19-6.1. Forfeiture of real property.

In all actions where a preliminary injunction, permanent injunction, or an order of abatement is issued pursuant to this Article in which the nuisance consists of or includes at least two prior occurrences within five years of the manufacture, possession with intent to sell, or sale of controlled substances as defined by the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act, two prior occurrences of the possession of any controlled substance included within Schedule I or II of that Act, or two prior convictions within five years of violation of G.S. 14-72.7, the real property on which the nuisance exists or is maintained is subject to forfeiture in accordance with this section. In the case of the two prior convictions of G.S. 14-72.7, the convictions shall not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence.

If all of the owners of the property are defendants in the action, the plaintiff, other than a plaintiff who is a private citizen, may request forfeiture of the real property as part of the relief sought. If forfeiture is requested, and if jurisdiction over all defendant owners is established, upon judgment against the defendant or defendants, the court shall order forfeiture as follows:

(1) If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that all the owners either (i) have participated in maintaining the nuisance on the property, or (ii) prior to the action had written notice from the plaintiff, or any governmental agent or entity authorized to bring an action pursuant to this Chapter, that the nuisance existed or was maintained on the property and have not made good faith efforts to stop the nuisance from occurring or recurring, the court shall order that the property be forfeited;

(2) If the court finds that one or more of the owners did not participate in maintaining the nuisance on the property or did not have written notice from the plaintiff prior to the action that the nuisance existed or was maintained on the property, the court shall not order forfeiture of the property immediately upon judgment. However, if after judgment and an order directing the defendants to abate the nuisance, the nuisance either continues, begins again, or otherwise recurs within five years of the order and the defendants have not made good faith efforts to abate the nuisance, the plaintiff may petition the court for forfeiture. Upon such petition, the defendant owner or owners shall be given notice and an opportunity to appear and be heard at a hearing to determine the continuation or recurrence of the nuisance. If, in this hearing (i) the plaintiff establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the nuisance, with the owner's or owners' knowledge, has either continued, begun again, or otherwise recurred, and (ii) the defendants fail to establish that they have made and are continuing to make good faith efforts to abate the nuisance, the court shall order that the property be forfeited.

For the purposes of this section, factors which may evidence good faith by the defendant to abate the nuisance include but are not limited to (i) cooperation with law enforcement authorities to abate the nuisance; (ii) lease restrictions prohibiting the illegal possession or sale of narcotic drugs and an action to evict a tenant for any violations of the lease provision; (iii) a criminal record check of prospective tenants; and (iv) reference checks of prior residency of prospective tenants.

Upon an order of forfeiture, title to the property shall vest in the school board of the county in which the property is located. If at the time of forfeiture the property is subject to a lien or security interest of a person not participating in the maintenance of the nuisance, the school board shall either (i) pay an amount to that person satisfying the lien or security interest; or (ii) sell the property and satisfy the lien or security interest from the proceeds of the sale. If the property is not subject to any lien or security interest at the time of forfeiture, the school board may hold, maintain, lease, sell, or otherwise dispose of the property as it sees fit.

Upon the filing of the action, the plaintiff may file a notice of lis pendens in the official records of the county where the property is located. If the plaintiff files a notice of lis pendens, any person purchasing or obtaining an interest in the property thereafter shall be considered to have notice of the alleged nuisance, and shall forfeit his interest in the property upon a judgment of forfeiture in favor of the plaintiff.

If in the same action in which real property is forfeited the court finds that a tenant or occupant of the property participated in or maintained the nuisance, the lease or other title under which the tenant or occupant holds is void, and the right of possession vests in the new owner. Upon forfeiture, the rights of innocent tenants occupying separate units of the property who were not involved in the nuisance at the time the action was filed shall be in accordance with any relevant lease provisions in effect at the time or, in the absence of relevant lease provisions, in accordance with the law applying to other tenants or occupants of property that is sold, foreclosed upon, or otherwise obtained by new owners. (1995, c. 528, s. 2; 1999-371, s. 10; 2007-178, s. 4.)