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how to break a lease in NC

How to Break a Lease in North Carolina 🏠 | Breaking a Lease in NC

Last Updated on: 9th March 2024, 08:30 pm

Can you break a lease in NC? No one signs a lease in North Carolina and expects to break it. However, there are a number of legitimate reasons why you might need to break a lease, including active military duty, unsafe conditions, landlord harassment, and mental or physical disability. If you’re considering breaking a lease in North Carolina, you might be wondering what your options are and if you’ll have to pay any penalties. This guide looks at the important aspects of breaking a lease in North Carolina and the important steps you can take if you find yourself in such a situation.

North Carolina Lease Laws – Tenant Rights & Responsibilities When Signing a Lease in North Carolina

lease agreement in north carolina

A lease (or rental agreement) is a written, signed, and dated contract between a landlord and a tenant at the time a tenant leases a property from the landlord. If you’re wondering how to break a lease in North Carolina, lease agreements typically include both parties’ rights and responsibilities, as well as other additional information that the landlord deems as important. 

Your Rights as a Tenant

Breaking a lease in NC can be free, depending on your living conditions. As a tenant in the state of North Carolina, you have the right to fair housing, which means the property you are leasing must comply with local safety and housing regulations. You won’t need to ask how to break a lease in North Carolina if any damages occur to the property, because you should notify the landlord in writing. If the landlord doesn’t respond or repair the damage within the specified time frame, you have the right as a tenant in North Carolina to stop paying rent until the landlord completes the required repairs. You also have the right to terminate a lease if the unit becomes uninhabitable.

Your Responsibilities as a Tenant

According to North Carolina lease laws, your responsibilities as a tenant are to pay your rent on time, keep the property in good repair, and not disturb other neighbors and tenants. Along with these general legal guidelines, your landlord may request additional rules you must abide by that are covered in the North Carolina lease agreement. 

What Happens if You Break a Lease in North Carolina

If you’re breaking a lease in North Carolina, it can’t be for just any reason. Some common reasons that aren’t allowed are a job relocation, backing out after signing but before moving in, and buying a house. 

If you have no legal justification for terminating a lease early, you are potentially liable for the remaining rent due for the lease. However, the landlord is required to seek another tenant to minimize the damages you owe. If another tenant is found before the lease period is up, you can only be held responsible for the amount of time the unit was vacant. 

The potential consequences for breaking a lease in NC include:

  • The landlord keeps your security deposit
  • The landlord sues you for damages
  • Your credit score goes down
  • Bad reference when trying to rent in another place

How to Get Out of a Lease in North Carolina

breaking a lease in nc

In North Carolina, you can cancel your lease without penalty if one of several conditions is met. If you need to know how to get out of a lease in North Carolina, the following are valid reasons for terminating a lease early without penalty:

Active Military Duty

Federal law allows active military service members who are relocated, due to deployment or permanent change of station, to end a lease early without penalty. This applies in North Carolina and all states. To qualify to break a lease early in North Carolina for military duty, you must:

  • Be an active duty member of the military, Reserve, National Guard, or be a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 
  • Receive a permanent change of station order or deployment orders for a period of at least 90 days.  
  • Have signed the lease prior to active military service.
  • Provide the landlord with written notice and proper documentation. 

Early Termination Clause

Whether you’re breaking an apartment lease in North Carolina or a full home, you should check your lease first. If an early termination clause exists in your lease, you can break the lease early in North Carolina without penalty. Early termination clauses allow you to end your lease 30 to 60 days after providing notice. Even if your lease doesn’t have an early termination clause, you still can terminate your lease early if both you and the landlord agree on it. You will need a written agreement stipulating the terms of the agreement that is signed by both parties.

Domestic or Sexual Violence

Victims of domestic or sexual violence are protected by local North Carolina ordinances, which allow them to terminate a lease early without facing any penalties or consequences. The following reasons qualify as domestic violence in North Carolina to terminate a lease early:

  • It is committed against the tenant or child of a tenant by a household member
  • It is intended to cause harm, injury, or sexual assault, or it reasonably places the victim in fear of imminent harm or assault

A copy of a court-issued temporary injunction, temporary ex parte order, protective order, or an order of emergency protection is sufficient proof of domestic violence. In North Carolina, the documented proof must be provided to the landlord along with 30 days’ written notice of termination to terminate a lease early for domestic violence. 

Uninhabitable Living Conditions

In North Carolina, a tenant is allowed to break a lease early, without penalty, due to uninhabitable living conditions. This includes certain health and safety codes not being met and the landlord not responding to the tenant’s request to make repairs within a reasonable amount of time. The lack of health and safety standards cannot be a result of the tenant’s actions or negligence. Examples of health and safety codes not being met include:

  • Faulty electrical and plumbing appliances
  • Faulty heating, ventilating, and air conditioning
  • Inoperable smoke alarms
  • Improper water and sewage services
  • Non-functioning carbon monoxide alarms
  • Any other situation that affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant 

You must notify the landlord of the uninhabitable conditions in writing and have proof of the conditions, as in photos. The notification should indicate that you are terminating the lease because your landlord has not resolved the issues. 

Tenant Death

breaking a lease in north carolina

According to North Carolina law, a tenant’s estate can terminate a lease early, without penalty, if a tenant dies before the expiration of a lease. The tenant who signed the lease must have been the only occupant over 18 years old. A death certificate and written notification of early termination of the lease is required by the deceased tenant’s estate. The tenant’s estate will be responsible for any past due rent and any damages to the premises at the time of termination.

Unenforceable or Voidable Lease

If there are unenforceable clauses or provisions in the lease, it becomes voidable in North Carolina and is terminated immediately as if it were never signed. The tenant can move out immediately without any penalty. Any security deposits paid must be returned. Unenforceable or voidable leases include:

  • A lease signed under duress
  • A tenant who is a minor (under the age of 18)
  • A unit that is illegal for residential use

Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation

In North Carolina, landlord harassment or privacy violations constitute grounds for breaking a lease early without penalty. The following behavior qualifies as landlord harassment:

  • Unauthorized entry: In North Carolina, landlords are required to provide notice (typically 24 hours) before entering a tenant’s home. 
  • Constructive Eviction: A landlord can’t remove exterior windows or doors, turn off utilities, or change the locks without the tenant’s permission. 
  • Refusing to Make Necessary Repairs or Maintain the Property: North Carolina has an implied warranty of habitability law that requires landlords to make timely repairs and keep up with property maintenance. Failure to do so may be grounds for landlord harassment.
  • Engaging in Discrimination: The Fair Housing Act restricts a landlord from discriminating against a tenant based on race, religion, national origin, and gender.

You will need to file a complaint with the North Carolina District Court for landlord harassment or privacy violations. The North Carolina renters’ rights for breaking a lease will help you here to break without penalty. 

Mental or Physical Disability

A mental or physical disability is just cause in North Carolina to break a lease early without penalty. If the tenant is no longer able to function in a regular rental unit and needs specialized care, documentation of the physical or mental impairment is required. Here are some diseases and conditions that qualify as mental or physical disabilities:

  • Muscular dystrophy
  • HIV
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Autism
  • Heart disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Visual, speech, or hearing impairments

Landlord Retaliation

In North Carolina, a tenant can break a lease early if a landlord retaliates against the tenant. Under North Carolina law, Landlord retaliation results when a tenant:

  • Exercises or attempts to exercise their rights under the law
  • Requests a repair or remedy under law or the lease
  • Complains to a governmental entity responsible for enforcing building or housing codes, a public utility, or a civic or nonprofit agency

The landlord does any of the following:

  • Files, or threatens to file, an eviction proceeding
  • Bans the tenant from common areas
  • Decreases services, such as heat or hot water
  • Refuses to make repairs
  • Increases rent
  • Terminates the lease

To terminate a lease for landlord retaliation in North Carolina, you must file a complaint or petition with the North Carolina Magisterial District Court.

How to Minimize North Carolina Early Termination of Lease Penalty

If you do have to terminate your lease early but don’t have the legal right, here are some things you can do that might limit your exposure to penalties:

  • Provide as much notice as possible
  • Find a replacement tenant
  • Work out an agreement with the landlord
  • Sublet the property (if you are allowed to).

More Information on Tenant’s Rights to Break a Lease in North Carolina

Are you breaking your lease and relocating somewhere else? We hope this guide to how to break a lease in North Carolina helped! If so, Make a Move is here to help! We have the best North Carolina movers ready to serve you. Give us a call today at 704-378-8588 for a free quote!


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