The NC Court of Appeals recently answered a question I’ve long wondered about in Brown v. Patel, 2021-NCCOA-342 (20 July 2021). Although this lawsuit started out as a bedbug case – which is definitely on my list of interesting topics! – it ended up being about what happens when a magistrate doesn’t make a decision. Read on for the riveting details!Continue Reading
Summary Ejectment in the time of COVID, Part 2: The CDC Order and EO 171
Over the last several months, both federal and state governments have issued orders, effective until December 31, placing temporary restrictions on residential evictions. As everyone knows, many tenants have lost their jobs and thus their ability to pay the rent when it’s due. At a time when Stay Home! signs are everywhere, billboards are a common sight, the prospect of large numbers of tenants either moving in with relatives or friends or becoming homeless raises serious public health concerns. The result has been a hodgepodge of emergency measures enacted by local, state, and federal governments. The interpretation and implementation of these measures has, not surprisingly, been challenging for the court system.Continue Reading
It’s Time for a New SOG Cohort of Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Teams
How does elder abuse show up in your community?
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected how that abuse happens or how local professionals respond to it?
A new opportunity to address these concerns is opening up September 9th.The intent of the North Carolina Elder Protection Network is to connect, inform, and support our public professionals who are working together to find ways to prevent and respond to abuse of older adults.Continue Reading
Small Claims Appeals in Summary Ejectment Cases
In Small Claims Land there are so many questions about appeals for trial de novo that I could write a book – if only I knew the answers. Ba-dum-bum-CHING! In light of my limited mastery of a mysterious topic, a blog post seems like a better idea than a book. Today I’m going to talk about five possible endings in district court when a summary ejectment case is appealed. Certainly, there are more than five, so this list is not exhaustive. My hope is that at least one of them will be informative for you.
Venue, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, and Summary Ejectment
I’m writing today about a seemingly simple question: When a tenant lives in one county and rental property is located in a different county, where should a summary ejectment action be filed? Obviously, most summary ejectment actions involve a tenant who resides ON the rental property, but this is not always the situation. Sometimes, tenants have vacated residential rental property and moved to a new county. Also, in non-residential leases, tenants quite often live in a different county. After researching and thinking about this issue at considerable length, I’ve come to a new and different understanding of the law relevant to this question, which I want to share with you today.
Small Claims Magistrates: Don’t Make These Mistakes in Summary Ejectment Cases!
After teaching and advising magistrates about landlord-tenant law for a little more than a decade, I’ve become familiar with their most common errors – which have, somewhat discouragingly, remained pretty much the same throughout that time. All of these errors arise from neglecting to independently analyze the requirements and defenses of each of the four grounds for eviction. Those grounds are briefly summarized below, followed by a list of errors most often made when magistrates confuse them. If you are such a magistrate, please consider having this blog post tattooed somewhere on your body:Continue Reading
When the Nanny Won’t Leave: NC Law on When Employees are Tenants
In 2014 the story of a California family and a live-in nanny who refused to leave after her employment ended made international news –- including Dr. Phil! According to media accounts, the parties agreed that the nanny would provide childcare and light housekeeping in exchange for room and board. An argument ensued as to whether the nanny was performing her duties as originally agreed, and her employment was terminated. When the nanny retired to her bedroom rather than vacating the property, the situation deteriorated further. Law enforcement refused to intervene, saying the dispute was “a civil matter.” Eventually the nanny voluntarily moved out. One media account commented, “Even though the nanny is gone, [one of the family members] says she still casts a long dark shadow in her home, saying, ‘As far as I see it, she’s, in a way, like a vampire and she hasn’t yet drained us.’”
Don’t Try This at Home: Self-Help Evictions
A magistrate once told me that the advice given to members of the public by many law enforcement officers and courthouse personnel may be summarized as ATM: Ask the Magistrate. The locations of magistrates’ offices, unlike those of judges, are known to the public, and their doors are — if not actually open – at least accessible. Their telephone numbers are publicized, and when the public calls, that call will be answered by a magistrate. So it’s not surprising that magistrates spend a significant amount of time interacting with citizens seeking legal assistance, walking that fine line between helpfully providing legal information and carefully refraining from giving legal advice. While the questions a magistrate may be asked on any given day are likely to vary over a truly amazing range of topics, there are a few subjects that come up all the time. One of them – the subject of this post – has to do with whether and under what circumstances a landlord may lawfully force a tenant to vacate rental premises—a practice commonly referred to as self-help eviction. Continue Reading
Security Deposit Squabbles
Once, when my son was seven and went to summer camp, I asked the camp counselor how he was doing. She said that he was doing fine, except that he had threatened to sue her for breach of contract when she changed her mind about whether he could dig up a (very large) rock he found. That wasn’t the first—or last—time I struggled to explain to my son that suing people is not the simple speedy solution to problems that he imagined. Small claims magistrates tell me that successful plaintiffs sometimes expect to recover the amount awarded from the defendant at the end of the trial. Certainly, many a plaintiff has been dismayed to learn that the trial is often merely the first of several steps necessary to collect money damages.
Landlords are entitled to collect a security deposit in order to avoid the need to file a lawsuit for reimbursement for certain specific damages caused by a tenant’s breach. GS Ch. 42, Art. 6, the Tenant Security Deposit Act, regulates this practice in residential tenancies in an attempt to prevent certain unfair and deceptive acts historically associated with security deposits. In this post, I’ll explain the basics of the law and address a few of the most common questions asked about its application. Continue Reading
Must a Tenant Introduce Opinion Evidence of Fair Rental Value in an Action for Rent Abatement?
On Tuesday the NC Court of Appeals handed down an opinion in Crawford v. Nawrath, a Mecklenburg County case involving the calculation of damages for violation of the Residential Rental Agreement Act (RRAA). The Crawford opinion is unpublished and thus does not constitute controlling legal authority but nevertheless is interesting and informative, both procedurally and substantively.