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When Self-Help is Decidedly Unhelpful

Nothing good ever happens when someone tells you that they don’t “give a damn what the judge says . . . I can do whatever I want.”  A recent Court of Appeals decision, Myers v. Broome-Edwards, illustrates this point.

The Facts: A Tenant Is Kicked To the Curb

Myers involved a dispute between a residential tenant, Henry Myers, and his landlord.  After filing several unsuccessful summary-ejectment proceedings, the landlord decided to take matters into her own hands. She locked Mr. Myers out of the residence and put all of his belongings on the curb. 

Mr. Myers sued, claiming that his landlord had breached the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, wrongfully evicted him in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 42-25.6 and 42-25.9(a), and violated North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1. Two days after being locked out of his home, Mr. Myers obtained a temporary restraining order that required his landlord to give him access to the property.

Upon learning of the temporary restraining order, Mr. Myers’s landlord became defiant. She made it clear that she did not “give a damn what the judge says” and that she believed she could do whatever she wanted to do with her house. This went about as well as could be expected. The court issued a show-cause order, and the landlord relented in order to keep “from being held in contempt of court and going to jail.”

Ultimately, the court entered judgment in favor of Mr. Myers. His landlord appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Holding: Ejectment of Residential Tenants Act Violation as a Predicate for Section 75-1.1 Liability

The Court of Appeals explained that the Ejectment of Residential Tenants Act embodies a public policy to maintain the peace by permitting residential eviction only pursuant to the statute’s procedures. Following Stanley v. Moore, an earlier Supreme Court decision, the Myers court held that lessors, landlords, or agents who execute “self-help” evictions in violation of the Act may also be liable for a violation of section 75-1.1, with its potential for treble damages and attorneys’ fee recovery. Because the trial court had made findings sufficient to support that liability, the court affirmed.

Mr. Myers’s landlord complained that the trial court erred by not considering evidence that Mr. Myers had engaged in bad behavior, resulting in complaints. But the Court of Appeals rejected this argument for two reasons.  First, the landlord failed to present this evidence in the trial court. Second, even if the landlord had presented the evidence, the allegations of Mr. Myers’s behavior would have been immaterial and irrelevant to the section 75-1.1 claim. For this latter proposition, the Myers court relied on an earlier Court of Appeals decision, Media Network, Inc. v. Long Haymes Carr, Inc.


As we have written before, taking matters into your own hands can be unadvisable for any number of reasons and, in some cases, illegal. This is true in the context of residential leases in North Carolina. As Myers illustrates, self-help remedies are decidedly unhelpful for residential landlords. And as always, it’s never a good idea to ignore a judge’s Order and “do whatever” you want.

July 2, 2024 Thomas H. Segars