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Landlord/Tenant – Attorney’s Fees – 15% – Outstanding Rent – Notice – Answer

Landlord/Tenant – Attorney’s Fees – 15% – Outstanding Rent – Notice – Answer

Finch v. Campus Habitat, L.L.C. (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-07-0422, 7 pp.) (Donna S. Stroud, J.) Appealed from Wilson County District Court. (William G. Stewart, J.) N.C. App. Full-text opinion.

Holding: The parties’ lease requires the plaintiff-tenant to pay any attorney’s fees incurred by the defendant-landlord as a result of a breach by the tenant. Since the lease does not specify a percentage, and since the trial court based its attorney’s fee award on G.S. § 6-21.2(2), the trial court was required to limit its attorney’s fee award to 15 percent of the outstanding balance on the lease. The trial court awarded the landlord $3,090 in unpaid rent; therefore, the attorney’s fee award should not have exceeded $463.50.

We reverse the trial court’s award of $4,458.50 in attorney’s fees. Remanded.

Although the landlord argues that the trial court could have awarded more than 15 percent of $3,090 in attorney’s fees under G.S. § 1-263, there is no mention of § 1-263 in the record below. We cannot assume that the trial court made a clerical error in its reference to § 6-21.2(2) instead of § 1-263.

Where it was the tenant who filed suit, the landlord’s counterclaim – which included a demand for attorney’s fees – satisfied the notice requirement of § 6-21.2.

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