North Carolina is one of the least accommodating states in the country for renters, according to a new study by the apartment search website RENTCafé. The report analyzed landlord-tenant laws in all fifty states and the District of Columbia and then ranked states based on those criteria.
The results for North Carolina are pretty dismal. The Tar Heel state ranks forty-ninth on RENTCafé’s list, scoring above only Arkansas and West Virginia. (In Arkansas, which earned the last place, tenants can actually face criminal charges for failing to vacate following an eviction.)
Why was North Carolina’s score so low? First, it’s important to explain the study’s methodology. The report zeroed in on ten key parts of the landlord-tenant relationship: security deposit maximums, deadlines for returning security deposits, rent increase notices, repair and deduct policies, withholding rent policies, landlord’s access to the property, termination notices for nonpayment, regular termination notices for tenancies at will, termination notices for lease violations, and abandoned tenant property. States were then awarded scores for each of the ten categories, earning a maximum of ten points and a minimum of zero. The states with the highest scores had the best laws for renters (e.g Vermont, which earned the number one spot with a score of ninety), while the states with the lowest scores had the worst laws for renters.
Here’s an overview of some of the categories for North Carolina, which earned an overall score of just twenty-five.
- Maximum security deposit for an apartment on a one-year lease: two months of rent in North Carolina, compared with one month of rent in Hawaii.
- Deadline for renters getting their security deposit back: in North Carolina, landlords are required to return security deposits within thirty days of the end of a lease. Landlords in Vermont, meanwhile, have just fourteen days to give the deposit back.
- Termination notice for nonpayment: if you’re in a squeeze and unable to come up with the money you need before your rent is due, the District of Columbia gives you thirty days before sending a termination notice your way. In North Carolina, you get ten days.
The report paints an overall picture of a state that values and prioritizes the rights of landlords over tenants. But it’s not just North Carolina. Looking at a nationwide map of scores, it’s clear that the states that prioritize tenant rights are primarily situated on the West Coast, Northeast, and Midwest. Southern states, by contrast—including North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas—have the lowest scores in the nation.
Those disparities, the report argues, can be best understood in the context of regional culture. As Southern states historically relied on agriculture, they valued land ownership and shaped rental laws to protect the rights of landowners and their properties. Northern states, meanwhile, created laws that regulated renting because much of the population there worked in factories and lived in crowded cities.