I. PROPERTY LAW: AN OVERVIEW
Property law can be described as the area of law that governs the different forms of ownership and tenancy in real estate (land as distinct from personal or movable possessions) and in personal property. Here, you will get an overview of the key concepts, principles, cases, and laws in South Carolina property law.
II. REAL PROPERTY
A. ESTATES IN LAND
- Fee Simple Absolute:
It represents the maximum estate one can possess in real property, with unrestricted powers to dispose of it during one’s lifetime, and it descends to the heirs and legal representatives upon the owner’s death intestate.
Case Law: Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992)
The South Carolina Coastal Council interfered with Lucas’s use of his land by enacting a law barring him from erecting any permanent structures on his beachfront property. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Lucas suffered a taking requiring just compensation under the 5th Amendment.
- Life Estate:
A life estate is an interest in property that does not amount to ownership because it is limited by a life term.
This is an estate that gives the holder (the lessee) a temporary right to possession, with the landlord retaining a reversionary interest.
B. FUTURE INTERESTS
They are legal rights to property ownership that will begin at a future date. This could either be a reversion (land goes back to the original owner after the termination of a life estate), remainder (land goes to a third party after the termination of a life estate), or executory interest (future interest in a third party that can divest a transferee’s preceding estate).
Case Law: Wilder v. Wilke, 314 S.E.2d 598 (S.C. 1984)
The South Carolina Supreme Court held that the Wilders, as holders of the future interest, were entitled to take possession of the property, following the termination of the life estate.
C. CONCURRENT OWNERSHIP
This refers to ownership by two or more persons at the same time. This can be a tenancy in common (each co-tenant owns a distinct, undivided portion of the property), joint tenancy (co-tenants own undivided whole of the property with a right of survivorship), or tenancy by the entirety (form of joint tenancy between married couples).
III. PERSONAL PROPERTY
Identification, possession, and transfer of personal property are also key elements of property law.
Case Law: State v. 192 Coin-Operated Video Game Machines, 338 S.C. 176 (2000)
In this case, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed that the state could seize personal property (video game machines) used in gambling, which was illegal in South Carolina.
IV. LANDLORD & TENANT LAW
Case Law: Buggs v. Daughtry, 687 S.E.2d 8 (S.C. Ct. App. 2009)
The court held that South Carolina landlord-tenant law requires landlords to deliver possession of the premises to the tenant at the beginning of a lease.
V. EASEMENTS AND COVENANTS
Easements are the right to use the real property of another without possessing it. Covenants are promises to do or not do certain things concerning the property.
Case Law: McQueen v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 354 S.E.2d 46 (S.C. 1987)
The court held that the state’s construction of a dike on McQueen’s property constituted an easement for which McQueen should be compensated.
VI. ADVERSE POSSESSION
Adverse Possession is a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it.
Case Law: Singleton v. Stokes, 492 S.E.2d 814 (S.C. Ct. App. 1997)
The court held that the Singletons had acquired title to a strip of land by adverse possession after using it openly and continuously for over 30 years.
VII. LAND USE REGULATIONS
This includes zoning laws, eminent domain, and regulatory takings.
Case Law: Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 U.S. 825 (1987)
The U.S. Supreme Court held that a state requirement for a public easement across beachfront property as a condition for a building permit constituted a taking requiring just compensation.
Review the aforementioned content consistently to grasp the concepts, cases, and laws applicable in South Carolina Property law. This guide should serve as a starting point for your studies and is not a substitute for reading course materials and attending lectures.