The Basics of North Carolina Abandoned Property Law

Want to learn about what happens to abandoned homes, vehicles, and personal property in North Carolina? Jerry’s got you covered.
Written by Elaine Yang
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Similar to other states, the laws surrounding abandoned property in North Carolina can get complex—but we can help you wade through all the basics. To find your own unclaimed property, you can visit
the North Carolina unclaimed website
.
If you’re a landlord, you might be familiar with situations where past tenants have left behind their belongings. Or maybe you’re living next to an abandoned home and want to know what your options are. 
Jerry
, the
licensed insurance broker
and comparison app, is here to break down everything there is to know about abandoned property laws in North Carolina. (Stick around if you want to find ways to save on your
North Carolina insurance rates
, too!)
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North Carolina abandoned home law

Typically, finding an abandoned home in North Carolina is pretty rare. But if you stumble across one and decide to start living in one or if you start using the property for your own purpose, North Carolina law might have something to say about it. 
Here are some plausible situations: 
  • The property next to your home has been abandoned for years, and you don’t see any harm in using the land for your own needs
  • A farmer starts planting crops in an abandoned field near his farm
Whether it’s by accident or purposeful, you need to make sure your use of abandoned property complies with North Carolina law. You’ll also need to follow certain rules if you’re trying to get rid of a squatter who has made themselves comfortable in the home next to yours.

What qualifies as an abandoned home in North Carolina? 

As with many other states, North Carolina qualifies homes as abandoned depending on how long they’ve been vacant. Specifically, North Carolina considers a home to be abandoned when there are no documented transactions or contact with the owner for a certain period. 
Things like summer vacation homes aren’t considered abandoned even if you’re only on the property for a month every summer. In fact, even if you leave your vacation home vacant for years without visiting, it will still not be considered abandoned, as long as it has been consistently used for a purpose
However, let’s say that you own a farmhouse but haven’t been back to the property for over 30 years. In this case, someone else can make an adverse possession claim to get ownership of the property—but they’re going to need to go through a whole legal process.

What is an adverse possession claim?

According to North Carolina law, an adverse possession claim allows someone other than the property owner to claim abandoned property—typically a squatter. They must meet certain conditions first: 
  • The claimant must be in actual possession of the property they’re claiming, meaning a squatter must actually be using the property (beyond using it for basic shelter)
  • The claimant must have a hostile claim against the true owner of the property, meaning they intend to take the property completely 
  • The claimant must have exclusive ownership over the property, meaning the squatter must be living on the property alone and be the only one who could feasibly make an ownership claim
  • Possession needs to be open and notorious, meaning the squatter must not be hiding their use of the property
  • The claimant must have possession continuously and uninterrupted for a duration exceeding 20 years
  • There must be intention to claim the title to the land
If the claimant has met the criteria listed above and the true owner of the property does not respond to the claim, ownership will pass on to the claimant. 

North Carolina abandoned vehicle law

While abandoned home law can get a little complicated, the laws surrounding abandoned vehicles are a little easier to grasp. 
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What qualifies as an abandoned vehicle in North Carolina? 

According to the DMV, a vehicle in North Carolina is considered to be abandoned if it has been left on someone else’s property for over 30 days. The property owner may choose to call a towing company to remove the vehicle if it remains unclaimed for more than seven days. 
If within that 30-day period, no one steps forward to claim the vehicle, the property owner can file an unclaimed notice (
LT-260 form
) with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. The form will typically take 30 days to be processed, and the property owner can file an
LT-262 form
if they intend to sell the vehicle. 

What happens to abandoned vehicles in North Carolina?

Typically, if you leave your car on someone else’s property, they will have it towed if it has been left there for at least seven days. If they choose to have it remain on their property, they can eventually sell it if no one claims the vehicle within 30 days

North Carolina abandoned personal property law

When leases expire, tenants may leave behind some of their belongings—maybe some spare clothes or maybe a whole TV. 
If you’re a landlord, you’re going to need to know what you can do with these abandoned items under North Carolina’s personal property law. 

What qualifies as abandoned personal property in North Carolina?

Many things can be considered personal property in North Carolina. Here are several examples: 
  • Cash
  • Safes
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
The first step is to actually determine if the property has been abandoned by its owner. North Carolina law considers property to be abandoned:
  • If the lease has expired, the landlord can prove that the tenant has left without any intent to return. The tenant has not provided notice of a disability that may have caused the vacancy
  • If the lease has not expired, the tenant has not claimed their property or responded within 10 days of notice from the landlord in which they have stated that they believe the unit has been abandoned
  • Following an eviction backed up by the court of law

What should I do with abandoned personal property in North Carolina?

You can report unclaimed property to
NC Cash
. There are a couple of steps to the process, but they have instructions on their website. 
Essentially, all you need to do is identify the unclaimed property, try to find the property owner, and fill out the report. 
Pro Tip Visit NC Cash for more details on what you should do with abandoned property. You can also contact a lawyer if you’re unsure what the next steps are. 

How can I find my abandoned property?

Looking for something you lost? Try visiting
NC Cash’s website
to search for unclaimed property. If you lost some cash, you can try using the nationwide
Missing Money
database as well. 

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Most of us do everything we can to keep our property in good shape, and that includes protecting it against things like natural disasters.
That’s why car and home insurance are so important—but they can be expensive. Luckily, finding savings with
Jerry
is as easy as pie (and definitely easier than dealing with abandoned property)! 
A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding cheap quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies and buying new car insurance. Jerry will even help you cancel your old policy.
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FAQ

NC Cash
handles abandoned property in North Carolina. Visit their website if you want to report, find, or claim property.
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