By: Deborah D. Davis
Of the many calls that I receive regarding landlord-tenant disputes, key recurring questions and themes appear. I wanted to address these common questions for you to review before determining whether the Dickson Davis Law Firm may assist you with your landlord-tenant issue.
I invite you to also refer to the following page for additional information and the law surrounding the landlord-tenant relationship:
Some key issues you need to consider before calling the Dickson Davis Law Firm about your landlord-tenant dispute, and most of these issues relate to residential landlord-tenant issues (but some apply to both residential and commercial landlord-tenant disputes):
- With all landlord-tenant disputes, the Dickson Davis Law Firm will ask you to fill out the online Landlord-Tenant Dispute Form (click to fill out online form) for additional information;
- The first thing the Dickson Davis Law Firm will ask you is whether you have a copy of the lease, and to send the same to the attorney for review as part of your consultation;
- The second thing the Dickson Davis Law Firm will ask of you whether a pending eviction is in process, of which you will need to go to the South Carolina Case Search (click to learn more), select your county, and enter your name to see if litigation is pending against you regarding the landlord-tenant dispute;
- The tenant will be responsible to pay rent for the premises for the time the tenant remains in possession of the premises at a minimum;
- If the tenant abandons the premises, then the tenant is at risk for the landlord accelerating the terms and conditions of the lease (or paying rent for the time the tenant was in possession of the premises) unless other circumstances are present such as constructive eviction, physical ouster, wrongful denial of essential services, and so forth;
- If the tenant is experiencing issue(s) unrelated to the non-payment of rent, then he tenant must notify the landlord in writing of any issue(s) that are the landlord's responsibility to repair and maintain pursuant to the lease agreement, or South Carolina law, giving the landlord fourteen (14) days to ameliorate the issue(s) (or a reasonable time thereafter), or the lease will be terminated by operation of law;
- A landlord may not forcibly evict a tenant from the premises such as changing the locks to the premises or physically removing the tenant's property from the premises;
- A landlord may not access the premises without providing advance notice to the tenant pursuant to the terms and conditions of the lease or South Carolina law, which prohibits checking the tenant's mail, entering the premises in non-emergency conditions, and so forth that interferes with the tenant's quiet use and enjoyment of the premises;
- A landlord that wishes to sell the premises while a tenant still occupies the premises must follow the correct procedure for terminating the lease pursuant to the terms and conditions of the lease or South Carolina law because the tenant has the right to occupy the premises until the end of the lease term or tenancy period, however, the landlord and the tenant may mutually agree upon modifying the terms and conditions of the lease or work out a mutually beneficial arrangement to accommodate both parties in the change in circumstances for the landlord's need to sell the property provided that reasonable minds prevail;
- A landlord that has the premises on the market to sell the property while a tenant occupies the premises must take care not to infringe upon the tenant's right to the quiet use and enjoyment of the premises when showing the premises to future, prospective buyers of the property;
- For prospective buyers of homes when the property is currently occupied by a tenant, the buyer of the property stands in the shoes of the landlord and must abide by the terms and conditions of the lease agreement or follow South Carolina law with respect to providing tenants adequate notice to vacate the premises before taking possession of the property;
- A property manager who is both the agent for the landlord and the real estate agent to sell the property may present a conflict of interest and a breach of fiduciary duty to the landlord, as the owner of the property, when listing the property for sale to prospective buyers and leasing the property to prospective tenants to double-dip on commissions paid for both selling the home and rental income from property management fees for leasing the same property;
- If a landlord wishes to terminate the landlord-tenant relationship and have the tenant vacate the premises, then the landlord must provide any notice of default, notice to vacate, or notice of termination of the lease that is in compliance with either the lease agreement or South Carolina law to be valid or the landlord may be liable for wrongful eviction among other causes of action (and please note that a notice of default does not terminate the lease or the landlord-tenant relationship);
- If the tenant no longer remains on the property, for whatever reason, the tenant should provide the landlord with the tenant's forwarding address for purposes of receiving notices, refunds of security deposits, and so forth, however, if the tenant obtains legal counsel, then legal counsel may act as the forwarding address on behalf of the tenant;
- The landlord must resort to the judicial process to evict a tenant as only the magistrate (or circuit) court holds the power to forcibly remove a tenant from the premises, or one appointed by the court such as a sheriff's constable, and, a landlord that engages in bullying behavior to intimidate or threaten tenants to vacate the premises without resorting to the judicial process will be exposed to liability for various causes of actions;
- Only the magistrate (or circuit) court has the power to remove a tenant, or the Tenant's property, from the Premises with all notices from the court that will be mailed or delivered by a court official, or sheriff's constable, and any landlord or property manager that falsely asserts this notice as a legal notice from the court is exposed to liability to falsely asserting the authority of law and fraud and misrepresentation;
- If the tenant has received a Rule to Vacate or a Show Cause from a magistrate court, the tenant will need to appear before the magistrate court within ten (10) days of receiving that notice from the court to schedule (or re-schedule) a hearing, and it is highly recommended that the tenant should obtain legal counsel at this point to make the necessary arguments before the court to preserve the record in the event the tenant needs to appeal the magistrate's decision;
- Because South Carolina does not offer any expungement procedures for a writ of ejectment from South Carolina public records for tenants, tenants obtaining legal representation before a writ of ejectment is issued against the tenant is important to maintain the tenant's ability to find housing elsewhere as a writ of ejectment may operate to blacklist tenants from renting elsewhere when that landlord, or other property management company, share similar information with other landlords and property management companies through proprietary reporting tools;
- If a tenant has already received a writ of ejectment filed against the tenant, the tenant may have very few grounds to challenge the eviction after-the-fact, and the tenant must move quickly within five (5) days thereafter to file a notice of intent to appeal (depending on the circumstances) or a preliminary injunction to stay the eviction for the tenant to plead the tenant's case before the magistrate.
Pricing for the Dickson Davis Law Firm
- Landlord-tenant issues are time-sensitive, and the Dickson Davis Law Firm does not handle last-minute emergencies, hence, you will need to be proactive concerning your landlord-tenant case that allows adequate time to prepare your case before the Dickson Davis Law Firm will accept your case;
- The Dickson Davis Law Firm charges a flat fee of $3,000.00 to handle landlord-tenant from start to finish before the eviction process has started, or after the eviction process has ended, in magistrate court (if your case falls within the jurisdiction of magistrate court), of which the Dickson Davis Law Firm offers a monthly payment plan of 30% down as the deposit, with the remaining balance due over the next five months;
- If the eviction process has already started, the Dickson Davis Law Firm charges $300.00 per court appearance, $1,500.00 to file a preliminary injunction and appear at the hearing, and $1,500.00 to file a notice of intent to appeal within five (5) days of a writ of ejectment being issued against the tenant and appear at the hearing;
- If your landlord-tenant issue also involves personal injury claims, which are really the predominate part of your case, the Dickson Davis Law Firm will take your case on a contingency fee basis, and address the landlord-tenant issues within the scope of your personal injury claims;
- If you cannot afford the Dickson Davis Law Firm, you may qualify for legal services from the South Carolina Legal Services, and in many cases the Dickson Davis Law Firm may refer you to the South Carolina Legal Services (click to learn more) if you cannot afford to hire an attorney as the South Carolina Legal Services provides pro bono legal services in many landlord-tenant disputes.
Thank you for your interest in the Dickson Davis Law Firm. I hope you find these issues helpful to best direct you as to whether the Dickson Davis Law Firm may be a right fit for you in your landlord-tenant dispute.
Deborah D. Davis, Esq.
Dickson Davis Law Firm, LLC