While leasing your South Carolina property, you may come up against the unpleasant need to evict a tenant. When that time comes, you’ll need to be well-versed in the South Carolina eviction laws.
The eviction laws explain the rules and procedures that every landlord in South Carolina must follow when evicting a tenant. If you fail to follow them to the letter, you risk losing the case to the tenant.
If you are a landlord in South Carolina and wondering how to evict someone, here are the basic rules and procedures required by South Carolina state law
Eviction Notice Types in South Carolina
The eviction process begins when you serve the unruly tenant with a notice. The notice, except in cases of a severe lease violation, tells the tenant they have several days to either remedy the lease violation or move out.
The type of notice must be appropriate and will depend on the reason for the termination. The following are the common eviction notices in South Carolina.
1) 5-Day Notice to Pay Rent
Nonpayment of rent is oftentimes the reason for renter eviction in South Carolina. A 5-day notice to pay rent is what you need to serve a renter who fails to pay rent on time.
The notice tells the renter that they have five days to either pay rent or vacate the premises.
If the tenant acts within the five days, then you must cease the eviction proceedings. Otherwise, you may file an eviction lawsuit against them in court.
To minimize rent-related issues, your SC lease or rental agreement should spell out:
- The consequences of paying rent late. For instance, indicate late fees and lease termination.
- The amount of any extra fee if the tenant’s rent cheque bounces.
- The amount of notice you must give tenants to raise the rent.
- How rent should be paid. This is usually in cash, check, money order, and/or credit card.
- When rent is due. Include what ensues if the date of due rent falls on a holiday or weekend.
- Where rent is due, such as by mail to your business address.
- The rent amount. In South Carolina, there are no limits to how much you can charge.
2) 14-Day Notice to Cure
You can give the renter a 14-day notice if they have violated the lease agreement. The notice tells them that they have 14 days to either remedy the violation or leave.
If the tenant remedies the violation, then you must cease the eviction proceedings against them.
3) Unconditional Quit Notice
Unlike the previous two, this notice gives the tenant no time to remedy the violation. The notice simply requires the tenant to leave the premises.
With an unconditional quit notice in South Carolina, you can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant immediately.
You can also evict a tenant without them necessarily violating the lease or rental agreement. In such a case, you’ll need to wait until the lease expires. For a month-to-month tenancy, you must serve the tenant a 30-day notice.
Here, the tenant has 30 days to vacate the premises. If they don’t move out within this period, you can file an eviction lawsuit against them. For more information, please click here.
For a fixed-term lease, you don’t need to serve the tenant with a lease termination notice. This is because the lease is clear about when the lease ends. If the tenant doesn’t move out after the lease expires, he or she becomes a “holdover” tenant. You may then move to court to seek their removal.
South Carolina Tenant Eviction Defenses
In some cases, the tenant may fight the eviction. The following are common tenant eviction defenses in South Carolina.
You discriminated against the tenant.
Under South Carolina fair housing law and the Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on protected classes.
The protected classes are disability, familial status, national origin, gender, religion, and race. An example is if you serve a renter an eviction notice shortly after learning he or she has kids.
You violated the lease agreement.
Once the renter has cured the violation, you must cease any eviction proceedings against them. If you don’t, the tenant has a right to use it as a defense to the eviction.
You failed to maintain the rental unit according to minimum legal standards.
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to ensure the rental property adheres to housing and safety codes. If you fail to do so, the tenant has a right to:
- Terminate the rental agreement and vacate the premises
- Sue you and recover damages
- Arrange for the services and deduct the costs from the rent
But before pursuing any of these options, the tenant must follow the due process. For example, the tenant must serve you an appropriate notice. If you file to evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent, they can use your inability to maintain the unit as a defense.
You did not follow the proper eviction procedures.
For example, you failed to give the tenant an appropriate notice. In such a case, you would need to start the whole process all over again.
You used “self-help” eviction.
Changing door locks or shutting off utilities is illegal in South Carolina. The only way you can evict a renter is by winning an eviction lawsuit in court.
Order to Show Cause
Stated in South Carolina landlord-tenant laws, after the expiry of the notice, you can file for the removal of the tenant in court. The court will then issue an Order to Show Cause. A local SC sheriff or Constable will then deliver it to the tenant. This gives the renter ten days to settle the case with you.
If they fail to do so, the court will set a hearing date. Generally, this will be within 21 days after the Order to Show Cause is issued.
Once a hearing is set, you must prepare all relevant evidence and attend the hearing. The evidence may include witnesses, pictures, communication emails or letters, the lease, the eviction notice, etc.
If both you and your tenant are present, the court will hear the case. If the tenant doesn’t show up, you will win by default.
If the judge rules in your favor, request a Writ of Ejectment immediately.
Writ of Ejectment
In South Carolina, the Writ of Ejectment allows the county sheriff to remove the renter forcibly. Once issued, the renter will have five days to vacate the premises.
Once evicted, you may find that the tenant has left behind some personal belongings. According to the South Carolina rental law, you may get rid of the property without informing them, so long as the eviction notice clearly notified the tenant of your option to do so.
When evicting a South Carolina renter, landlords must strictly adhere to the law. Failure to do so and you risk losing the case by default. Even though the process may seem stressful, it’s there for a reason.
This guide is only meant to be informational. For specific questions, kindly seek advice from a competent SC property management company or hire the services of a qualified South Carolina attorney.