5 On Your Side

5 On Your Side: Landlord, tenant rights with COVID-19

Posted May 27, 2020 4:58 p.m. EDT
Updated May 28, 2020 11:36 a.m. EDT

— The economic fallout of COVID-19 is staggering. Bills are piling up. Finances are tight.

So what happens when you can’t pay your rent?

Evictions have been on hold since March because courts closed, but a tsunami of evictions is expected when they finally do reopen.

5 On Your Side’s Monica Laliberte asked a local attorney about tenant and landlord rights.

"A lease is still a contract. It still has to be honored," said Brandon Robinson. "It’s just a question of when the landlord will be able to fully enforce, not if."

Robinson said that 'when' is tied to courts reopening, which now looks like it could be August.

He’s hearing two common questions from tenants.

Does a landlord have to work with you if lost your job because of COVID-19?

Robinson said the answer is no.

"If the landlord wants to enforce the lease, and the tenant breaches the contract for any reason, though especially for nonpayment of rent, the landlord has the right to enforce that," Robinson said.

The next most common question involves when tenants have to leave.

How long do I have before I absolutely lose my right to possession of the place that I rented?

It all depends, he said, on the eviction procedure.

"That entire process would typically take three to four weeks. This summer, it could possibly take twice as long, depending on how backlogged the courts are," he said.

If you’re struggling, Robinson suggested talking with your landlord to try and work something out.

Bottom line, rent can’t be ignored.

"I’m sure that not all landlords are being as compassionate as they could, but I think many are," he said.

Keep in mind, landlords have bills, too.

5 on your Side

Free legal help regarding COVID-19 issues this Friday

If you have additional questions about COVID-19 related issues, you can speak with an attorney for free this Friday.

WRAL is partnering with the North Carolina Bar Foundation for a mini 'Attorneys-on-call event,' similar to 5 On Your Side’s annual phone bank in March.

Call 919-891-9779 this Friday, May 29, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Have your concise question ready with a pen and paper for the information.

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