change the locks within 72 hours.
  • Note: Even if the perpetrator is removed from the home, he can still be held responsible by the landlord for the rent and for any damage caused to the residence.**
If the landlord does not change the locks within the 48 hours or 72 hours required by law, you can change the locks to your residence without the landlord's permission.  However, if you change the locks, you must give a key to the new lock(s) to the landlord within 48 hours of the locks being changed.***

* NCGS § 42-42.3(a)
** NCGS § 42-42.3(b)
*** NCGS § 42-42.3(c)

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Breaking a lease/moving out

back to topIf I am a victim, can I terminate (end) my lease early?

Yes.  If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, you may be able to terminate your lease before it expires. However, you have to do the ALL of the following three things before terminating the lease:

  1. You have to give the landlord written notice that you want to end the lease and tell the landlord what date you want the lease to end.  However, the date you choose has to be at least 30 days from the day the landlord will receive your notice.
  2. You have to give the landlord a copy of one of the following documents along with the notice described above:
  • a "permanent" 50B domestic violence protective order or a 50C civil no-contact order; or
  • a criminal order that restrains (forbids) a person from contacting you (this could be a pre-trial release order or a criminal judgment or restraining order); or
  • a valid Address Confidentiality Program card. (Go to the NC Dept of Justice website to find information on the Address Confidentiality Program.)
  1. If you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault (doesn’t apply to stalking victims), you must also give the landlord a copy of a safety plan (a written plan on ways to keep you safe) along with the documents mentioned above. The safety plan has to:
  • be provided by a domestic violence or sexual assault program that is recognized by the Council for Women;
  • be dated during the term of the lease that you want to terminate; and
  • recommend that you (the tenant) relocate.*
A local program could help you in preparing and choosing the most appropriate documentation for your landlord. Go to NC State and Local Programs to find programs in your area.

* NCGS § 42-45.1

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back to topOnce I give notice to my landlord to end my lease, do I still have to pay my rent?

You will only have to pay the rent that is due up to the termination date that you wrote in your notice to the landlord.  So, if you are ending your lease in the middle of the month, you are only responsible for half a month’s rent.  You have to pay it when the rent would normally be due under the terms of your lease (for example, the 1st or 15th of the month).  You cannot be charged any additional fees by the landlord for properly ending your lease early – for example, the landlord cannot keep your security deposit if you gave proper notice for terminating the lease.  See If I am a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, can I terminate (end) my lease early? for the proper way to end your lease.

Note: If you have signed a lease for a new apartment but you end the lease 14 days or more before moving in, you will not owe any rent or penalties.*

* NCGS § 42-45.1(b)

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back to topIf I want to end my lease, will my roommate or family members be kicked out of the residence?

Not necessarily.  If your roommate or other family members are also listed as tenants on the lease, their tenancy will continue even if you end yours.  Also, even if the perpetrator (abuser) is removed from the home, he can still be held responsible by the landlord for the rent and for any damage caused to the residence.*

* NCGS § 42-45.1(c)

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