Under the law, abandoned property refers to personal property that is purposefully left behind by an owner with no apparent intention of recovering or transferring ownership of the item. Abandoned property can be both intangible, such as intellectual property rights, and tangible, such as items left behind by a tenant. South Carolina state laws provide procedures and notification guidelines for disposing of various types of abandoned property in the state.
Under South Carolina law a vehicle may be declared abandoned if it has been left unattended on a public highway for more than 48 hours, left on private or public property for more than seven days without the consent of the property owner or left at a shop or garage after the termination of a repair or storage contract at least 30 days after a written notice to remove the vehicle is given to its registered owner. Reporting an abandoned vehicle to a law enforcement officer is mandatory in South Carolina. Private citizens should not attempt to arrange for the vehicle to be towed themselves, and garage owners must apply for permission before auctioning the vehicle.
Under the South Carolina Code of Laws 27-40-730, a property may be considered abandoned if the tenant has been absent for more than 15 days after defaulting on a payment. The 15-day rule does not apply, however, if the tenant voluntarily shut off the utilities at the time he defaults on the payment. Once a property is abandoned, landlords may attempt to rent the property at a fair rate, thus terminating the lease agreement. If less than $500 of property has been left in the abandoned dwelling, a landlord may dispose of it. Otherwise, the landlord must file a formal ejection application with his local court.
Under South Carolina law, the contents of a contracted storage unit are considered default 15 days after failure to pay a monthly installment. If a written contract, as defined in Section 39-20-40 of the South Carolina Code, has been signed by the storage owner and property owner, the property under default may be sold or disposed once it has been under default for more than 50 continuous days.
Instead of becoming abandoned, financial assets of owners who cannot be found are considered unclaimed. Such assets include savings and checking accounts, stocks and bonds, insurance proceeds and uncashed payroll checks. Unclaimed accounts are turned over to the South Carolina State Treasurer after a set period of time, typically five years. The treasurer maintains the accounts and provides a searchable database available online (see Resources). There is no time limit to reclaim this property.