Landlord's Failure to Make Repairs - South Carolina
For covered tenancies, the S.C. Residential Landlord Tenant Act requires a landlord to make repairs. In some rare instances, the lease may place some repair requirements upon the tenant. Still, such lease arragements must be made in good faith and the landlord must be able to show that such was not done for the purpose of avoiding the landlord obligations set forth under the Act. Also, while the landlord is still required to complete repairs even if caused by the tenant, the landlord can reasonably charge the tenant for the cost of repair and may even have grounds to seek eviction, though the tenant , generally, must be given a written opportunity to correct the problem.
Otherwise, where applicable, the tenant must first send the landlord written notice of any issues, giving the landlord 14 days to make the repair. The 14 day period may be extended if the issue is not something that can be repaired within 14 days, it does not affect health and safety, yet the landlord has initiated the repair and is making reasonable efforts towards completion. The Act also allows for the tenant to state in the letter that if the repairs are not completed within the 14 days (with some exceptions) the tenant will terminate the lease early upon a specified date after the 14 days. Any such letter should be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested and with a copy retained by the sender. HOWEVER, such matters are VERY fact specific when it comes to attempting to terminate a lease early due to a landlord's failure to make repairs. An improper termination can result in a breach of contract with damages against the tenant, including the lose of any security deposit, early termination fees and other damages. If the tenant does not wish to terminate the lease early, the written notice must still be sent, but after the time expires, the tenant has the option to file for an injunction in magistrate court. It is basically a filing to request that the landlord be placed under court order to make the repairs. Where granted, the landlord's failure to obey can possibly result in sanctions for contempt of court.
Very importantly, even while the request for repairs is being made and/or while the repairs are underway, the tenant must still continue to pay rent that is due. The Act does not allow a tenant to witthold rent for this purpose. It also does not allow the tenant to pay for the repair and deduct such funds from the rent. If this is done, the tenant can potentially face eviction for failure to pay rent when due or demanded. Ultimately, such matters are very fact specific and this guide provides only general legal information on this issue. These issues may also be more involved if one is a tenant of income based housing. As such, always consult personally with an attorney, before taking any steps, who can review your lease and advise you on your individual facts. Consulting with an attorney in person can result in proper guidance regarding the application of the Landlord Tenant Act to your personal set of facts.