Laws on Abandoned Houses in South Carolina

Unkempt Property of Foreclosed Working Class Ranch Style Home
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In South Carolina, a person can learn if a local house is abandoned by checking the county’s tax records. An owner who abandons real estate is likely not to have paid the taxes, sometimes for years.

Next, the person should research the deed and title of the property to determine who may be the current owner and what claim they have to the house. They can then contact the owner to ask the price and conditions of purchase.

What Property May Be Abandoned

Abandoned buildings exist throughout the palmetto state, in cities such as Columbia, Charleston and North Charleston. They also exist in rural areas like in stretches along the Broad River. Abandoned places range from abandoned mansions and old houses to mobile homes.

An abandoned house may be in good repair, but it may also be empty and in need of considerable rehabilitation. A prospective buyer should not assume that a house is abandoned because it is empty, needs repairs or is being renovated.

Finding Foreclosed Homes

Often a bank has reclaimed an abandoned house through a foreclosure proceeding. A prospective buyer can get a list of foreclosed properties from a bank.

They can also talk to real estate agents or nonprofit organizations that know about historic and abandoned properties. Their staff can share more information about the opportunities and obligations that come with the structures.

Buying Homes Set for Foreclosure

In South Carolina, state laws do not require the lender to send the property owner a notice before filing a lawsuit for foreclosure. Typically, a mortgage contract requires the lender to send the owner a breach letter. This tells the owner that they have not fulfilled the terms of the contract and are in breach.

The mortgage may also require the lender to send to the owner other notices before filing a lawsuit.

South Carolina Judicial Foreclosure

South Carolina one of many judicial foreclosure states, which include New York, California and Florida, among others. A lender cannot seek a non-judicial foreclosure, which involves the lender avoiding going to court to foreclose on the property. Federal law requires that the lender wait at least 120 days after the delinquency date, the date when the scheduled payment is due and has not been made.

The mortgage holder may require additional notice periods. After these have passed, the lender can file a complaint against the owner.

The lender should file the complaint in the county in which the property is located. It must be served on the owner, together with a summons to come to court. The owner may respond with an answer, which must be filed 30 days after service of the complaint and summons.

Foreclosure Court Hearing

If the owner files an answer, the court will hold a foreclosure hearing. If the court finds that the owner is not paying enough or is not making payments on time, it will enter a judgment against the owner. If the owner does not file an answer to the complaint, the lender will get a default judgment, meaning the lender receives the house.

No Right of Redemption

In other states, before the lender can sell the house, the homeowner has the right to pay off the entire debt to prevent the sale. This is called the right of redemption. South Carolina does not have a right of redemption.

Public Auction Process

After the court rules for the lender, the lender schedules a public auction of the property. The lender must post a notice of the sale in three public places in the county, including the courthouse. The lender must also publish the notice in a local newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks before the sale.

The auction will be held at the courthouse in the county where the property is situated. The sheriff typically makes the judicial sale. The profit from the sale will be applied to the mortgage debt. If the amount is greater than the total owed, the owner receives the excess, if there are no liens on the property.

Deficiency Judgment Court Order

If the proceeds of the foreclosure sale do not satisfy the debt, the lender can request the court to order a deficiency judgment against the owner. Requesting a deficiency judgment means bidding on the property must continue for 30 more days after the sale.

After the sale is final, or 30 days after the lender seeks a deficiency judgment, the owner must leave the property. If they do not leave, they will be evicted.

South Carolina allows an owner to get the property back by making an upset bid. An upset bid is when an entity buys the home after the sale by bidding higher than the winning bidder at the sale. If the lender does not waive a deficiency judgment in a foreclosure suit, there is a 30-day upset bid period following the sale.

Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act

The South Carolina Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act is not meant to assist home buyers with purchasing abandoned houses. The law, passed in 2013, provides cities with a tax credit to use as a tool to encourage private investment in renovating empty storefronts. The law defines an abandoned building as one that:

  • Has been at least 66 percent vacant for the past five years.
  • Is not operational to produce income.
  • Is not a single-family residence.
  • Is listed on the National Register for Historic Places when used only for storage or warehousing.

An investor can receive a 25 percent tax credit for rehabilitation of the abandoned building. The investor cannot be the owner at the time the building was abandoned.

The investor for the abandoned building must file a notice of intent to rehabilitate the building with the city or county. The city or county council must then determine whether the project is eligible before proceeding further.

Abandonment in Residential Leases

The term “abandoned” has a different meaning in landlord-tenant law. A unit such as an apartment is considered abandoned if the tenant has been absent for more than 15 days after failing to pay rent. The tenant’s abandonment of the unit does not mean that the apartment building containing the unit is abandoned.

Another party cannot buy the unit or building because the tenant failed to fulfill their obligations. If a tenant abandons a unit, the landlord is required to make reasonable efforts to rent it at a fair price.

North Carolina and Abandoned Homes

An individual can identify an abandoned home in North Carolina using the same process as in South Carolina. They should determine whether the owner has paid property taxes on the home and who has title to the house. The individual may be able to negotiate a sale of the property if the owner is willing.

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