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Civil Process and Landlord/Tenant FAQs

Where do I go to take out papers in order to sue someone in court?
How much does it cost to sue someone?
Can I send process via email or fax for the Sheriff to serve?
How do I check to see if someone has been served yet?
How long does it take for someone to be served?
I won a judgment in my favor, what next?
Once the Sheriff receives my Writ of Execution, how much does it cost for the Sheriff to levy on property in the name of a defendant?
Will the Sheriff keep my name and telephone number confidential?
The Sheriff was unable to serve the defendant. What do I do now?
I am a landlord and I need legal advice about evicting someone can you help me decide what to do?
I am a landlord; can I change the locks on my rental property without involving the Sheriff’s Office?
I am a landlord, where do I need to go to file the paperwork to evict someone?
What happens at the hearing for the Summary Ejectment process?
As a landlord, can I go ahead with the eviction after I have filed for the Writ of Possession?
If there is personal property inside the premises when the locks are changed, can I dispose of it immediately?
I am a landlord and I have an eviction schedule that I wish to cancel, can I do this?


Where do I go to take out papers in order to sue someone in court?

In order to initiate a civil action against a person or business, the plaintiff, his attorney, or agent must go to the Durham County Clerk’s Office located on the 3rd Floor of the Durham County Judicial Building located at 510 South Dillard Street Durham, NC 27701.

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How much does it cost to sue someone?
In order to have papers issued by the Clerk’s office, the plaintiff, attorney, or agent must pay certain fees that vary by type of process to be served. Please contact the Durham County Clerk of Court at (919)808-3003(919)808-3003.
The Sheriff also charges a fee to serve process. The fee for process issued in the state of NC is $30.00 per defendant to be served. The fee for process issued outside the state of NC is $100.00 per defendant.

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Can I send process via email or fax for the Sheriff to serve?

At this time, certain legal constraints and technological obstacles prevent the Sheriff from accepting fees and civil process by electronic transmission.

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How do I check to see if someone has been served yet?

You can check by visiting our Civil Paper Lookup site.

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How long does it take for someone to be served?

The Durham County Sheriff's Office handles thousands of papers every month. With the exception of certain domestic violence cases and child custody cases, we generally do not attach a higher priority to any particular type of process. We understand that every case is a personal priority to the concerned litigants and try to manage our offices efficiently to provide the best service possible using available resources.

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I won a judgment in my favor, what next?

Contact the Durham County Clerk’s Office at (919)808-3008(919)808-3008 to find out what step is next.

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Once the Sheriff receives my Writ of Execution, how much does it cost for the Sheriff to levy on property in the name of a defendant?
The Sheriff of Durham County has standard fees that must be paid in advance by the plaintiff, his attorney or agent prior to the Sheriff or his designated deputy levying on property. This is to ensure that the Sheriff of Durham County does not encumber costs associated with satisfaction of the judgment. The advance levy fees are as follows:
• $250.00 to levy on a vehicle
• $500.00 to levy on real property
• $500.00 to levy on a business
Other advanced fees may be required if there is personal property requiring special moving or storage, or the use of heavy equipment to move the property is required.
*Please note: advanced fees will be refunded in full if the property isn’t seized. Advanced levy fees are also refunded in full after the sale of property; as this fee is charged to the highest bidder at the time of sale.

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Will the Sheriff keep my name and telephone number confidential?

With few exceptions, all information, including litigant names, addresses and telephone numbers, are public record as a matter of law.

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The Sheriff was unable to serve the defendant. What do I do now?

If for any reason we were not able to serve your process after due diligence or within the legal time frame allowed for such process, you have a couple of options:
1. you may have the paper re-issued so that the Sheriff may try again to obtain service on an individual.
2. Seek legal advice for information regarding other forms of services for your type of process.

NOTE: Only the Sheriff or his designated deputies can serve Writs of Execution and Writs of Possession.

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Landlord and Tenant FAQs

I am a landlord and I need legal advice about evicting someone can you help me decide what to do?
The Durham County Sheriff's Office cannot provide legal advice. Landlord/tenant dispute is a civil matter. You may need to consult an attorney to fully understand your civil rights as a landlord.

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I am a landlord; can I change the locks on my rental property without involving the Sheriff’s Office?
No, you should not. This would not be a legal eviction. There are specific general statutes in the State of North Carolina that regulate the eviction process. A landlord must obtain a court order to evict a tenant from rental property. The Sheriff, not the landlord, is the only one who can remove the tenant and/or his personal property from the rental premises. The landlord cannot force the tenant to move at any stage of the eviction process nor can he/she impede the tenant’s ability to enter the premises except in order to maintain or repair the premises.

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I am a landlord, where do I need to go to file the paperwork to evict someone?

Start by filing a civil action in Small Claims (Magistrate’s) Court. The process begins with what is called the “Summary Ejectment” process. The tenant must first be served with a Magistrate’s Summons and Complaint in Summary Ejectment. The Summons will state the date time and place for a court hearing.

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What happens at the hearing for the Summary Ejectment process?

Both tenant and landlord have the opportunity to speak at the hearing. After the hearing the Magistrate will render a judgment for or against the landlord. If the Magistrate rules in favor of the landlord the landlord may file for a Writ of Possession for Real Property ten (10) days after the judgment. The Writ of Possession is a court order that orders the Sheriff to evict the tenant.

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As a landlord, can I go ahead with the eviction after I have filed for the Writ of Possession?

No, only a Sheriff or his/her Deputies may serve a Writ of Possession for real Property. Upon receipt of the Writ of Possession for Real Property the Sheriff’s Office will contact the landlord to schedule the date and time to serve the Writ and evict the tenant. The landlord or his agent will meet the deputy at the location in question. The landlord is responsible for supplying and changing the locks. The landlord is responsible for providing a means to gain entry into the premises so that a deputy can ensure that all occupants leave the premises to include removing any animals that may be inside at the time of the eviction.

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If there is personal property inside the premises when the locks are changed, can I dispose of it immediately?
A tenant has ten (10) days to contact the landlord and set a time to retrieve all personal property. The Sheriff’s Office does not assist in the retrieval of these items once the eviction has occurred. If the tenant has not claimed the property after 10 days the landlord may dispose of the property but the Sheriff’s Office cannot give the landlord any advice as to how that property may be disposed of.

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I am a landlord and I have an eviction schedule that I wish to cancel, can I do this?
As the landlord, you have the right to stop an eviction if you wish. Contact the Evictions Unit at (919)560-0860(919)560-0860 and also fax a Cancellation Request to (919) 560-0991(919) 560-0991. You must indicate why you are cancelling the eviction, i.e. defendant paid, moved out, or you worked out some other arrangement with the defendant. Once canceled, the writ will be returned to the clerk of court.

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