South Carolina Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

South Carolina Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Last Updated: January 27, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions
  • Unpaid rent
  • Costs of damage
  • Costs due to a breach of the lease
Return Deadline 30 Days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 3x Amount Due + Attorneys’ Fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in South Carolina, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the following things can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Costs due to a breach of the lease agreement

Most states, such as South Carolina, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear & Tear vs Damage in South Carolina?

Normal wear and tear is damage that is expected when a rental unit is used in a normal way, such as gently worn carpets and faded walls. Damage is the destruction caused by abusive or negligent use of a rental unit, like ripped carpets and heavily stained walls.

“Normal wear and tear” is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

“Damage” means destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant during the course of the tenancy.

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in South Carolina?

Yes, landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.

Some wear and tear on a rental unit’s carpet is expected after normal day-to-day use of the property. For example, carpets typically become discolored, indented, or gently worn, when used in a normal way. However, non-typical, abusive use of carpet results in rips, visible stains, or burns. Landlords have the right to charge the tenant for the replacement of the carpet in areas where serious damage has occurred.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in South Carolina?

Yes, landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures. However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in South Carolina?

Landlords can make deductions from the security deposit for cleaning, but only if the tenant causes damage that requires cleaning (e.g. wine stains on the carpet).

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in South Carolina?

Yes, in South Carolina, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes minor scrapes from daily use, fading due to sunlight, or minor cracks in the original paint. Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in South Carolina?

South Carolina law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

Security Deposit Returns in South Carolina

Landlords must return any remaining portion of a security deposit within 30 days after conditions have been met. If deductions are to be made from the security deposit, an itemized statement of deductions must be provided.

If the rental unit is damaged by a major event (e.g. fire) that is the tenant’s fault, the landlord is not required to return the security deposit. However, the landlord is still required to provide written notice to the tenant with a statement of deductions.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in South Carolina?

South Carolina landlords have 30 days to return any remaining portion of the security deposit. The period starts when one of the following events occurs, whichever is later:

  • The lease term ends and the tenant vacates the rental unit
  • The tenant requests the return of the security deposit in writing

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in South Carolina?

South Carolina law does not require landlords to provide interest on held security deposits.

How Do Landlords Give Notice / What Information Do They Have to Provide in South Carolina?

If deductions are to be made from the security deposit, an itemized statement of deductions must be hand-delivered or sent by registered or certified mail to the tenant’s forwarding address.

The tenant is not entitled to damages if all of the following occur:

  • The tenant does not provide a forwarding address
  • The landlord is unaware of the tenant’s whereabouts
  • The landlord attempts to return the security deposit to the tenant’s last known address

Security Deposit Disputes in South Carolina

If landlords do not return the security deposit or provide an itemized statement of deductions, if any, within the required time period, tenants can file for damages in court up to three times the amount wrongfully withheld plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for unreasonable deductions.

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in South Carolina?

If a landlord fails to perform their obligations regarding a security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court.In South Carolina, tenants can file a case in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $7,500. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file in District Court.

A small claims case regarding the return of a security deposit must be filed within 3 years.

Cases are filed in the Small Claims Court where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives.An attorney is not required but permitted.

Our website provides more information about the process of filing a dispute in Small Claims Court.