FAQ — Landlord-Tenant Act

Landlord and Tenant KeysWhere can I find the law in South Carolina that covers Landlord-Tenant issues?

The South Carolina Residential Landord and Tenant Act, passed in 1986 and otherwise known as S.C. Code  § 27-40-10, et seq., governs most Landlord-Tenant issues that may arise here in the Palmetto State.  The full text of that statute can be found in our “Practice Areas” section by clicking HERE.

Who does the South Carolina Residential Landlord and Tenant Act apply to?

The Landlord-Tenant Act applies to all landlords, renters, roomers, tenants and those who act on their behalf.  There are, however, a few exceptions.  Those exceptions include–but are not limited to–hospitals, group homes, schools, and other institutions where people stay overnight, as well as patrons of hotels and motels, and employees of the landlord who live at a work site and are compensated for their work with housing.

If I do not have a written lease with my landlord or tenant, does the law still provide me with protection?

Yes, you are protected by the law with or without a written lease agreement.  Whether or not you have put the terms of your lease down on paper or merely discussed it with the other party, both written and oral agreements to rent for a certain amount of money and time may be enforced by the Landlord-Tenant Act, so long as the terms of the agreement are fair and reasonable to all parties involved.

What information should my lease agreement include?

Your residential lease agreement should include the term length of the rental agreement (six months? one year?), the amount of rent due, the date that rent is due, and an outline of the duties and obligations of both the tenant and the landlord.  Under no circumstances should the lease agreement include any provisions that require you, as either tenant or landlord, to give up any of your rights as provided by the law.  Any illegal conditions placed in the rental agreement may not be enforced in court, and could render a landlord liable to a tenant for money damages and attorney’s fees.

Nobody signed my lease agreement — can it still be enforced?

Once the landlord provides the tenant with a copy of the lease agreement and the tenant moves into the property and begins paying rent as agreed upon, the lease agreement is binding and enforceable, regardless of whether it was signed.

When can the landlord terminate the lease agreement, and does he or she have to give me notice?

The amount of notice required before the termination of the residential lease agreement should be noted in the agreement itself.  If no provision for such notice is included in a written agreement, or if the lease is based upon oral conversation, either the landlord or tenant may end the lease agreement by providing the other with adequate notice — if rent is paid every month, then 30 days’ notice is required; if rent is paid every week, then seven days’ notice is required, etc.

After the lease is terminated or expires, will I get my security deposit back?

A security deposit is an amount of the tenant’s money held by the landlord in case the tenant damages the property or otherwise does not pay rent.  So long as there are no damages or rent owed, the landlord is obligated to return the tenant’s security deposit once the tenant moves.  The tenant must merely ask for the deposit to be returned, and provide the landlord with his or her new mailing address.  The landlord must return the deposit within thirty (30) days.

My landlord kept my security deposit — is that allowed?

Yes.  A landlord may keep part or all of a security deposit, so long as the landlord provides the tenant with an itemized list, in writing, of the reasons for which certain amounts are not being returned.

What are a tenant’s obligations to a landlord?

Simple:  Pay rent on time, do not damage the landlord’s property, do not act in a manner that disturbs the other tenants, and keep your rental property safe and clean.

If the tenant does not pay rent, what are the landlord’s options?

In the case that the tenant does not pay rent, the landlord must send a notice to the tenant providing the tenant with five (5) days to pay the late rent due, unless the lease agreement clearly states that no such notice shall be provided.  Should the tenant not remit the proper amount within that five (5) day period, the landlord is within his or her rights to terminate the lease agreement and begin eviction proceedings.

What can a tenant do if a landlord initiates eviction proceedings?

Consult a lawyer right away, such as the attorneys here at The LaMantia Law Firm.  Once you receive eviction papers, you have only ten (10) days to respond to the eviction notice.  If you do not respond, the Court may issue an “ejectment notice,” which will serve to eject you from the property.

I have a complaint. How can I properly complain to my landlord?

While you may call your landlord and make the complaint directly to him or her, it is better to make the complaint in writing, and drop off that complaint at the landlord’s office.

What are a landlord’s obligations to a tenant?

A landlord must ensure that the rental property is kept in a safe and habitable (livable) condition.  A landlord must make all repairs in a reasonable amount of time.  A landlord must keep all common areas–courtyards, staircases, etc.–in a safe and clean condition.  A landlord must not interfere with your safe and healthy use and enjoyment of the property.

What if there is a repair to be made?

Provide notice to your landlord right away.  Because a landlord is obligated to follow the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act, as well as housing codes, he or she is required to keep the property in good shape.

The landlord is obligated by law to ensure that running water works (the tenant must, of course, pay the water bill), and that hot water and heat are available.  The landlord must also ensure that all electrical outlets and appliances are safe and functioning.

These duties exist unless the landlord and tenant have agreed otherwise, in the lease agreement.  In that agreement, a tenant may agree to fix certain items or bear a certain amount of repair costs.  As leases are highly nuanced, it is best that you consult with an attorney, like the attorneys here at The LaMantia Law Firm, regarding your rights as either a tenant or landlord.

I have contacted my landlord about repairs, but nothing has been done.  What should I do?

What you should do depends upon whether or not you want to move out. If you want to stay, you can consult an attorney and file a complaint against your landlord in Court, asking for your landlord to be ordered by the Court to make the repairs.

If you want to move, make a written list of the repairs that must be made.  Provide your landlord with that list, as well as a written notice that the repairs must be made within fourteen (14) days–or within another reasonable time–or you will be vacating the premises.  Should the landlord not make those repairs, under the Doctrine of Constructive Eviction, you are entitled to move and will no longer be obligated to that landlord for rent. 

If I feel as though I have been discriminated against because of race or for other reason, does the South Carolina Residential Landlord and Tenant Act protect me?

The Landlord and Tenant Act was not designed to address specific questions of discrimination, but the Civil Rights Act certainly was.  The federal government has in place a hotline specifically meant to address issues of discrimination  — contact the Housing and Urban Development Housing Discrimination hotline at (800) 669-9777.

Do I need a lawyer if my landlord or tenant is giving me problems?

It depends upon the problem.  The attorneys here at The LaMantia Law Firm are available for a free initial consultation.  Contact us today.  We understand, and we are here to help.

DISCLAIMER: The LaMantia Law Firm only takes Landlord-Tenant cases when they relate to family law issues. The above information has been provided as a reference for the people of South Carolina. Individuals with Landlord-Tenant issues should contact the South Carolina State Bar for legal advice.