It is not uncommon for landlords in South Carolina to suddenly and without cause threaten to evict a tenant. Sometimes, they may even change the locks without providing any notice to the tenant. Tenants should be aware that they have many rights under South Carolina law and that in many cases, it is possible to fight against an unlawful eviction. In this post, we’ll review South Carolina eviction laws and tenant’s rights, so both landlords and tenants can understand the law.
If your landlord has threatened to evict you, a civil litigation lawyer from Beth Santilli Law can advise you of your rights and whether or not the eviction is unlawful. An attorney can also help landlords make sure they are following the law so they successfully evict tenants when necessary.
Notice of Eviction
In most cases, the eviction process starts when the landlord serves the tenant with the notice of the eviction. The notice must provide the tenant with a certain amount of time to correct the violation of the lease or vacate the premises. The type of notice depends on the reason for the termination of the lease.
Non-Payment of Rent
Non-payment of rent is one of the most common reasons for evicting tenants in South Carolina. The notice given in these cases must provide the tenant with five days to pay their rent or the tenant must leave the property. If the tenant takes action, such as paying their rent, within those five days the landlord must stop all eviction efforts. If the tenant does not remedy the situation within five days, the landlord can proceed with the eviction by filing a lawsuit against the tenant in court. The landlord does not have to provide written notice about late rent if the five-day rule is in the lease or if the tenant has received a five-day notice during the lease term.
Other Eviction Reasons
When the eviction is based on a lease violation that is not non-payment of rent, landlords must provide the tenant with 14 days to correct the situation or vacate the property. If the tenant does remedy the violation, the landlord must stop eviction proceedings. For example, if a tenant got a pet and the lease agreement clearly states that pets are not allowed, the landlord should provide notice of eviction and give the tenant 14 days to remove the pet or leave the property.
For tenants renting a property on a month-to-month basis with no specific date that the rental agreement comes to an end, landlords must provide 30 days’ notice of eviction. If the tenant does not move out within that 30-day period, the landlord has the right to file a lawsuit against the tenant and pursue the eviction.
Fixed-Term Lease Evictions
Fixed-term leases do not require the landlord to provide any notice, because the lease will clearly state the date the tenant is expected to leave the premises. If the tenant does not vacate the property after the lease expires, they become a ‘holdover’ tenant and the landlord can file a lawsuit against them to vacate them from the premises.
Landlords Cannot Discriminate Against Tenants
Although there are many reasons to evict a tenant, there are times when landlords must never evict a tenant. The Fair Housing Act, as well as South Carolina’s Fair Housing Law make it illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants based on a protected class. Protected classes include people who have a disability, are of a particular gender, national origin, religion, or race. Tenants also cannot be discriminated against based on their family status, such as when a tenant is pregnant or has children.
Landlords Must Maintain the Rental Premises
Landlords have the responsibility to ensure a rental property complies with housing and safety codes. When a landlord does not meet this responsibility, tenants have the right to terminate the rental agreement and leave the property. In these situations, tenants can also file a lawsuit against the landlord to recover damages, or arrange to bring the unit up to code.
Tenants must also follow the proper process when taking any of the above measures. For example, tenants must also provide the landlord with a certain amount of notice before taking action.
Tenants are Protected from “Self-Help” Evictions
Landlords sometimes take matters into their own hands and try to evict a tenant by changing the locks on the doors or shutting off utilities to the tenant’s unit. These procedures are illegal under South Carolina law. The only way landlords can evict a tenant is to file a lawsuit against them and win their case in court.
Rule to Show Cause
The landlord and tenant laws in South Carolina require landlords to file for the removal of the tenant in court after the notice to evict has expired. The court will issue a Rule to Show Cause, which a Constable or sheriff will serve the tenant. The Rule to Show Cause is the eviction notice. Tenants then have ten days to settle the case with the landlord or file the answer to the Rule to Show Cause in court. Typically, if the case is not settled, the date for a court hearing is set.
The Court Hearing
During the court hearing, both landlords and tenants have the opportunity to present evidence to win their case. It is important that tenants appear at this court hearing so they can present their defenses. If the tenant does not appear at the court hearing or loses in court, the court will issue a Writ of Ejectment, which a constable or sheriff will serve on the tenant. The tenant then has five days to leave the property or the sheriff can forcibly remove them.
Tenants also have the right to file an appeal to avoid eviction. At this time, the court may grant the tenant a stay of execution that allows them to remain within their unit and make arrangements for rent that is still owing.
Get Legal Help Today
Landlord-tenant laws in South Carolina are complex. If you are trying to evict a tenant, or think a landlord is infringing on your tenant’s rights, a civil litigation lawyer at Beth Santilli Law, LLC, can advise on your rights. We know how to successfully defend against evictions and the proper process to follow when an eviction is necessary. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.