A residential landlord in South Carolina may legally evict a tenant for any of these reasons:
- Expiration of the lease term
- The tenant violates a material provision in the lease
- The tenant fails to pay the rent.
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The landlord must also follow the steps of the South Carolina eviction process, which provides that the appropriate written notice be served and that a court order be obtained.
No Self-Eviction in SC
Regardless of how egregious a tenant’s conduct may or may not be, a landlord may not take eviction into his or her own hands and ignore the South Carolina eviction process. Self-eviction is illegal and includes such acts as shutting off the utilities, removing the tenant’s personal property, threatening the tenant, changing the locks or taking any other action to deny the tenant access to the property.
South Carolina 5-Day Eviction Notice
The majority of evictions concern the nonpayment of rent. Most leases do have grace periods but once that period has passed, the landlord can serve the tenant with a South Carolina 5-Day Eviction Notice allowing the tenant 5-days to pay the overdue rent, vacate the unit or face an eviction suit.
If the written lease contains a provision whereby the tenant is advised that automatic notice of eviction is given after the rent is not paid by a certain date, then the tenant may still has 5-days to pay but the landlord need not serve the notice. Also, no further written 5-day notices need to be given if a previous one was given during the lease term.
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14-Day Eviction Notice
For other lease violations such as damaging the property or failing to keep it clean, the South Carolina eviction notice is 14-days to comply or face eviction.
A the end of a month-to-month lease, the eviction notice is 30-days with no reason for the eviction necessary but it may not be for a discriminatory or other illegal reason.
Consequences of an Eviction Judgment
A tenant is advised to vacate the property if the rent cannot be paid or if compliance with the lease is not possible, or no other arrangements can be made with the landlord. A judgment evicting the tenant will adversely affect the tenant’s credit rating and will make it very difficult for the tenant to find other rental housing without having to make a substantial initial deposit even if accepted.
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Rule to Show Cause
Once the notice has been served and the compliance period has passed, the landlord must go to the Magistrate Court in the county where the property is located and complete an Affidavit and Application of Ejectment. Once filed, the court clerk will issue a Rule to Show Cause (also referred to as Order to Show Cause).
The sheriff or constable serves the Rule to Show Cause, Affidavit and Application in Ejectment on the tenant either personally, on another person in the household or by posting if no one is available.
The tenant has 10-days to respond to the allegations and to file a written Answer. If a jury trial is desired, it must be requested in the Answer or a court trial will be held. The court date and time will be on the Rule or Order to Show Cause. If nonpayment of rent is the reason for the eviction, the tenant will be liable for any rent accruing while the case is pending.
If the tenant does not appear or has not filed an Answer, the court will issue a Writ of Ejectment within the next 5-days. The tenant only has a 5-day period to file an appeal of any judgment accompanied by an appeal bond. Once an Answer is filed, the court will schedule a court date for the eviction trial.
If a trial is held, the landlord must provide sufficient proof of nonpayment of rent or of any other reason for the eviction and that notice was appropriately given. The tenant may present any defenses or counterclaims.
Tenant Defenses in South Carolina
A tenant in the South Carolina eviction process may assert any of the following defenses:
- The breach of a lease provision is not substantial enough to warrant an eviction.
- The lease provision allegedly violated is unreasonable.
- The allegations are false.
- There was improper service.
- The notice was improper.
- The landlord waived eviction by accepting any part of the rent.
- The landlord failed to remedy a condition hazardous to the tenant’s safety or health or which is in violation of the housing code after having been an opportunity to repair it.
- The eviction is in retaliation for the tenant having filed a complaint regarding the condition of the property or for joining a tenant’s rights organization.
- The eviction is based on the tenant’s religion, race, sex, national origin, creed, age, family status, or disability.
Writ of Ejectment
If the court rules for the landlord, the court will issue a Writ of Ejectment advising the tenant to vacate the property or the sheriff will appear to supervise removal of the tenant’s personal property and to allow the changing of the locks. The action in removing the tenant is called a “Set-Out.”
Once the Writ is served or posted, the tenant has only 24-hours to leave. A landlord must make arrangements with the sheriff or constable’s office regarding the set-out and must provide his or her own personnel to remove the tenant’s belongings or pay the sheriff’s department to do so.
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