You found what you thought would be the perfect tenant, but now that tenant seems to have abandoned the rental. Where do you start? The issue of a unit being abandoned is something that a landlord may have to deal with occasionally. No landlord wants to have their unit abandoned, but knowing what to do and following proper procedure is one way to make the process easier and more efficient.

Determining abandonment

Precisely how a landlord determines abandonment is sometimes written into the law, and this is the case in South Carolina. A tenant is presumed to have abandoned a rental if they have an unexplained absence for at least 15 days after defaulting on the payment of rent. Note the 15 day period that must elapse before the landlord can determine abandonment. There is another situation, though, where abandonment can be presumed to be immediate, and that is when the tenant voluntarily terminates the utilities, has an unexplained absence, and has defaulted on the payment of rent.

Dealing with abandoned personal property

Once the rental has been deemed abandoned the issue may arise of what to do with any personal property left behind by the abandoning tenant. State laws will typically be specific regarding the landlord’s rights to dispose of the property, and South Carolina is no exception, although it is fairly straightforward.

If the tenant abandons the property and leaves behind property with an estimated fair-market value of $500 or less, the landlord may enter the premises (using forcible entry if required) and dispose of the property. If the abandoned property’s value is estimated at greater than $500, the landlord may have the property removed only pursuant to the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. §§ 27-37-10 to 27-37-150, which pertains to the ejectment of tenants. Finally, unless the landlord was grossly negligent they cannot be held liable for disposal of property in excess of $500 fair market value.