Steps of the eviction process in South Carolina:
- Landlord serves tenant written notice.
- Landlord requires Rule/Order to Show Cause and is served.
- Court holds hearing and issues judgment.
- Writ of ejectment is issued.
- Possession of property is returned to landlord.
Evicting a tenant in South Carolina can take around four to nine 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.
Grounds for an Eviction in South Carolina
In South Carolina, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include not paying rent on time, staying after the lease ends, violating lease terms or not upholding responsibilities under South Carolina law. Even so, proper notice must first be given before ending the tenancy.
|Nonpayment of Rent||5 Days||Maybe|
|End of / No Lease||30 Days||No|
|Lease Violation||14 Days||Maybe|
Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent
In South Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. To do so, they must first give 5 days’ notice to pay rent or vacate the premises. If the tenant does neither after that time, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
However, no notice is required if the following language is in bold conspicuous type on the written lease:
“IF YOU DO NOT PAY YOUR RENT ON TIME This is your notice. If you do not pay your rent within five days of the due date, the landlord can start to have you evicted. You will get no other notice as long as you live in this rental unit.“
If this language is in the written rental agreement and rent isn’t paid within 5 days of the due date, the landlord can begin the eviction process without notice.
Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is due at the beginning of each pay period and is considered late in South Carolina the day immediately after its due date. So for example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the second of the month (if not paid in full). There is no right to a legal grace period (i.e., five days).
Once rent is considered late, the landlord can begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with proper notice.
Eviction for No Lease or End of Lease
In South Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant without a lease or with a lease that has ended (known as a “holdover tenant” or “tenant at will”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving proper notice to move out (30 days for tenants that pay month-to-month).
Once the tenancy ends, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities
In South Carolina, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities under South Carolina landlord-tenant law. To do so, a landlord must provide 14 days’ notice to begin correcting the issue or move out. For all lease violations, a tenant has the opportunity to correct the issue to avoid eviction.
If the tenant begins to make corrections but cannot complete the remedy within the 14-day notice period, the landlord must allow the tenant to make the corrections within a “reasonable” amount of time. The landlord shall not file an eviction lawsuit under the abovementioned circumstances.
Tenant responsibilities include:
- Complying with all building and housing codes that materially affect health and safety.
- Keeping the rental unit reasonably safe and clean.
- Disposing of all garbage, ash, rubbish, and other waste in a safe manner.
- Keeping all plumbing fixtures clean.
- Using all facilities (including elevators) and appliances in a safe manner.
- Not allowing tenants or guests to deliberately or negligently destroy, damage, remove, or impair the dwelling unit.
- Not disturbing the peaceful enjoyment of other tenants.
- Complying with all lease rules and regulations.
Examples of lease violations include:
- Having an unauthorized pet, guest or vehicle.
- Parking in an unauthorized area.
- Not maintaining a certain level of cleanliness.
- Health violations (i.e., allowing trash to pile up).
- Safety violations (i.e., damaging the electrical wiring).
For health and safety violations that create an emergency situation, the tenant must fix them as quickly as possible.
The tenant has 14 days to begin fixing the issue and must complete the correction in a “reasonable” amount of time after notice was given. If no action was made to fix the issue, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Illegal Evictions in South Carolina
In South Carolina, any of the below is illegal.
No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:
- Changing the locks.
- Shutting off utilities.
- Removing tenant belongings.
If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant an amount equal to 3 months’ periodic rent or twice the actual damages sustained, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees. A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.
It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:
- Complaining about a material health or safety issue to the landlord or governmental agency.
- Filing a complaint to a government authority.
If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant an amount equal to 3 months’ periodic or treble the actual damages sustained, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant
A landlord can begin the eviction process in South Carolina by serving the tenant with written notice. The notice must be delivered by one of the following methods:
- Giving it to the tenant in person; or
- Mailing the notice to the tenant via registered/certified mail.
It is important for a landlord to always maintain a copy of the signed and served notice as proof of proper service of notice.
5-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
If a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial) in South Carolina, the landlord can serve them a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice gives the tenant 5 calendar days to pay the entire remaining balance or vacate the premises.
30-Day Notice to Quit
For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in South Carolina, the landlord must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This eviction notice allows the tenant 30 calendar days to move out.
For tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice differs:
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Amount|
14-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate
In South Carolina, if a tenant commits a minor violation of the terms of their lease or legal responsibilities as a tenant, the landlord can serve them a 14-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This eviction notice gives the tenant 14 calendar days to fix the issue or move out.
Step 2: Landlord Files Petition with Court
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. A landlord must file an ejectment action with the court which provides details on why the tenant should be evicted. 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 eviction 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;
- Mailing via certified mail as long as a return receipt is requested; or
- 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 Holds Hearing & Issues 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 timeframe, 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.
Approximately 10 days. The tenant must respond, appear or 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 deputy sheriff or constable returns to the property. The deputy sheriff is the only one authorized to enter the premises by force and must use the least destructive way to enter the premises.
If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, a magistrate will issue a writ of ejectment within five days of their judgment in favor of the landlord.
Approximately 5 days. A writ of ejectment will be issued within five 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 or 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 or delivered to move out of the rental unit.
South Carolina Eviction Process Timeline
In South Carolina, an eviction can be completed in 4 to 9 weeks but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.
Below are the parts of the South Carolina eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.
|Initial Notice Period||5-30 Calendar Days|
|Court Issuing Rule to Show Cause||3-21 Business Days|
|Tenant Response Period||10 Business Days|
|Court Ruling||10 Business Days|
|Court Serving Writ of Possession||5 Business Days|
|Final Notice Period||24 Hours|
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.
- 1 SC Code § 27-37-10 (2021)
- 2 SC Code §27-40-710 (2019)
- 3 SC Code § 27-37-10 (2021)
- 4 SC Code § 27-40-310 (2021)
- 5 SC Code §27-40-770 (2019)
- 6 SC Code §27-40-710 (2019)
- 7 SC Code §27-40-720 (2019)
- 8 SC Code § 27-40-630 (2021)
- 9 SC Code § 27-40-660 (2021)
- 10 SC Code § 27-40-910 (2021)
- 11 SC Rules of Magistrates Court, Rule 6 (2019)
- 12 SC Rules of Magistrates Court, Rule 6 (2019)
- 13 SC Rules of Magistrates Court, Rule 6 (2019)
- 14 SC Rules of Magistrates Court, Rule 6 (2019)
- 15 SC Rules of Magistrates Court, Rule 6 (2019)
- 16 SC Code §27-37-40 (2019)
- 17 SC Code §27-37-100 (2019)
- 18 SC Code §27-37-160 (2019)