How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
A South Carolina landlord can evict a tenant after the lease has been breached due to the non-payment of rent, violation a specific lease provision, or occupancy of a residence after the lease term expires. The landlord must begin by identifying the cause for eviction and supply the tenant with a written notice. The tenant must comply with the landlord’s terms within a prescribed period of time. If the tenant does not satisfy the conditions, the landlord may commence the Ejectment proceedings (eviction lawsuit).
Step 1 – Notice of Eviction
The tenant will need to be notified of the eviction before the landlord may attempt to instigate the legal proceedings. In order to properly notify the tenant, the landlord must serve the individual with a written statement informing them of why their tenancy is ending, how much time is allowed before they must vacate the property, and whether or not they may cure their tenancy by paying rent or correcting a non-compliance.
Non-Payment of Rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord must provide the individual with a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. The tenant will have five (5) days in which they must either pay the total amount of rent owed or move from the leased property.
Note: The landlord need not provide the tenant with the 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit if the same written notice or a substantially similar one is already contained in the lease. In these situations, the landlord may file for eviction as soon as the tenant is five (5) days late on rent.
Non-Compliance with Rental Terms – A tenant who breaches the terms of their rental contract must be served with a 14-Day Notice to Comply or Quit. After receiving the written notice, the tenant must either cure the breach or vacate the dwelling within fourteen (14) days.
Lease Termination Without Cause (Month-to-Month Tenancy) – The landlord or the tenant may end a month-to-month tenancy by serving a 30-Day Notice to Quit on the other party. The notice states that the tenant shall vacate the rental unit within thirty (30) days.
Step 2 – Serving the Notice to the Tenant
A copy of the completed Notice to Quit will need to be served on the tenant by the landlord. The written notice may be hand-delivered, sent to the address via certified mail, or the landlord may employ the services of a process server. In either case, the landlord should try to obtain proof of service (e.g., witnesses, photographs, certificate of delivery from process server).
Step 3 – Magistrate Court Filing
If the notice period expires and the tenant does not comply with the terms (i.e., pay the rent, correct the non-compliance, or move from the dwelling), the landlord can file an Application for Ejectment along with a Rule to Show Cause with the magistrate court in the county where the property is located. The landlord will be required to pay a filing fee after submitting the papers to the court (a court clerk will be able to provide information on current filing rates).
Step 4 – Arrange for Service of Process
After filing with the court, the landlord must have the court papers served on the tenant by the sheriff’s department or a process server (a fee may be demanded for this service). The server will make two (2) attempts to deliver the documents to the tenant personally. If both attempts are unsuccessful, the server shall leave a copy affixed to the door of the premises and mail a copy to the address.
The Rule to Show Cause served on the tenant will instruct them to file an Answer with the court within ten (10) days, and it will indicate that they may request a court hearing should they wish to defend their case. Depending on the circumstance, a hearing may have already been scheduled at the time the landlord filed the eviction papers (this information will be outlined in the Rule to Show Cause).
Step 5 – Court Date
If the tenant fails to file the Answer within ten (10) days of being served with the court papers, a Warrant of Ejectment will be issued by the court which permits law enforcement to remove the tenant from the rented property.
Should the tenant successfully file the Answer and request to defend their case in court, a hearing will be set by a clerk (unless one was previously scheduled). Before the trial date, both the tenant and landlord can request a trial by jury rather than a trial by judge alone.
Both parties must appear in court for the hearing and present their cases before the judge, or before the jury if a trial by jury was requested. The landlord should bring any evidence supporting their claim along with their witnesses. The judge or jury will review both cases and make a ruling to determine whether the eviction shall be granted.
Step 6 – Verdict
If the verdict is in the landlord’s favor, a Writ of Ejectment will be issued within five (5) days. The Writ of Ejectment states that the tenant must vacate the property within a certain number of days. If the tenant does not leave within the designated period, the Writ of Ejectment must be taken to the sheriff’s department so that a constable or deputy sheriff may serve it on the tenant. The tenant will then have twenty-four (24) hours to vacate the property.
If the tenant continues to inhabit the dwelling after twenty-four (24) hours, the deputy sheriff will visit the tenant and remove them from the premises. The landlord must make the proper arrangments to remove the tenant’s personal belongings from the dwelling.