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Landlord/Tenant — Residential Lease – Property’s Deficiencies – Insufficient Findings – Notice

Stines v. Carter (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-16-0373, 15 pp.) (Martha Geer, J.) Appealed from Buncombe County District Court (J. Calvin Hill, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: One month after the defendant-tenant was summarily ejected, a fire marshal’s report detailed numerous deficiencies in the mobile home that the tenant had rented from the plaintiff-landlord. While the trial court found that the deficiencies were “mostly cosmetic in nature,” the court did not identify which deficiencies were not cosmetic and why those deficiencies did not breach the implied warranty of habitability, nor did the court determine how those deficiencies affected the fair rental value of the property.

We reverse in part and remand for further findings of fact and, potentially, an award of damages. We affirm the trial court’s determination that the landlord is entitled to possession of the premises and back rent.

On remand, if the trial court determines that the landlord had notice that the home was uninhabitable but continued to demand rent, the court may treble the amount of damages owed to the tenant, if any, for the amount of rent the tenant actually paid in excess of the fair market rental value of the property in its defective condition.

Because the lease expressly gives the landlord the right to terminate the lease upon the tenant’s nonpayment of rent and reserves the landlord’s right of re-entry, the 10-day demand provision of G.S. § 42-3 does not apply in this case.


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