The eviction process can differ from county to county, but they more or less are the same:
- Send a clear written notice
- Fill out the forms
- Serve the documents
- Attend the trial
- Wait for judgment
This article details a summary for a landlord to refer to when evicting a tenant. Alternatively, a landlord can ask an attorney for legal help if they have any questions on landlord-tenant rights.
An eviction notice is usually a form that is filled out by the landlord that details their violation and whether or not a tenant can fix the issue. The notice period depends on the reason for eviction. This form is important because, without it, the tenants may easily win the case.
1. Failure to pay rent or nonpayment of rent
The most common reason for eviction is the nonpayment of rent. A landlord can evict a renter for failure in paying rent due.
Rent can still be paid in South Carolina within five days of the due date. This means a tenant has five days to pay rent without fearing eviction. However, a grace period that may give the tenant more time to pay rent due may be available if indicated in the lease/rental agreement.
Similarly, if the lease/rental agreement states no other notice is required, then the landlord can immediately proceed within filing for an eviction lawsuit.
In cases where the lease requires a written notice, the landlord must give the renter a written eviction form called a 5-Day Notice to Pay. This notice informs the renter that they have five days to pay rent or else they have to move out of the property in order to avoid eviction.
If renters who are being evicted for failing to pay rent on time manage to pay all rent payments in full to the landlord within five days, the entire eviction process stops and they can continue staying in their rental housing.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
A lease agreement can vary between tenants. Landlords and tenants are required to uphold the terms of the lease agreement at all times.
The landlord can evict the tenant for a lease violation in South Carolina. The landlord must provide the tenant a 14-Day Notice to Comply. This 14-day notice gives the tenant 14 days to fix the issue.
Lease violations include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Material health/safety violations
- Too many people are living inside the rental unit
- Housing a pet in a pet-free rental unit or rental premises, etc.
If the lease violation involved material health/safety and the tenant started resolving their violation within the notice period, but aren’t able to finish it within 14 days, they are given a reasonable leeway to finish correcting the violation.
However, if the violation results in an emergency situation, it has to be resolved as soon as possible.
The landlord may file an eviction lawsuit if the tenant fails to resolve the issue and remains inside the rental unit after the given notice period for other types of lease violations.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal activity on the rental premises, the landlord is not legally obligated to give them any notice. Landlords may proceed directly to the next step in the eviction process and continue filing for eviction proceedings.
4. Non-renewal of lease after the end of the rental period
A South Carolina eviction does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without good reason. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
However, a tenant can be evicted if they stay in the property even a day after their written lease term ends (and have not arranged for a renewal).
This type of eviction notice usually only applies if the landlord wishes to pursue a lease termination. The landlord must give the tenant a quit notice. The notice must be in correspondence to their tenancy type or lease term, which could be either a 7-Day Notice to Quit or a 30-Day Notice to Quit
Should the tenant remain in the rental premises even after their notice period ends, the landlord may continue to file for eviction proceedings by opening an eviction lawsuit.
Filing a Complaint
After the notice period has passed, the landlord may file for a Rule/Order to Show Cause. Successful evictions rely on correct filings, so the landlord must file all the forms correctly.
According to South Carolina state law, filing fees cost about $40 for the Rule to Show Cause. A Writ of Ejectment costs an extra $10.
1. Steps in filing
- Proceed to the justice court the South Carolina rental property belongs to
- File a Rule to Show Cause
- Pay the filing costs
It takes between 5- 30 days before a landlord can file an eviction action. This depends on the notice given to the tenant. In cases involving illegal activity, the landlord can proceed directly to filing an Order to Show Cause
Serving the Tenant
The Summons and its corresponding documents must be served to the tenant in order to proceed with the eviction process. The landlord must not serve this document themselves. The document should contain information such as the date and time of the court trial.
South Carolina allows anyone over the age of 18 uninvolved in the case to serve the document such as the deputy sheriff. It has to be delivered within 120 days. Proof of service is required.
1. How to serve documents to a tenant
The Summons and Rule to Show Cause have to be served through one of the following methods:
- Personal Service: The Summons and its corresponding documents is served to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: A copy of the Summons and Rule to Show Cause may be left at the tenant's place of residence or rental unit with someone who lives with them.
- Mailing Service: The server mails the documents via certified mail and requests a return receipt.
- Commercial Delivery Service: The server mails the documents via a commercial delivery service
2. After serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant must file an answer against the Rule to Show Cause 10 days after they receive it and the Summons in order to fight the eviction. Their answer should involve an explanation as to why they are disputing the landlord’s complaints. In other counties, this may be known as “filing an appearance.”
Either the landlord or tenant may request for a jury trial, but this could take longer. If the tenant fails to file for an appearance, the judge may pass judgment in favor of the landlord, thus proceeding with the eviction process.
The Summons and Rule/Order to Show Cause must be served within 120 days of its issuance before an eviction hearing is scheduled. Tenants must file an answer within 10 days of receiving the documents.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
A landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against their tenant in order to win. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord may win by default.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and filed an answer
The tenant may retaliate and decide to fight the eviction.
During the court hearing, the landlord has to support their claim with evidence and show it to the judge. This includes, but is not limited by the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease/rental agreement
- Rent receipts
- Rent ledgers
- Bank statements
- Witness statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations committed by the tenant
In some counties, an eviction hearing is scheduled within 10 days after the tenant files an answer, but in others, it is scheduled after the landlord files their complaint.
An eviction hearing is scheduled within 10 days after the tenant files an answer, depending on the county and the location of the court.
1. After the landlord wins the case and gets a Writ of Ejectment
Once the landlord wins the case and provided the tenant does not file for an appeal or reconsideration, the court will issue a Writ of Ejectment upon the landlord's request.
The Writ of Ejectment is a court order which informs the tenant that they must move out of their housing on the property or else they will be forcibly evicted. It is issued within 5 days after the judgment is passed in favor of the landlord.
2. Move out process
This final step in the eviction process in South Carolina is to move the tenant out of their rental housing on the property. South Carolina law dictates that a tenant must vacate the property within 24 hours upon receiving or posting of the Writ of Ejectment.
Only the appropriate law enforcement officers are allowed to forcibly evict a tenant.
The Writ of Ejectment is issued within 5 days upon judgment being passed in favor of the landlord. The tenant has 24 hours upon receipt of the Writ to vacate the property.
South Carolina Eviction Process Timeline
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part is extremely important to winning the dispute in court.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This can get very difficult to look through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment to make clear what the tenant agreed to.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings because these are hard to use as evidence.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to collect proof from any of the following methods before starting the eviction process:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, you can lay confident that you will more than likely win the dispute in court.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can you kick someone out without eviction notices in South Carolina?
No. A landlord can be sued for forceful evictions. Consequences can include being sued for one and a half times worth of actual damages as well as attorneys' fees.
What is a self-help eviction?
Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant’s belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity. South Carolina state laws specify how much money a tenant can sue for if the landlord has tried to illegally evict the tenant through some sort of self-help measure. Also, some state laws also provide for tenant's court costs and attorneys' fees (if the tenant successfully sues the landlord) and/or give the tenant the right to stay in the rental unit.
What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to South Carolina Civil Code, you may be liable for the Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay on the property.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of?
A South Carolina landlord must be aware of an update regarding COVID-19 Eviction Policies. Due to COVID-19, there may be an eviction moratorium or the government may be offering rent relief efforts to help tenants in eviction protection.
South Carolina Landlords must also check out information about laws on Security Deposits so that they understand how it can help them in case a tenant is not paying rent. Especially since non-payment of rent is the most common reason for eviction.