LEXINGTON, NC - So, you’re a landlord with a wonderful tenant who always pays their rent on time and keeps the property clean. But, what happens when the police call you to say they found over $800,000 worth of marijuana growing in the attic and your tenants were arrested in a drug operation?
Think you can just collect your keys and change the locks and rent the property all over again? Nope. North Carolina law says you have to legally evict the tenants.
It’s what a homeowner in the Indian Wells Circle neighborhood in Lexington is dealing with, after a massive marijuana operation was discovered inside the house. Renters, Hong Nguyen and Hai Nguyen (not related) were arrested Monday night, after 17 large trash bags (510 pounds of pot) were found inside the house.
Even though the two were arrested and charged, NC law requires the homeowner to file for eviction in order to get their property back. In fact, criminal defense attorney, James Borden said there isn’t any circumstance where a landlord can just change the locks and terminate the tenancy.
Borden said, “You still have to jump through these hoops. The law requires you to go through all these steps to get a legal rid of possession from the property.”
It means filing for eviction, waiting for the sheriff to serve the papers (even though the renters are in jail) wait for a judgment and then wait ten days for the appeal process before the landlord can have the property back.
Luckily, the landlord wouldn’t have to wait until a criminal trial to take action. Under NC law, a landlord can file for an expedited eviction for criminal activity and can get rid of anyone suspected of a criminal act in the property.
“You can eject everyone from the house, whether or not they were involved with the drugs. There is a way for an innocent bystander to try to assert the fact that they had no involvement with it, but generally everyone is told to leave the property,” said Borden.
Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said in the case of the drug bust in Lexington, the homeowner was unaware and not connected to the drug operation happening in his home. Hong and Hai rented the house, located not far from the Sapona Golf Course, for three years. In case anyone was wondering, the landlord has to give notice before going into the property they are renting out, even if suspected criminal acts are happening inside.
“Part of the law says you can’t just barge in,” said Borden. “And it’s kind of dangerous to just kick in the door of someone running a drug operation in your house.”
The house, is estimated to have over $100,000 in modifications to support the marijuana growing operation. Borden said there’s one word that sums up what a landlord could do in this situation. Sue.
“It’s the only thing anyone can ever really do is sue somebody, get a judgment and hope to collect on it later on.”
Borden, who works on many cases involving landlord/tenant disputes said it’s not a money making opportunity, as it could take months or even years to get the money to pay for damages.