covid evictions and foreclosures

Covid-19 and Evictions and Foreclosures

On March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued a statewide order on evictions and foreclosures. All evictions then ordered and scheduled statewide were rescheduled for a date not earlier than May 1, 2020 cancelling all eviction and foreclosure hearings throughout the state. Since then, that order by the Supreme Court of South Carolina has expired without renewal. However, there are some other provisions currently in place that continue to afford protections to people from being evicted/foreclosed on.

Currently, the eviction moratorium enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) that was due to expire on Jan. 31, 2021 has been extended through at least March 31, 2021 by President Biden through executive order. As before, renters need to supply their landlords with an executed CDC COVID-19 declaration form stating loss of income or other hardship caused by the pandemic. To qualify, renters must have earned no more than $99,000 in annual income for the calendar year of 2020-2021 (or no more than $198,000 in annual income for couples who file taxes jointly).

The CDC based moratorium does not forgive outstanding rent or accrued interest and requires the applicant to pay at least a portion of their monthly rent. The moratorium only bans evictions and foreclosures related to non-payment and does not include non-monetary evictions such as noise, destruction of property, or other non-payment based reasons. Also of note, the updated CDC COVID-19 declaration form indicates that, “even if you have provided a declaration to your landlord, the Order does not prevent your landlord from seeking a hearing, if authorized by State or local law and in accordance with State or local court procedure, to challenge the truthfulness of your declaration.” Unfortunately, at this time and subject to change, there is no known such State or local procedures that have been adopted in South Carolina.

Most recently, the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an order on January 6, 2021 whereby, “all in-person proceedings statewide beginning on or after January 11, 2021 are hereby suspended until further order of the Chief Justice subject to a few exceptions.” A similar order ordering the same was issued on January 8, 2021 for all in-person magistrate court hearings. As it stands, no in-person hearings are known to be occurring in state courts in the State of South Carolina.

Currently, magistrate courts throughout Horry County, South Carolina are understood to be operating to adhere with both the Supreme Court of South Carolina orders on in-person hearings and the CDC moratorium. However, eviction actions can be still be filed by Landlords based on non-payment. That being said, if a tenant provides the magistrate court with a completed CDC COVID-19 declaration form, the matter will be stayed until the moratorium expires. If the tenant does not file the CDC COVID-19 declaration form, the magistrate court will move forward with the typical eviction procedures. Unfortunately, if the tenant requests an in-person hearing, the matter is also stayed until in-person hearings are allowed throughout the state based on the Supreme Court of South Carolina orders creating an indefinite suspension on such court activities.

The only protection currently in place for foreclosures is the federal government has extended its mortgage relief for federally backed mortgages whereby lenders and loan servicers may not foreclose on federally backed loans until after February 28, 2021. Furthermore, if someone is having trouble making payments on a federally backed mortgage because of COVID-19, they can contact their loan servicer before February 28, 2021. The loan servicer must then:

• Defer or reduce payments for 180 days
• Give another 180 days of mortgage relief at the mortgage holder’s request
• Offer options for how the mortgage holder can make up the deferred or reduced payments.

On May 6, 2020, the Supreme Court of South Carolina in administrative order issued separate certificates of compliance for both evictions and foreclosures that must be completed and submitted certifying the property is not subject to the limitations of the CARES Act. Unfortunately, this certification process is nearly impossible to accurately verify unless a lender is holding a private note and mortgage or a contract for deed as there is no known state or federal database / clearinghouse to specifically identify “federally backed mortgages.”

Given everything outlined above, it is expected that there will be a backlog of these types of cases the courts will have to address when the moratoriums are lifted. The courts will likely address these cases in the order that they were filed so there is a benefit to filing sooner rather than later. The attorneys at The Pearce Law Group, P.C. are experienced in both landlord/tenant law as well as residential foreclosure actions representing both plaintiffs and defendants. If you are in need of legal assistance with these types of actions, please call us at 843-839-3219 and speak with one of our attorneys today.

Please note that nothing in this article is to be construed as legal advice. This is a rapidly changing area of a law and we recommend speaking with an attorney for the most up to date legal information.