Lexington Co. magistrate holds South Congaree landlord in contempt of court, allows evictions to proceed

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Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 7:01 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Lexington County magistrate held a South Congaree landlord WIS featured in an investigation in contempt of court.

Magistrate Matthew Johnson ruled landlord Naomi Halter was in contempt of court for failing to follow through on a June 2022 court order. Namely, he found Halter failed to ensure a unit was treated by pest control.

Halter owns four mobile home parks in the town, including a park on Chapel Road.

WIS visited a Chapel Road mobile home in September. The tenant, who requested to be referred to as “Ms. Richards,” showed WIS a roach infestation.

However, Johnson also addressed an eviction case Halter had filed against Richards in January 2021 over unpaid rent.

Lexington County court records show Halter first notified Richards of unpaid rent in Jan. 2021 worth $4,771. That month, Johnson ordered Richards to vacate or respond to Halter’s eviction request.

The eviction was delayed due to Richards’ use of the CDC eviction moratorium and a Sept. 2021 appeal. Richards’ appeal was ultimately rejected on Sept. 21, 2022.

Richards told the court she had not paid halter since March 2022.

Addressing both issues, Johnson ruled Richards could stay at the property rent-free for 45 days.

After 45 days, if the roaches were removed, Richards’ eviction would proceed.

If the roaches weren’t removed, Richards would be able to stay longer.

Halter declined to comment before the hearing and appeared to avoid WIS afterward.

In the South Congaree investigation, WIS also interviewed Linda Sydnor. She lives at Halter’s Genesis Circle park and showed WIS the crumbling floor in her mobile home.

Halter filed a proceeding in August. Johnson gave an order to vacate on Aug. 15, and it was served on Aug. 18.

She told Johnson rent has not been paid for September or October. Johnson ordered her to vacate by Oct. 21, with a writ of ejectment potentially following on Oct. 24 if she does not.

In South Carolina, the failure to pay rent or make repairs does not free either party from responsibility.

The S.C. Residential Landlord and Tenant Act does not alleviate a landlord’s responsibilities on habitability based on unpaid rent nor does it alleviate the tenants’ responsibility to pay rent based on a landlord’s failure to make repairs.

Friday’s proceedings could be moot. The town of South Congaree revoked Halter’s business licenses for her four parks in town in August.

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, the South Congaree Town Council will hear Halter’s appeal. If the appeal fails, the town ordinance requires the parks to be vacated in 30 days.

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