Lexington County, SC (Paul Kirby) – In March of this year, as the pandemic of the COVID-19 virus began to impact the state’s economy, Chief Justice Donald Beatty of the SC Supreme Court issued an order to the owners of rental properties or mortgage holders. In that order, Beatty said he was issuing a moratorium on any foreclosure hearings, sale of foreclosed property, or other court orders that would force people from their homes. At the time he issued the order, some thought it was to be indefinite. There is now clarification that says the order is set to expire May 1, 2020. Although he could extend it if we see no relief from this state of emergency, he has not given an indication he would do that yet.
Recently, the chief justice addressed the issue again by giving people that are currently protected by his order a warning. When the order expires, you will still be responsible for the arears on rent or mortgage payments. Any court action that was or may be scheduled because of nonpayment of rent or mortgages may proceed. In other words, if you stopped making your payments just because you can right now, your day in court or an order to vacate can proceed. Property owners can proceed with evictions or foreclosures. Then, it will be up to a judge presiding over the case to decide if your reason for falling behind or not making your payments is valid.
In a statement from Chief Justice Donald Beatty issued recently he said, “I want to remind people who are able to pay their rents and mortgages that they should continue to make their payments. My order did not relieve people of their personal responsibilities or financial obligations.” Basically, that means that what you owe doesn’t just go away and you could still be evicted or foreclosed on after all this is over.
If you have been laid off due to the virus’ impact on your place of employment and can’t pay your rent or mortgage, the worst thing you can do is dodge any attempts by your landlord or mortgage holder to get in touch with you. In fact, it would be best if you contact them first. Explain your current financial position to that person and see if they are willing to negotiate. They may be easy to work with and agree to make some arrangement to allow you time to catch up. If you either begin getting unemployment or return to work, you will have to pay, and you should pay what you can now. Just communicate about when you think you will be able to catch up and see what they will do.
Even the cost of utilities like electricity or water bills are still due. This time doesn’t relieve you of those responsibilities either. Although they won’t disconnect you now, one day you will have to pay what you owe. Again, communication is the best policy to arrange a payment process once Judge Beatty’s order expires.
Remember, times are tough all over the world right now. Tough times do not mean that you can be irresponsible with your finances. Do the correct thing and pay what you can and stay in touch with the person or entity you owe.