Landlords – Document Your Files

Most – but not all – magistrates are sympathetic to landlords who are dealing with tenants who do not pay their rent on time. As long as landlord has good documentation that they have provided the proper notice to their tenants, they have a good chance of succeeding in an eviction action.

 

Failure to pay rent – The most important thing a landlord can do to help enforce timely payment of rent is to include in the lease contract the language required in Section 27 – 40 – 710 (B), South Carolina Code. This language must be in conspicuous language and must state the following or something very similar:

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.

Since the above is the language used in the statute, there is no reason not to use it in your lease. It is advisable to use all caps and/or to use bold print with this language so as to make sure it is conspicuous. If your lease contains this language, and your tenant is more than five days late, you can terminate the lease and evict the tenant. Otherwise, you need to send one written letter, again with substantially the same language as above, warning the tenant that if they are more than five days late with their rent again, they will be evicted.

 

Violations other than nonpayment of rent – If the tenant violates the lease in a way other than nonpayment of rent, such as playing unreasonably loud music, failure to keep the premises clean or having too many people living in the unit, the landlord should deliver a written notice to the tenant setting out the violation and giving the tenant 14 days to correct the violation. If the violation is not at least in the process of being corrected within those 14 days, the landlord can evict the tenant. Again, the key is to be able to prove that you delivered the notice. Either have someone else deliver it so that they can testify that it was handed to the tenant, deliver it yourself with an another witness who can testify they saw you hand it to the tenant, or send a letter return receipt requested so that you have proof that it was sent.

 

Violations of the law – Sometimes you will have a tenant who is carrying on illegal activities or activities contrary to public health and safety. Perhaps the most common example of this is the tenant who is selling drugs out of the rental facility. The easiest way to deal with this situation is to have the authorities investigate, but this is not always possible. Particularly when the tenant’s activity poses a danger to other residents, the landlord does not have to wait the 14 days after giving notice but may immediately move to have the tenant evicted. It is always wise to at least have some written statements in your file from neighbors stating that they have observed the illegal activity before starting the eviction.

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