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North Carolina real estate and property laws govern ownership, transfers, and disputes. Adverse possession allows individuals to acquire property through 20 years of open and continuous possession. Property disputes, including boundary issues, easements, and encroachments, led to approximately 1,300 real property cases filed in North Carolina courts in 2020. In the notable case of "Dixon v. Dixon," the state's Supreme Court clarified the requirements for proving adverse possession. Local governments regulate land use and zoning through ordinances, ensuring compatible development. Landlord-tenant laws protect both parties' rights, with the Residential Rental Agreements Act governing lease agreements, security deposits, and eviction procedures. Consulting specialized attorneys is crucial for comprehensive understanding and specific legal advice in real estate matters.

North Carolina Homestead Laws

North Carolina's homestead laws provide certain exemptions and protections for homeowners. A homestead, including dwellings and associated buildings, up to a value set by the General Assembly (minimum $1,000), or a lot in a city or town with dwellings and buildings of the same value, owned and occupied by a state resident, is exempt from sale under execution or final process for debts. However, exemptions do not apply to taxes or obligations related to the property's purchase. When the owner passes away, any debt payments for the homestead are waived until the owner's children reach adulthood. Suppose the owner dies and a surviving spouse exists but has no minor children. In that case, the homestead is exempt from the owner's debts, and the surviving spouse benefits from the rents and profits until remarriage unless they have a separate homestead. The owner of a homestead can transfer it by deed, but if married, the spouse's signature and acknowledgment are required.

What is considered a homestead in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a homestead is generally defined as the homeowner's primary residence and the land and buildings associated with it. The specific criteria for what qualifies as a homestead may vary depending on the context and purpose.

According to the North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 1, Article 10, Section 1, a homestead is described as "every homestead and the dwellings and buildings used therewith, to a value fixed by the General Assembly but not less than $1,000, to be selected by the owner thereof." This definition indicates that the homestead includes the primary dwelling and any structures used in conjunction with it, such as garages or outbuildings.

Do I get a tax break on my homestead in North Carolina?

Yes, homeowners in North Carolina may be eligible for a tax break on their homestead through the Homestead Exclusion program. The program allows qualifying individuals to exclude a portion of the assessed value of their primary residence from property taxes. The exact amount of the exclusion varies each year and is set by the North Carolina General Assembly.

To be eligible, the homeowner must meet certain criteria, such as being at least 65 years old or totally and permanently disabled. The exclusion amount and eligibility requirements can change, so it's important to refer to the most up-to-date information provided by the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

The North Carolina Department of Revenue's website provides detailed information about the Homestead Exclusion program, including eligibility requirements, application procedures, and the current exclusion amounts. Homeowners can consult the website or contact the Department of Revenue directly for further assistance and to ensure they meet the criteria for receiving a tax break on their homestead.

North Carolina Property Lines and Fence Laws

In North Carolina, property line disputes are typically resolved through civil actions and legal proceedings. Property owners are encouraged to establish clear boundaries through surveys or boundary agreements to prevent conflicts. When it comes to fencing, local zoning ordinances and homeowners' association rules often dictate the specific requirements for height, materials, and placement of fences.

Fencing Laws

North Carolina property line and fencing laws govern issues related to property boundaries and the construction and maintenance of fences. Property owners are advised to establish clear boundaries through surveys or boundary agreements to prevent disputes. Fencing requirements may be dictated by local zoning ordinances and homeowners' association rules, specifying factors like height, materials, and placement of fences. In property line disputes, civil actions and legal proceedings are typically used for resolution. It is important to consult the most recent and specific legal resources or seek guidance from a qualified attorney to ensure compliance with North Carolina's property line and fencing laws.


In North Carolina, fencing laws primarily pertain to landowners who own livestock. Unlike some western states where cattle are allowed to roam freely, North Carolina follows a "fencing-in" approach. This means that livestock owners are responsible for containing their cattle within fenced areas. Adjoining landowners who want to keep cattle out must erect their own fences.

Spite Fences

In North Carolina, the courts have established legal principles concerning "spite fences," which refer to walls or fences constructed with no purpose other than to intentionally annoy a neighbor. Such fences may be deemed a nuisance if they obstruct the flow of light and air to the neighboring property.

Tree Trimming Laws

In North Carolina, there are several important aspects to consider regarding property and vegetation. Firstly, it is considered a misdemeanor to trespass on someone else's land and intentionally damage or harm their trees, plants, or crops. However, it's worth noting that a landowner is typically not held liable for healthy tree limbs that naturally fall onto a neighbor's property due to natural occurrences or Acts of God. In addition, a neighboring property owner has the right to trim tree branches that encroach onto their property up to the property line. These provisions help establish guidelines for maintaining neighborly relations and addressing issues related to vegetation boundaries in North Carolina.

North Carolina Adverse Possession Laws

Adverse possession is a legal concept that allows individuals to gain ownership rights to another person's property under certain conditions. In North Carolina, the laws regarding adverse possession are outlined in the state statutes.

Actual Possession 

The person must have actual possession of the property, meaning physical occupation and control of the land.

Open and Notorious Possession 

The possession must be visible and known to others without attempts to conceal it. It should put the true owner on notice of the adverse claim.

Continuous Possession

The person must maintain uninterrupted possession of the property for a period of at least 20 years.

Exclusive Possession

The possession must be exclusive, meaning the person has sole control and is not sharing the property with others, including the true owner.

Hostile Possession (Trespassing)

The possession must be without the owner's permission or consent, asserting a claim of ownership in opposition to the true owner's rights.

Payment of Property Taxes

The adverse possessor must demonstrate payment of property taxes on the land during the statutory period.

Statutory Periods

The statutory period for adverse possession in North Carolina is typically 20 years.

To establish a claim of adverse possession, the adverse possessor must demonstrate continuous and uninterrupted possession of the property for the entire 20-year period, along with meeting the other requirements outlined in the law.

Government Lands are Not Immune to Adverse Possession

Under North Carolina law, the same principles and requirements for adverse possession generally apply to both private and government-owned lands. This means that an individual seeking to establish adverse possession against government-owned land would need to meet the necessary elements, such as continuous and uninterrupted possession, open and notorious possession, hostile possession, and fulfillment of the statutory period (typically 20 years in North Carolina).

North Carolina Concealed Handgun Laws

In North Carolina, the laws regarding concealed handguns are outlined in the North Carolina General Statutes, specifically in Chapter 14, Article 54B. Here are some key points regarding concealed handguns in North Carolina:

Concealed Carry Permits 

To carry a concealed handgun in North Carolina, individuals must obtain a Concealed Carry Handgun (CCH) permit from their local county sheriff's office. The permit allows the holder to carry a concealed handgun in most public places, subject to certain restrictions and exceptions.

Eligibility Requirements

An applicant for a CCH permit must be at least 21 years old (or 18 years old for certain military personnel), be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, and meet other specific requirements such as completing a background check and providing fingerprints.

Permitting Process

The process for obtaining a CCH permit involves the following:

  • Completing an application.

  • Submitting the required documents and fees.

  • Undergoing a background check.

  • Completing a fingerprint-based criminal history record check.

Restrictions and Prohibited Places

While a CCH permit allows for concealed carry in most public places, there are exceptions and restrictions. It is generally prohibited to carry a concealed handgun in areas such as schools, government buildings, law enforcement facilities, and private properties that expressly prohibit firearms.


North Carolina has reciprocity agreements with several other states, allowing individuals with valid concealed carry permits from those states to carry concealed handguns in North Carolina, provided they comply with North Carolina laws.

North Carolina Lease and Rental Agreement Laws

In North Carolina, lease and rental agreement laws are primarily governed by the North Carolina General Statutes, particularly Chapter 42, "Landlord and Tenant." Here are key aspects of lease and rental agreement laws in North Carolina:

Written Lease

While written leases are not always required, it is advisable to have a written agreement in place to establish the terms and conditions of the tenancy. A written lease helps protect the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants.

Security Deposits

Landlords may collect a security deposit from tenants, typically not exceeding the equivalent of one and a half months' rent. There are specific rules regarding the handling, use, and return of security deposits, including providing an itemized list of deductions within 30 days of the lease termination.

Rental Payments

Landlords must provide tenants with a receipt for any payment made in cash unless the tenant pays through a personal check or money order. The landlord is required to provide written notice of any changes to the rental amount or payment terms.

Tenant Privacy

Landlords must respect the privacy of tenants and may enter the rental unit only under specific circumstances, such as emergencies or with prior notice for repairs or inspections.

Repairs and Maintenance

Landlords must maintain the rental property in a habitable condition and promptly address necessary repairs. Tenants must notify landlords of any repair needs and allow reasonable time for repairs to be made.

Lease Termination and Eviction

Specific rules and procedures exist for terminating a lease or evicting a tenant. For example, landlords must provide proper notice and follow legal procedures when seeking to terminate a tenancy or evict a tenant.

North Carolina Law Concerning Real Estate Fraud

In the state of North Carolina, real estate fraud is a serious offense that is addressed under various statutes and regulations. Here are some key aspects of real estate fraud laws in North Carolina:

North Carolina General Statutes

Real estate fraud laws are primarily covered under Chapter 14, Article 23 of the North Carolina General Statutes. This article specifically addresses offenses related to real estate, including fraud, false pretenses, and obtaining property by false pretenses.

Mortgage Fraud

Mortgage fraud involves deceptive practices related to mortgage loans and the real estate financing process. It may include activities such as falsifying loan documents, misrepresenting information, identity theft, or fraudulent appraisal schemes. Mortgage fraud is a serious offense in North Carolina and can be prosecuted under various state and federal laws.

Fraudulent Property Transactions

North Carolina has laws prohibiting fraudulent property transactions, such as schemes where individuals deceive others into transferring property ownership or manipulating property titles for personal gain. These offenses can be charged as fraud or obtaining property by false pretenses.

Real Estate Disclosure Requirements

North Carolina has specific laws regarding real estate disclosures. Sellers of residential properties are required to provide certain disclosures, such as disclosing known material defects or hazards that may affect the value or desirability of the property.

Enforcement and Penalties

Real estate fraud offenses in North Carolina can lead to criminal charges, civil lawsuits, or both. The penalties can vary depending on the severity of the offense, and individuals found guilty of real estate fraud may face imprisonment, fines, restitution, or other legal consequences.

It is important to consult the North Carolina General Statutes, specifically Chapter 14, Article 23, for detailed legal provisions and definitions related to real estate fraud. Additionally, seeking guidance from a qualified attorney who specializes in real estate law can provide further clarification and assistance in understanding the specific laws and regulations governing real estate fraud in North Carolina.

Who Regulates Real Estate Laws in North Carolina?

Real estate laws in North Carolina are regulated and enforced by multiple entities at the state level. Here are the key regulatory bodies involved in overseeing real estate laws in North Carolina:

North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC)

The NCREC is responsible for regulating and licensing real estate professionals, including real estate agents, brokers, and property managers. The commission ensures compliance with the North Carolina Real Estate License Law and sets standards for ethical conduct and professional competence in the industry.

North Carolina Department of Justice

The North Carolina Department of Justice plays a significant role in enforcing and prosecuting real estate fraud and other related offenses. It investigates complaints, initiates legal actions, and works to protect consumers from fraudulent activities in the real estate sector.

North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI)

The NCDOI oversees various aspects of insurance-related matters in North Carolina, including the regulation of title insurance. Title insurance is a crucial component of real estate transactions, and the NCDOI ensures compliance with applicable laws and regulations in this area.

Local Governments

Local governments, including cities and counties, have their own planning and zoning departments that enforce local land-use regulations and building codes. These departments oversee matters such as zoning restrictions, building permits, and compliance with local ordinances related to real estate.

What is the Statute of Limitations in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the statutes of limitations for property laws and real estate-related claims can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the nature of the claim. Here are some common statutes of limitations in North Carolina related to property and real estate:

Adverse Possession

The statute of limitations for adverse possession claims in North Carolina is generally 20 years. This means that if someone occupies another person's property openly, notoriously, and without the owner's permission for a continuous period of 20 years, they may acquire legal ownership of the property.


The statute of limitations for trespass claims in North Carolina is generally three years. If someone unlawfully enters or remains on another person's property without permission, the property owner typically has three years from the date of the trespass to file a legal claim.

Property Damage

The statute of limitations for property damage claims in North Carolina is generally three years. This applies to situations where someone's property is damaged due to the actions or negligence of another party.

Quiet Title Actions

Quiet title actions are legal proceedings used to establish clear ownership of a property when there are competing claims or uncertainties regarding ownership. The statute of limitations for quiet title actions in North Carolina is generally ten years.

It's important to note that these time limits can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the type of claim. It is advisable to consult the North Carolina General Statutes, particularly Chapter 1, Article 5, for the specific details and any potential exceptions or modifications to the statutes of limitations.

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