28A-25-7. Removal of tangible personal property by landlord after death of residential tenant.

(a) When a decedent who is the sole occupant of a dwelling unit dies leaving tangible personal property in the dwelling unit, the landlord may take possession of the property upon the filing of an affidavit that complies with the provisions of subsection (b) of this section if all of the following conditions have been met:

(1) At least 10 days has elapsed from the date the paid rental period for the dwelling unit has expired.

(2) No personal representative, collector, or receiver has been appointed for the decedent's estate under the provisions of this Chapter, Chapter 28B, or Chapter 28C of the General Statutes in the county in which the dwelling unit is located.

(3) No affidavit related to the decedent's estate has been filed under the provisions of G.S. 28A-25-1 or G.S. 28A-25-1.1 in the county in which the dwelling unit is located.

(b) The affidavit required by subsection (a) of this section shall be on a form approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts and supplied by the clerk of court. The affidavit shall state all of the following:

(1) The name and address of the affiant and the fact that the affiant is the lessor of the dwelling unit.

(2) The name of the decedent and the fact that the decedent was the lessee and sole occupant of the dwelling unit and died leaving tangible personal property in the dwelling unit. The affiant shall attach to the affidavit a copy of the decedent's death certificate.

(3) The address of the dwelling unit.

(4) The date of the decedent's death.

(5) The date the paid rental period expired and the fact that at least 10 days has elapsed since that date.

(6) The affiant's good faith estimate of the value of the tangible personal property remaining in the dwelling unit. The affiant shall attach to the affidavit an inventory of the property which shall include, at a minimum, the categories of furniture, clothing and accessories, and miscellaneous items.

(7) That no personal representative, collector, or receiver has been appointed for the decedent's estate under the provisions of this Chapter, Chapter 28B, or Chapter 28C of the General Statutes in the county in which the dwelling unit is located and that no affidavit has been filed in the county under the provisions of G.S. 28A-25-1 or G.S. 28A-25-1.1.

(8) The name of the person identified in the rental application, lease agreement, or other landlord document as the authorized person to contact in the event of the death or emergency of the tenant; that the affiant has made a good faith attempt to contact that person to urge that action be taken to administer the decedent's estate; and that either the affiant was unsuccessful in contacting the person or, if contacted, the person has not taken action to administer the decedent's estate. The affiant shall state the efforts made to contact the person identified in the rental application, lease agreement, or other landlord document.

(c) The affidavit shall be filed in the office of the clerk of court in the county in which the dwelling unit is located. The affidavit shall be filed by the clerk upon the landlord's payment of the fee of thirty dollars ($30.00) and shall be indexed in the index to estates. The landlord shall mail a copy of the affidavit to the person identified in the rental application, lease agreement, or other landlord document as the authorized person to contact in the event of the death or emergency of the tenant. If no contact person is identified in the rental application, lease agreement, or other landlord document, the landlord shall cause notice of the filing of the affidavit to be posted at the door of the landlord's primary rental office or the place where the landlord conducts business and at the county courthouse in the area designated by the clerk for the posting of notices.

(d) The filing of an affidavit that complies with the provisions of subsection (b) of this section shall be sufficient to require the transfer of the property remaining in the decedent's dwelling unit to the landlord. Upon the transfer, the landlord may remove the property from the dwelling unit and deliver it for storage to any storage warehouse in the county in which the dwelling unit is located or in an adjoining county if no storage warehouse is located in that county. The landlord may also store the property in the landlord's own storage facility. Notwithstanding any provision of Chapter 42 of the General Statutes, after removing the property from the dwelling unit as provided in this subsection, the landlord shall be in possession of the dwelling unit and may let the unit as the landlord deems fit.

(e) If, at least 90 days after the landlord filed the affidavit required by subsection (a) of this section, no personal representative, collector, or receiver has been appointed under the provisions of this Chapter, Chapter 28B, or Chapter 28C of the General Statutes in the county in which the dwelling unit is located and no affidavit has been filed in the county under the provisions of G.S. 28A-25-1 or G.S. 28A-25-1.1, the landlord may take any of the following actions related to the decedent's property:

(1) Sell the property as provided in subsection (f) of this section.

(2) Deliver the property into the custody of a nonprofit organization regularly providing free, or at a nominal price, clothing and household furnishings to people in need for disposition in the normal course of the organization's operations. The organization shall not be liable to anyone for the disposition of the property.

(f) If the landlord delivers the property to a nonprofit organization as authorized in subdivision (2) of subsection (e) of this section, the landlord shall provide an accounting to the clerk stating the nature of the action and the date on which the action was taken. A landlord who elects to sell the property as authorized in subdivision (1) of subsection (e) of this section may do so at a public or private sale. Whether the sale is public or private, the landlord shall, at least seven days prior to the day of sale, give written notice to the clerk and post written notice of the sale in the area designated by the clerk for the posting of notices and at the door of the landlord's primary rental office or the place where the landlord conducts business stating the date, time, and place of the sale, and that any surplus of proceeds from the sale, after payment of unpaid rents, damages, packing and storage fees, filing fees, and sale costs shall be delivered to the clerk. The landlord may apply the proceeds of the sale to the unpaid rents, damages, packing and storage fees, filing fees, and sale costs. Any surplus from the sale shall be paid to the clerk, and the landlord shall provide an accounting to the clerk showing the manner in which the proceeds of the sale were applied. The clerk shall administer the funds in the same manner as provided in G.S. 28A-25-6.

(g) If, at any time after the landlord files the affidavit required by subsection (a) of this section but before the landlord takes any of the actions authorized in subsection (e) of this section, the landlord is presented with letters of appointment or another document issued by a court indicating that a personal representative, collector, or receiver has been appointed for the decedent's estate or an affidavit filed under the provisions of G.S. 28A-25-1 or G.S. 28A-25-1.1, the landlord shall deliver the decedent's property to the personal representative, collector, or receiver appointed or to the person who filed the affidavit.

(h) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) through (g) of this section, if the decedent dies leaving tangible personal property of five hundred dollar ($500.00) value or less in the dwelling unit, the landlord may, without filing an affidavit, deliver the property into the custody of a nonprofit organization regularly providing free, or at a nominal price, clothing and household furnishings to people in need upon that organization agreeing to identify and separately store the property for 30 days and to release the property to a person authorized by law to act on behalf of the decedent at no charge within the 30-day period. Prior to delivering the property to the nonprofit organization, the landlord shall prepare an inventory of the property which shall include, at a minimum, the categories of furniture, clothing and accessories, and miscellaneous items. A landlord electing to act under this subsection shall immediately send a notice by first-class mail containing the name and address of the property recipient and a copy of the inventory to the person identified in the rental application, lease agreement, or other landlord document as the authorized person to contact in the event of the death or emergency of the tenant and shall post the same notice for 30 days or more at the door of the landlord's primary rental office or the place where the landlord conducts business. The notice posted shall not include an inventory of the property. Any nonprofit organization agreeing to receive personal property under this subsection shall not be liable to the decedent's estate for the disposition of the property, provided that the property has been separately identified and stored for release to a person authorized by law to act on behalf of the decedent for a period of 30 days.

(i) If any lessor, landlord, or agent seizes possession of the decedent's tangible personal property in any manner not in accordance with the provisions of this section, any person authorized by law to act on behalf of the decedent shall be entitled to recover possession of the property or compensation for the value of the property and, in any action brought by any person authorized by law to act on behalf of the decedent, the landlord shall be liable to the decedent's estate for actual damages, but not including punitive damages, treble damages, or damages for emotional distress.

(j) The procedure authorized in this section may be used as an alternative to a summary ejectment action under Chapter 42 of the General Statutes. A landlord shall, in his or her discretion, determine whether to proceed under the provisions of this section or under Chapter 42 of the General Statutes. (2012-17, s. 7.)