North Charleston has the highest eviction rates in the country.
According to a Princeton University study, North Charleston is the nation’s No.1 eviction market: 16.5 in 100 rental homes were evicted in 2016, which equates to 10 evictions per day. Columbia is the eighth-worst with 8.22 in 100 renters evicted. These results paint a shocking portrait of what housing looks like in South Carolina, especially in the Charleston area. Stagnant wages, skyrocketing utility bills and a lack of affordable housing programs are just a few of the factors affecting South Carolina renters.
Let’s look closer at the eviction process in South Carolina. S.C. Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (1986) is fairly straightforward: tenants are required to pay rent and comply with lease requirements and landlords are required to maintain essential services and comply with code.
Eviction is a legal proceeding, which means a landlord or a property manager must carefully follow all the rules required by South Carolina law. The first step in the eviction process is giving the tenant a written notice. And this notice depends on the eviction reason and the terms of a rental agreement.
The most common reason the tenants are evicted is for nonpayment of rent. A landlord/property manager can also evict a tenant for violating the lease or rental agreement. In this case, the landlord is required to give the tenant a 14-day notice, during which the tenant has to fix the problem. If it isn’t fixed, the landlord can file the eviction.
If the tenant wishes to fight the eviction, the tenant must appear before the judge. In some cases even if a landlord thinks an eviction is justified, a tenant may be able to fight the eviction with a valid defense.
For example, in the situation when a landlord fails to maintain the rental unit according to minimum legal standards. This means the landlord must provide heating, electricity, and water (including hot water) at all times (S.C. Code Ann. § 27-40-440). If the landlord fails to provide one of these essential services, the tenant has to give a written notice to the landlord, and if nothing gets done within 14 days, the tenant can sue the landlord and recover damages, or the tenant can simply terminate the rental agreement and move out of the rental unit.
If the landlord wins the eviction case the only person authorized to actually remove the tenant is a law enforcement officer. It is illegal for a landlord to remove a tenant by shutting off the utilities or changing the locks. This is called “self-help” eviction and the tenant can sue the landlord for doing that.
No matter the outcome, no tenant wants to be involved in any eviction process. It usually results in receiving a negative credit rating and being turned down for future housing.
Eviction doesn’t seem to be an issue addressed by legislation in the last few years. Very few bills were introduced and they were in favor of the landlords.
The current housing situation in Charleston shows that more and more people spend more than 50% of their income on rent. If this trend keeps growing, we are to see more and more people losing their homes through eviction.