Steps of the eviction process in South Carolina:
Timeline. Evicting a tenant in South Carolina can take around 4 to 9 weeks (or more) depending on the eviction type and how quickly the summons is served on the tenant. If tenants request a jury trial, the process can take longer (read more).
Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in South Carolina.
Step 1: Notice is Posted
Landlords in South Carolina can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:
- Nonpayment of Rent – Once rent is past due, written notice must be served giving the tenant the option to pay rent in order to avoid eviction.
- Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – If a tenant violates a provision of a written lease/rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant the opportunity to correct the issue before moving forward with the eviction process.
- No Lease / End of Lease Term (Tenant at Will) – If there is no lease or the term of the lease has ended, the landlord does not need any additional reason to end the tenancy as long as proper notice is given.
- Illegal Activity – If a tenant is engaged in illegal activity, the landlord must serve them with written notice before pursuing eviction proceedings.
- Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property.
- Evicting a Squatter If the individual occupying the property did not have the permission of the landlord when initially moving in, does not have a lease (or verbal agreement) and has no history of paying rent, then a landlord/tenant relationship may not be established. As a result, the normal eviction process may not apply (read more).
Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.
Eviction Process for Nonpayment of Rent
A landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.
In South Carolina, rent is considered late if it is not paid within 5 days of the due date, and a landlord can proceed with the eviction process.
No additional written notice is required if there is language in a written lease stating that if rent isn’t paid within 5 days of the due date, the landlord can begin the eviction process.
Otherwise, once rent is past due, the landlord must provide a 5-Day Notice to Pay if the landlord wants to file an eviction action with the court. This notice gives the tenant the option to pay the past due amount in full within 5 days in order to avoid eviction.
If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the notice period and remains on the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement
A tenant can be evicted in South Carolina if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease/rental agreement.
South Carolina landlords are required to allow tenants to correct a lease violation, and must provide tenants with a 14-Day Notice to Comply, giving the tenant 14 days to correct the issue.
Typical lease violations under this category could include things like damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, and having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy.
For all violations except those involving health/safety, if the tenant has begun correcting the issue within the 14-day notice period, even if they haven’t been able to fully comply before the 14 days are up, the eviction process will be stopped. The tenant must fully comply within a “reasonable” period, however.
In South Carolina, health/safety violations are considered a breach of the lease/rental agreement.
For health/safety violations that create an emergency situation, the tenant must fix them as quickly as possible. All other health/safety violations must be corrected within 14 days.
If the tenant fails to correct health/safety violations or other lease agreement violations (or doesn’t begin to correct the issue) within the time period on the notice, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease
In the state of South Carolina, if tenants “hold over,” or stay in the rental unit after the rental term has expired, then the landlord must give tenants notice before evicting them. This can include tenants without a written lease and week-to-week and month-to-month tenants.
Often this type of eviction applies to tenants who are at the end of their lease and the landlord doesn’t want to renew.
The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy .
- Week-to-week – If rent is paid on a week-to-week basis, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
- Month-to-month – If rent is paid on a month-to-month basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Illegal Activity
Tenants can be evicted in South Carolina if they are involved in illegal activity.
If tenants are involved in illegal activity, they may not receive written notice prior to eviction or have the opportunity to correct the issue.
The landlord may request a Rule/Order to Show Cause without giving the tenant prior notice.
Step 2: Petition is Filed and Served
As the next step in the eviction process, South Carolina landlords must apply for a Rule (or Order) to Show Cause in the appropriate court. In Charleston County, this costs $40 in filing fees and an additional $10 for a writ of ejectment.
The summons and Rule/Order to Show Cause may be served on the tenant by the sheriff, deputy sheriff, magistrate’s constable, or anyone over the age of 18 who is not part of the case using one of the following methods:
- Giving a copy to the tenant in person
- Leaving a copy with someone who resides at the tenant’s rental unit/premises
- Mailing via certified mail as long as a return receipt is requested
- Using a commercial delivery service to deliver the summons and rule/order to the tenant
South Carolina law doesn’t address how much time a landlord has to serve the tenant with the rule/order prior to the hearing, or how quickly the summons and rule/order must be served after the landlord files a request for the eviction rule/order with the court.
However, if there is no proof of service (proving the tenant actually received a copy of the rule/order and summons) after 120 days , the eviction case may be dismissed.
A few days to a few weeks. If service can’t be completed within 120 days, the lawsuit may be dismissed.
Step 3: Court Hearing and Judgment
The tenant must respond to the Rule/Order to Show Cause within 10 days after the summons was served on the tenant.
This is the tenant’s opportunity to contest the eviction and explain why they should be allowed to remain in the rental unit. In some court locations, this may be called “making an appearance.”
If the tenant fails to respond/make an appearance within that time period, the judge will rule in favor of the landlord and the tenant will be evicted.
In some counties, tenants must request a hearing within 10 days of receiving the Rule/Order to the Show Cause or the court may rule in the landlord’s favor. In other locations, the hearing is set when the landlord applies for the Rule/Order to Show Cause.
Either the landlord or tenant can request a jury trial, which will add more time to the process.
If the magistrate rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of ejectment will be issued and the eviction process will proceed.
~10 days. The tenant must respond/appear/request a hearing within 10 days of receiving the summons.
Step 4: Writ of Ejectment Is Issued
The writ of ejectment is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit, and gives them the opportunity to remove their belongings before the sheriff or constable returns to the property to forcibly remove them.
If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, a magistrate will issue a writ of ejectment within 5 days of their judgment in favor of the landlord.
~5 days. A writ of ejectment will be issued within 5 days of a ruling in favor of the landlord.
Step 5: Possession of Property is Returned
The tenant will have 24 hours after the writ of ejectment is posted/given to the tenant to move out of the rental unit.
If the tenant has not moved out of the rental unit by the end of the notice period, the sheriff will forcibly remove them from the rental property.
24 hours. The tenant has 24 hours once the writ of ejectment has been posted/delivered to move out of the rental unit.
South Carolina Eviction Process Timeline
Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in South Carolina. With that being said, these estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.
- Initial Notice Period – between 5 and 30 days, depending on the reason for eviction.
- Rule/Order to Show Cause Requested and Served – A few days to a few weeks; if service isn’t completed within 120 days, the eviction case may be dismissed.
- Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – 10 days; longer if a jury trial is requested.
- Issuance of Writ of Ejectment – ~5 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.
- Return of Possession – 24 hours after the writ is posted.
Flowchart of South Carolina Eviction Process
For additional questions about the eviction process in South Carolina, please refer to the official state legislation, South Carolina Code §§ 27-37-10 to 27-37-160 and §§27-40-10 to 27-40-940, and South Carolina Rules for Magistrates Court, Rule 6, for more information.