Common Misconceptions Landlords and Tenants Have in North Carolina

Pittsboro Property Manager Eric Andrews explains common misconceptions landlords and tenants have when renting homes in North Carolina.

Speaker 1:           What are some misconceptions of landlords and tenants?

Speaker 2:           There’s a bunch. There’s a bunch. Well, let’s see. First of all, one of the biggest problems that we have in this office is rent is due on the first. It is late after the fifth and so every tenant in the world seems to think that means that the rent’s not due until the fifth. Unfortunately, people have stuff that happens on the fifth. Get a flat tire, car breaks down, kid gets sick and somehow you don’t get here on the fifth and then you come on the sixth and then you’re all upset that you have a late fee because you were late. They’re like, “Man, I’m just 12 hours later. I’m just 24 hours late.” No, you’re six days late. It’s due on the first. So that’s one of the misconceptions and tenants seem to have a tough time with that, but we have more people pay on the fifth than any day. We do have some clients that actually pay before the first, which is wonderful, but not very common.

The other thing that is a misconception are pests. You move into a place, it’s clean. There’s no pests. You’ve been there for three or four months and now if there’s roaches or ants, or mice, first of all, Chatham County’s in the country. We have all those things. But pest eradication is… Everyone lives differently. There are different houses. There are different areas of intrusion or whatever, but pest eradication is the responsibility of the tenant. It’s not up to the landlord. So that’s one misconception tenants have that gets them pretty upset.

Another big thing is landscaping’s negotiable, but landscaping needs to be in the contract from the get go. So when it comes to landscaping, mowing the lawn, I can’t get you an increase in rent what the landscaping will cost you, but I promise you a landscaping company or a landlord will do a better job with the landscaping than the tenant will. Nothing against tenants, but tenants won’t spend money on mulch, won’t trim the bushes. Won’t do the things that a normal landscaper will do. They won’t edge. They won’t weed eat it the same but that needs to be negotiated up front. So I might can only get you 150, $200 extra if you provide the landscaping and then it’s going to cost you 250 or $300. You’re like, “Eric, that’s not good economics.” But I promise you, it is good economics.

First of all, my landscapers know what else is going on at the house. They call and tell me, “Eric, there’s five cars there. They’re parking on the septic tank. There’s a bunch of cigarette butts off the back porch or whatever.” We know the condition of the house and so that gives us reason to maybe do another inspection. If you go two years with a tenant and they’re not keeping up with the landscaping, and then we have to redo it, it’s probably going to be two and a half, three grand anyways and that’s what you would’ve spent on the landscaping. So I highly recommend that the landlords take care of the landscaping, but not everybody does that. I understand things are tight.

HVAC is a big one. We had an HVAC go out on Labor Day, Monday. It is a holiday. HVAC people need vacations too. So it’s unfortunate when heating or air goes out. It seems like we get many, many calls Friday evening. If I get a call Friday evening and your air or your heat is out, it’s probably going to be Monday or Tuesday before it gets fixed. We’re just not able to get in touch with them and the lease stipulates that the landlord has to get that fixed in a reasonable amount of time. A reasonable amount of time depends on the circumstances. I’ll tell you right now, if a hurricane comes through and a bunch of HVACs get knocked out a reasonable amount of time to get an HVAC fixed right now might be two, three, or even four weeks. The one on that went out on Labor Day, we got fixed in less than 48 hours. That’s certainly a reasonable amount of time.

Of course, the tenant’s very upset. They’re in a hot house or they’re in a cold house and they want to have it taken care of immediately. If you were a homeowner, you’re not going to get it done immediately. I mean, we do the best that we can. Not only that, as a property management company, we deal with so many HVAC companies that they really put us on the top of the list. Because we give them so much business they’re very, very good to us, but you don’t get to… You can call me and cry and whine and say, “My air is out. I’m going to a nice hotel and I’m charging you.” That’s not going to happen. I get that all the time, but as a tenant, we’re going to do a good job. We’re going to get it done. Please understand that we’re not purposely waiting. Of course, we want you to have a nice, cool or warm environment, but timely manner is what it says right in the North Carolina contract.

The reason why it says timely manner and not a specific because things change. If we have a cold snap, if it’s a bunch of warm days and all of a sudden it’s a cold snap, there’s a lot of HVACs that aren’t going to turn over and do that heat thing right away. So it’s going to be really, really busy that week. So timely manner.

Other misconception that landlords and tenants have are pets and service animals. Service animals are not pets. A service animal, he is protected and as a tenant you are allowed to have a service animal. That doesn’t mean you get to go to your doctor and get your ferret signed up as an emotional support animal. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a highly trained animal that is certified as a service animal, and that’s much different.

Speaker 1:           It can cost $30,000.

Speaker 2:           It can cost 30… I’d much rather have a service animal in one of my rentals than some of the kids. I mean, they’re amazing well trained animal. One of my best, best friends, he gets golden retrievers that are failed service animals and these are the best dogs I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I can’t believe that they failed the program, but that just gives you an idea of how strict the program, the qualification is for the animal. So unfortunately, landlords say no animals whatsoever. Service animal is an exclusion, but you’re not going to get a doctor’s note so you can have your three cats. We’re not putting up with that or whatever. So there are some guidelines, differences between pets and service animal. Emotional support may or may not be a service animal, but a service animal we’ll know.

Landlords in North Carolina can discriminate. There’s all sorts of bad things and this office is certainly not discriminatory or whatever, but landlords, an individual landlord is allowed to discriminate. If you come to my firm, if you’re dealing with a property management company as a moral reason, we’re not going to discriminate, but also legally we can’t discriminate. So you can’t come to a property management company and say, “I’m not going to rent to these people.” We don’t do that as a real estate firm and we don’t condone that when other people do, but you need to know that in North Carolina landlords can discriminate individually. It happens. It’s awful and everything, but if a landlord comes to us, we’re certainly not going to discriminate.

However, there is one discrimination that is legal on the books that I don’t know if everybody knows, but it is a law. North Carolina is one of five states where unmarried couples can be discriminated against. So you have a couple that is not married. There are some property management firms will say, “Well, we have to have the same number of bedrooms as adults.” Or you’re allowed to discriminate against a couple that…

Speaker 1:           I can see a boyfriend or girlfriend moving in and then break up three months later.

Speaker 2:           Right. But that’s not the reason. The reason is it’s actually an archaic blue law. It’s a religious law. North Carolina regards it is living in sin. So, but yeah, we want to have everybody on the lease and everything. It’s not something that we do as an office, and I’ve never had a landlord do that. But if a landlord requested it, they’re within their means to do so, because that actually is a law in North Carolina.

Speaker 1:           Now can one person be financially… Does one person have to be financially responsible for it all, or can both people?

Speaker 2:           Our policy is that all of the adults living in the house need to be on the lease. That’s our policy. And all of the adults living in the abode or on the lease have to go through a credit check as well. So it stops a little bit of that. Well, I wasn’t on the lease and we’ve had situations where I’ve seen at other property management firms, you have two adults living in the place. One is on the lease. They move out. The one that’s not on the lease is still there. You can’t have that. So as a property management firm, we certainly protect the tenants, make sure that everything’s going okay for the tenants. But our fiduciary responsibility is to the landlord. We’re working for the landlord and we want to make sure that we have a solid lease and we know who’s paying for it.

Then the other misconception is that evictions are hard. You see stuff on TV court shows or you hear stories about people in New York or California, and perhaps it’s different in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, but in district 15B, which is our court district, evictions are not difficult. The magistrates here believe that you have signed a lease. You are obligated to pay and if you don’t pay, you will be removed from the premises. So there is a legal process that we have to go through and we go through it rarely in this office, but we do know how to do it and we are undefeated. We’re batting a thousand as far as evictions are concerned.

It’s pretty rock solid. You’ll have tenants come into court and think that they’re going to have a Perry Mason moment. They’ll show pictures of something that’s not right with the house. It is up to the landlord to fix that imperfection, but it’s not an excuse for you not to pay rent. So what the tenant needs to do is they need to pay their rent and then they can take the landlord to court and that will have to be corrected. But if you go in there and say, “I’m not paying rent because the landlord has done X, Y, and Z,” magistrate slams the gavel down and says, “Pay your rent. You’re still out.” So misconceptions as far as landlord and tenants but I think we’ve been doing this for a long time so we’re getting it down.