Navigating the intricacies of eviction and rental laws can be daunting for landlords and tenants. South Carolina eviction laws are designed to balance the rights and responsibilities of both parties to ensure fair and legal proceedings. 

This article explains the eviction process in South Carolina and highlights common eviction reasons, the proper steps for filing complaints, and the nuances of default judgments and appeals.

On What Grounds Can Evictions Be Filed in South Carolina

Failure to Pay Rent

In South Carolina, a landlord may issue a 5-day written notice for nonpayment of rent. Tenant rights in South Carolina allow the tenant to be able to pay the amount due within these five days to avoid eviction proceedings. If the lease agreement specifies a grace period or waives the need for additional notice, these conditions will dictate the next steps in the eviction lawsuit​​.

Lease Violations

South Carolina Lease agreements are binding contracts; violating their terms can lead to eviction. Landlords must provide a 14-day notice for tenants to remedy the breach. However, immediate lease termination may be required if the violation poses an emergency or involves material health and safety concerns​​.

Illegal Activities

If a tenant engages in illegal activity on the premises, the South Carolina landlord can bypass the notice period and proceed directly with eviction. This zero-tolerance approach underscores the gravity of maintaining lawful conduct within South Carolina rental properties​​.

Non-Renewal of Lease

When a lease term concludes, tenants are expected to vacate unless a renewal has been agreed upon. Failure to leave can lead to eviction, for which landlords must provide a 7-day or 30-day notice to quit, depending on the tenancy type​​.

Steps to Filing an Eviction in South Carolina

If the tenant does not comply with the notice they were served, you may need to file an eviction in court after giving them a notice to quit, pay, or comply. Once the time frame has passed for your tenants to comply with the notice, here are the steps to start the eviction process in court.

Step One: The Eviction Filing

After a notice period, a landlord can file for a Rule/Order to Show Cause to evict a tenant. The filing fee is $40 for the Rule to Show Cause and an extra $10 for a Writ of Ejectment. The landlord must file all the forms properly for a successful eviction.

  1. Find the justice court that has jurisdiction over the rental property. This can be done by looking up the property's address on the South Carolina Judicial Department website.
  2. Complete a Rule to Show Cause form and file it with the justice court. The form can be found on the South Carolina Judicial Department website.
  3. Pay the filing fee, which is currently $40. The filing fee can be paid in person at the justice court or by mail.

Step Two: The Court Summons

To proceed with an eviction, the tenant must be formally served with the Summons and accompanying paperwork. A landlord is not able to deliver the Summons. A court Summons is typically served by a deputy sheriff or a process server associated with the court.

Step Three: The Response

The tenant must file a response to the Rule to Show Cause within 10 days after they receive it and the Summons if they want to fight the eviction. The landlord and the tenant have the right to demand a trial by jury if they choose. This could significantly delay the eviction process if either party files a request for a trial by jury.

Presenting Evidence in Eviction Cases

To win any eviction hearing, you must show the court that your eviction filing is justified and that the evidence supports your claims. Here are the things you need to be aware of when preparing to present evidence in an eviction case.

Record-Keeping Best Practices

Challenges to eviction notices hinge on solid documentation. 

To prepare for the eviction hearing:

  1. Maintain organized files, though paper can be cumbersome and vulnerable.
  2. Use digital scanners to store and organize relevant physical documents properly.
  3. Utilize cloud storage platforms for backups and easy retrieval.

Ideally, you want to eliminate all of the above steps by employing a cloud-based property management system (PMS) for comprehensive record-keeping, including all tenant-related documentation and communication, to automate as much of your record-keeping process as possible.

Proving Rent Non-Payment

To demonstrate non-payment of rent:

  1. Present the lease outlining payment terms and late penalties.
  2. Show a record of all payments, how and when they were made, and any failed payment attempts.
  3. Provide evidence of bounced checks or bank charges for returned payments aligned with lease penalties.
  4. Compile all payment reminders and communications with the tenant, emphasizing written notices over verbal interactions.

Documenting Lease Violations

For evictions based on lease breaches such as noise, unauthorized pets, or damage:

  1. Use surveillance footage to substantiate violations (When and where permitted by law)
  2. Supplement with videos or photos of damages or unauthorized changes to the property.
  3. Present clear images, which can be more impactful than videos in some cases.
  4. Highlight the specific lease clauses violated, but note that severe breaches may not require explicit terms in the lease. However, it's generally prudent to include potential eviction reasons in lease agreements going forward.

Obtaining Judgment

Default Judgment

A landlord must have a strong argument backed by solid evidence against their tenant if they want to win. If the tenant does not respond within 10 days, the magistrate will issue a warrant of ejectment, empowering a constable or sheriff to remove the tenant from the property.

Judge or Jury Trial

If the tenant contests the eviction, a prompt trial is scheduled, where either party can request a jury or proceed with a traditional trial hearing before a judge. If the tenant does not appear in court on the scheduled day of the hearing, the judge will likely issue a default judgment.

Writ of Ejectment

Depending on the trial's outcome, a magistrate may issue a writ of ejectment or rule in favor of the tenant, allowing them to stay until another eviction is pursued or their lease legally ends.

Appeals and New Trials

Landlords and tenants can appeal the decision to a higher civil court in an ejectment case. For an appeal to delay an eviction, the tenant must post a bond. Once the appeal has been successfully filed, a new hearing in a circuit court will be scheduled. Both parties are generally advised to seek legal advice and legal representation in higher courts.

Steps to Gain Possession of Rental

Assuming the judge rules in your favor because you were able to present clear and convincing evidence that your eviction filing is justified and the tenant has violated one or more parts of the lease, the next step of the process is to regain possession of the rental property. Here are the steps involved in doing just that.

Step One: Obtaining the Writ of Ejectment

After a favorable judgment, assuming no appeals are made, the landlord can proceed with a Writ of Ejectment from the court. This order notifies the tenant that they have a limited time to leave the property voluntarily or face forced removal. The court issues this writ within five days following the landlord's court victory.

Step Two: Enforcing The Writ

Once the Writ of Ejectment is served or posted 5 days after judgment according to criteria dedicated in South Carolina code, the tenant is given 24 hours to leave the property. If the tenant does not vacate the property within the allotted time frame, law enforcement will forcibly remove them. In South Carolina, enforcement of the Writ must only be carried out by authorized law enforcement officers.

South Carolina Eviction Process Timeline

Eviction Steps

Eviction Timeline

Serving Official Notice

(from Landlord)

5 - 30 days

Issuance and Service of Summons and Complaint

(from Court)

Within 120 days
Court Hearing and Judgement10 days
Issuance of Writ of Execution5 days
Return of Rental Unit24 hours

Continuation of Rent

It’s important to note that in South Carolina, even after eviction proceedings start, the tenant must continue to pay rent until they vacate the property.

Willful Abandonment

When a South Carolina landlord encounters a rental unit that appears to be abandoned, the legal steps to determine and deal with the situation are outlined as follows:

  1. If a rental property is abandoned for 15 days or more, and no one can be found on the premises, the rule of eviction can be served by posting it on a noticeable part of the property. This applies to residential and nonresidential rentals as specified in their respective sections of the South Carolina Code.
    1. Determining Abandonment: Abandonment is presumed if a tenant is absent for 15 days after failing to pay rent or immediately if they've voluntarily turned off utilities, are absent, and have not paid rent​​ (S.C. Code Ann. "§§ 27-40-730. Remedies for absence, nonuse, and abandonment")
  2. Handling Abandoned Personal Property: The landlord can dispose of the property for items left behind with an estimated value of $500 or less. If the value exceeds $500, the property must be handled according to specific legal provisions (S.C. Code Ann. §§ 27-37-10 to 27-37-150)​​.

Wrongful Eviction Repercussions

In South Carolina, tenant law states that if a tenant is wrongfully evicted, they have the right to sue for damages. To avoid being sued by your renter, it is important to follow the law (Federal, State, and Local) and the lease terms.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the eviction notice period for nonpayment of rent in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, tenants are given a 5-day notice period to pay the rent or face eviction proceedings.

Can a landlord evict a tenant for lease violations without notice?

Tenants must be given a 14-day notice to correct a lease violation before a landlord can initiate eviction proceedings, except in emergency situations.

Are landlords required to provide a reason for not renewing a lease?

No, landlords in South Carolina do not have to provide a reason for not renewing a lease as long as they give proper notice based on the type of tenancy.

What are the legal grounds for a landlord to enter a rental unit?

Landlords can enter a rental unit to inspect the premises, make necessary repairs, or show the property to prospective tenants or buyers, provided they give a 24-hour notice.

How much can a landlord charge for a returned check in South Carolina?

South Carolina law allows landlords to charge up to $30 for a returned check.

Can a tenant withhold rent if the landlord fails to provide essential services?

Yes, tenants may withhold rent if essential services like water and heat are not provided.

What happens if a landlord wrongfully withholds a security deposit?

A tenant may be entitled to get their original deposit back, up to three times the deposit amount, plus reasonable attorney's fees if a landlord wrongfully withholds a security deposit.

Is there a rent control law in South Carolina?

South Carolina does not have a rent control law, meaning there is no state-mandated limit for the rent a landlord can charge.