South Carolina Leases and Rental Agreements Laws
Renters everywhere understand what it’s like to feel powerless in signing a rental agreement that isn’t exactly fair to you. Unfortunately for tenants, landlords generally have a lot of power in what they include in their leases. As long as they don’t add any illegal conditions, like you will pay your rent by providing the apartment manager with sexual favors, then the conditions are typically acceptable.
House or apartment community rules, as long as reasonable, are also usually allowed. For example, if your landlord has quiet hours at night, but you work nights and sleep during the days, you'll probably have to be quiet when you’re up at night in your apartment on your days off. If you bring over guests so regularly the landlord thinks they live there, he or she may ask you add them to the lease or boot them out. This is especially true in subsidized federal housing, where you can lose your housing assistance for having guests or for your guest’s bad behavior.
The following table outlines some of the main parts of the South Carolina lease and rental agreement laws.
|Code Section||South Carolina Code Title 27: Property and Conveyances, Chapter 40: Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and Title 31: Housing & Redevelopment, Chapter 21: Fair Housing Law|
|Uniform Residential Landlord & Tenant Act||South Carolina adopted the Uniform Resident Landlord & Tenant Act (URLTA) in 1986.|
|Terms of Leases||Rent should be in the rental agreement, but if not agreed upon, the tenant will pay the fair market value for rent of the unit. If not specified, rent is due at the beginning of each month and tenancies are month-to-month, unless a just renting a room, then its weekly.
If a tenant stays over their lease, called being a “holdover” tenant, the tenancy converts to a month-to-month tenancy. However, if the tenant originally paid weekly, then the tenancy becomes week-to-week. This is more typical in lodger homes or SRO (Single Resident Occupancy) motels.
Note: Landlords are prohibited from adding conditions to your rental agreement that make you give up your rights under the law. Fortunately, if these provisions are in your lease, they can’t be enforced.
|Deposits||Unfortunately for tenants, there’s no statewide statutory limit on a rental security deposit amount. However, your city may have an ordinance limiting the amount, for example to 2x one month's rent.
The landlord must give you back the security deposit 30 days after you move out or when you ask for it back, whichever is later (so be sure to ask for the money back in writing and provide an address to send the money to before you move out!). Tenants don’t earn interest on security deposits, although a landlord could choose to do this, it’s not legally required, so most don’t.
|Discrimination||It’s illegal under federal and state laws to discriminate in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or gender, familial status or having children, or national origin. There are some exceptions, such as housing intended for older persons can discriminate based on age.
Also, landlords who also occupy a home and rent out nor more than 4 rooms or subunits in the home can discriminate in finding compatible housemates. Additionally, a landlord who owns three or fewer single-family homes can also discriminate in some matters, but not, for example, refusing a disabled tenant to reasonably modify the home to be able to fully enjoy it, such as putting in a ramp to get over the steps at the entrance of a home.
|Evictions||A landlord must go to court to legally evict you. The landlord can’t self-help evict you by changing the locks to your home or turning the utilities off. If you’re being evicted, you need to respond to the court quickly (within 10 days), so don’t delay seeking help if you need it.|
|Mobile Homes||If you rent a mobile home on private property or in a park, then the regular landlord-tenant rules apply to your situation and you probably have a lease with just the mobile home owner. If you own a mobile home, but rent space in a mobile home park, then the South Carolina Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act applies and provides you additional rights. For example, you can only be evicted for 8 reasons stated in the law. Your rental agreement would be with the park directly.|
|Getting Legal Help for Tenants||If you feel you’ve been discriminated against because of your race, color, religion, gender, national original (ancestry), disability, or family status (such as having children) in looking for housing, you can file a complaint with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission. You can also call the HUD (Housing & Urban Development) Fair Housing Hotline at 1-800-669-9777.
If you’re being evicted, you should contact a local landlord-tenant attorney or the South Carolina Legal Services at 1-888-346-5592, for free assistance for low-income individuals.
|Getting Legal Help for Landlords||If you have a problem tenant you would like to evict or any other landlord-related problem, you should consult with an experienced South Carolina landlord-tenant attorney.|
Note: State laws change frequently. It’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney.
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