Unclaimed property is defined as anything that is a financial asset. This includes real property, like houses, as well as money. There are many ways that property can become unclaimed. The owner of the property may die, for example, and the estate may not know about the property or the heirs may not be able to be located. Sometimes the owner is aware of the property but is not aware that it has been classified as abandoned. South Carolina has specific rules for what happens to any type of unclaimed property, including an abandoned home.
Conditions for Property to be Considered Unclaimed
There are some specific conditions that have to be met for a property to be placed into the custody of the state of South Carolina and be considered unclaimed. One condition is that the address of the property is in the state of South Carolina. Another is that the records of the property holder do not identify the owner of the property or do not have his address. If the holder is a domiciliary or a government agency of the state and did not pay or deliver property to the owner then the property may be considered unclaimed as well.
Property like an abandoned house can be identified as unclaimed if the owner does not reply to requests by the person or entity that holds an interest in the property, like a bank, utility company, insurance company or brokerage firm. In South Carolina, if there has been no activity on the account for five years, the property can then be sent to the state.
Reclaiming Unclaimed Property
After unclaimed property is sent to the state of South Carolina, the laws stipulate that the rightful owner may claim it at any time. This means if you can show proof that the house belongs to you, there is no time limit on claiming it. Proof may be in the form of original deeds or titles to the land that show you are the rightful owner.
It may be possible in some cases for an abandoned house to actually change ownership through a process called adverse possession. This stems from old common law rules that indicate that if a person essentially takes ownership of a property, and openly makes it known that he is possessing and living in it without permission, then after a period of decades, he may eventually be able to actually claim possession. If adverse possession does occur, the person trying to obtain ownership of the property should keep clear records and proof of the adverse possession and should eventually go to court to "quiet title," which means to prove that the property should be in his name.