To Appeal an Eviction in South Carolina Tenants Are Required to Pay Thousands of Dollars First

July 27, 2020

South Carolina renters who face removal from their homes are routinely denied the chance to have their case heard by a higher court for a simple reason: To fight an eviction, they have to come armed with cash. 

If tenants disagree with a magistrate’s ruling, they can go up the ladder to one of the state’s circuit courts, where the judges are all attorneys. But first, they must post bond. The magistrate decides the bond amount based on their interpretation of a law, often ambiguous at best.

Magistrates routinely use their discretion to demand that tenants come up with all the money their landlords say they owe — even when they dispute how much that is. Some magistrates go further, ordering tenants to put up all their back rent and pay extra rent upfront. That happened last year to a woman in Greenville who said her landlord reneged on a payment plan they set up and had her evicted instead. When she tried to have the case reconsidered, she was ordered to pay the equivalent of 11 months’ rent. 

Being hit with bond requirements, this high “effectively destroy[s] everybody’s appeal” by setting a financial bar few tenants could meet, said Matthew Billingsley, an attorney who represents tenants for South Carolina Legal Services.

That has happened to more than 120 tenants since the start of 2019, according to a Post and Courier analysis of court records across the state. It’s a process that blocks renters around the state from having their evictions reconsidered, a barrier to their efforts to seek justice.

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