State News

Are Richland County Property Courts Following The Law?

Since the lift of the CDC Moratorium on August 26th, 2021, Civil Courts such as Master-In-Equity and Magistrate Courts have been overwhelmed with eviction cases. Most recently a Master-In-Equity Judge was removed due to inappropriate handling of cases. With these courts being overwhelmed one has to ask: Are they following the Law? , or are they merely closing out cases to bring their dockets down?

In some cases, these courts have simply bypassed the rules to move cases forward. There are set rules for evictions in South Carolina that must be followed!

First, let us look at the 3 types of evictions 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 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 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.

In one known case A Notice to Quit was filed at the Pontiac Magistrate Office, by an ex-wife of the property owner. In this case, the ex-wife had filed what is known as a quitclaim deed relieving her of any rights to the property after her divorce in 2017. In short, the ex-wife gave up all her rights to the property. (A quitclaim deed in the state of South Carolina is a legal document that allows a person to convey real estate to another party. For example, a property owner can convey his or her ownership interest to the person purchasing their home with no warranty or guarantee that the title of the home is clear. It is important to also understand that this sort of deed release does not relieve you from the mortgage)

The individuals in the home purchased the home from the rightful property owner nearly 3 years ago. But due to the fact, that the former owner failed to pay off his mortgage and the ex-wife failed to ensure her removal from the mortgage she is now trying to exercise rights to the property she does not legally have.

The current owners/residents of the property have conveyed this information to the Pontiac Magistrate Office including a copy of the quitclaim deed filed in 2017. According to several real estate attorneys, we have spoken with, this should have stopped any further handling by the Magistrate Courts. But to no surprise, a court date was issued for this matter, even without the current owners/residents having been served any legally required paperwork.

Remember that there are court fees generated for such hearings which are paid directly to these courts by a party. And for those who review the State’s Budget, one notices the income brought in by these courts and the amount of revenue given to these courts.

The above-mentioned case is a prime example of these courts ignoring the law and procedures set up to protect individuals from frivolous legal actions. Another question to ask is how many families and individuals have been removed from their homes or dwellings due to these sorts of actions by the courts.

Families and individuals who suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic are still trying to recover, as well as businesses. Let’s not forget that the state is a business! And the amount of money South Carolina lost during the pandemics freeze of operations.

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