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Richard, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 53715
Experience:  32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.
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I have a commercial tenant that signed a three year lease

Customer Question

I have a commercial tenant that signed a three year lease and have consistently been late for the past 2 years. Now he hasn't paid in two months and will not answer my emails concerning the 2 months rent and late fees owed. What should I do? File a smalls claim for the two months , demand payment, change the locks,? Also he still has 4 months left on his three year lease agreement. Please advise as soon as possible. Catherine Hamlin
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Richard replied 2 months ago.

Hi Catherine. My name is ***** ***** I will be helping you today! It will take me just a few minutes to type a response to your question. Thanks for your patience!

Expert:  Richard replied 2 months ago.

North Carolina is one of the states that prohibits "self-help" eviction for commercial lease. Therefore, you would need to go through the same process with your commercial tenant that you would have to do with a residential tenant. Which means you can't just lock him out. You have several options. You can file a small claims suit for the unpaid rent. Filing the suit give you the collection options and leverage you need to collect the debt owed you. That's because once the suit is filed and a judgment awarded, you become a judgment creditor, and if he doesn’t then pay the judgment, you can have the sheriff serve a summons on him for a debtor examination. That forces him to meet you in court again and answer questions under oath about his assets. After that information is obtained, you have the power to attach bank accounts, have the sheriff seize other personal property, and/or place liens on any non-homestead property he owns to satisfy the judgment.

You can also choose to evict him due to his default. Unfortunately, if he will not leave voluntarily, you do need to go through the legal process to avoid being accused of an illegal eviction. Since he is in default, you can go straight to giving him a 10-Day Notice to Quit under NC law....meaning he must vacate the premises within that period or face formal eviction. Then, if he still has not left, you will have to file a petition for an ejectment order. Once that is can have the sheriff evict. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to move his stuff out, change the locks, shut off his utilities,or take any other means of "self-help" eviction prior to obtaining the eviction order.

This is the part of my job I don't like...when the law is not in favor of my customer. I wish I could tell you that you could just force him out immediately, but I can only provide you information based on the law so that you can act on the best available information to you. ………..I wish I had better news, but can only hope you recognize and understand my predicament and don't shoot the messenger. I'm sorry!

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