This information outlines when and how a landlord may evict a tenant, and it will also discuss a tenant's remedies for unlawful eviction. Most of the law on this subject is set forth in the South Carolina Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which will be referred to as the "Landlord and Tenant Act", and may not apply to commercial or business leases.
Generally, a landlord may evict a tenant and take possession of the rental unit for any one of the following reasons:
1. Nonpayment of rent
If rent is not paid when due, the landlord may end the rental agreement and start eviction proceedings if the landlord has given 5 days written notice, and the rent is not paid within that time. However, the landlord only has to give written notice that the rent is past due one time during the lease term.
The Landlord does not have to give this written notice if the rental agreement, or lease, is in writing and it says very clearly that no written notice will be given if rent is past due.
2. Breach of the terms of the rental agreement (verbal or written)
If the tenant fails to live by terms of the rental agreement, other than the requirement to pay rent, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement and begin eviction proceedings. The landlord must give written notice specifying what the tenant did that violated the rental agreement. If the tenant does not remedy or live by the terms of the rental agreement within 14 days after receiving written notice, eviction can begin. If compliance or remedy cannot be completed within 14 days, but is begun within that period and is finished in good faith within a reasonable time, the rental agreement cannot be terminated.
3. Failure of tenant to maintain the dwelling unit in a healthy and safe manner
The landlord may terminate the rental agreement and begin eviction proceedings if the tenant does not properly take care of the dwelling unit, as required by the Landlord and Tenant Act, and endangers health and safety. The tenant must comply as quickly as conditions require, in case of emergency.
If it is not an emergency, the tenant must comply within 14 days after written notice by the landlord specifying what the tenant is doing wrong and requesting that the tenant fix the problems within that period of time. If this is not done, the landlord may end the rental agreement and begin eviction proceedings.
4. Abandonment of the rental unit by the tenant
The landlord can take possession of a rental unit if there is an unexplained absence of a tenant from a dwelling unit for a period of 15 days after the rent was due and not paid. This is considered as abandonment, and the landlord can take possession. This is not considered an eviction. The rental agreement may be considered ended, or the landlord may consider the rental agreement to still be in effect, in which case the landlord must try to rent the dwelling unit at a fair price. If it is rented before the end of the rental agreement, the tenant's responsibility under the rental agreement ends when the new rental agreement is effective.
5. When the lease term has ended
When the lease term of the rental agreement has ended, and the tenant refuses to move out, the landlord may bring an action in court to evict the tenant.
Where there is no definite term in a rental agreement, the landlord may end the rental agreement. If a tenant pays weekly rent, the Landlord may demand that the tenant move out only after giving the tenant at least 7 days written notice. In all other cases where there is no definite rental term, the landlord must give at least 30 days written notice that the tenant must move out.
After the rental agreement is terminated for any of the reasons described, the landlord has a right to possession of the rental unit and rent. The Landlord may bring a separate claim for damages for breach of the rental agreement, and can ask the court to make the tenant pay reasonable attorney's fees.
This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.