Local government 101: Renters’ rights and resources in Buncombe County

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, learn about responsibilities and rights under the law — plus, some local resources and organizations.


Have a home sweet home in the Land of the Sky.

Class is in session, Asheville. We’re teaching AVL GOV 101, where we break down different aspects of our local government so we can become engaged citizens who create healthier (and more effective) communities.

At the request of reader Janet R., we’re investing in the rental market. No, we don’t mean we’re buying a house to rent out — we’re just dedicating an article to it. So make yourself at home while we talk landlords’ and renters’ rights, responsibilities, and resources.

Most legal rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords are established at the state level, like under the Residential Rental Agreement Act and NC General Statue 42 (specifically for a “dwelling unit” and not a vacation rental), so let’s start with the big picture basics.

If you’re a tenant

  • Always top of the list is that you have to pay your rent on time.
  • You also have to keep the place clean, safe, and free from damage — if you or even a guest of yours causes damage, you might be responsible for it.
  • If you decide to move out at the end of the lease, you have to give notice. Most leases will specify notice requirements, but if they don’t, NC requires two days for weekly rent, seven days for monthly rent, and one month for a year-to-year lease.

If you’re a landlord

  • You have to comply with local codes (like the City of Asheville’s minimum housing code and Buncombe County’s rental housing ordinance).
  • The dwelling has to be in a fit and habitable condition — that includes common areas being kept in safe condition and providing operable smoke alarms.
  • Facilities and appliances that you provide the tenant have to be kept in safe working order and repaired promptly when a request is made.
  • There’s a limit on security deposit amounts. For example, a security deposit can’t exceed two months’ rent for lease terms greater than month to month. The deposit has to be returned within 30 days, and if there’s damage, you have to give an itemized cost of repairs.
  • Late fees are allowed, but they can’t exceed $15 or 5% of the rent (and can’t be imposed until rent is at least five days late).

Rely on local resources

There are a lot of particulars to the laws, but if you don’t want to scour through all of them, Legal Aid of North Carolina has a quick breakdown of some essentials. You can also search the General Statues by keyword or citation.

Let’s return closer to home, though. If you have a physical problem with your rental and need to file a complaint, you can contact the City of Asheville’s Housing Code Coordinator with the details. Buncombe County provides a resource on fair housing choice to protect from housing discrimination.

You can also check out renter resources, like rental assistance, from Buncombe County and local nonprofit partners, and the Buncombe Rental Assistance Collaborative helps both tenants and landlords with housing insecurity challenges.