Convicted Arsonist under house arrest to be occupant

3 Replies

I am a landlord and unfortunately, we are in a situation for our property in South Carolina whereby a tenant (a lady) has an occupant (an adult son) who was not a signee on the lease but listed as an occupant. This particular occupant is still in jail and my belief is that the legal tenant (the lady) only rented the place so as to find the occupant a place to live for the house arrest.

The “to be occupant” is convicted of arson and set over 20 units on fire and is currently serving term. His defense had claimed that he is mentally ill and have set a bond and house arrest for him but I’m currently unaware of his mental situation and whether he will burn down my single family home and the neighbour houses and surrounding areas. He will be on gps monitoring but I’m still extremely, extremely worried and concerned since gps monitoring will become a more “reactive” than proactive approach.

Since he didn’t sign the lease and hasn’t moved in yet, am I able to remove his name as an occupant legally? Also, does he have rights in the premises if he hasnt started living or moved there yet? Here’s what it says on the lease (names replaced):

OCCUPANTS: Only persons designated in the rental agreement or as further modified or agreed to in writing by the landlord shall reside in the rented premises. For purposes of this rental agreement the designated occupants are: the tenant (the lady), occupant (her son), her husband.”

(please note the only person who signed the agreement and listed as tenant is the lady).

This is causing a lot of emotional stress and I’m unable to focus or think about anything else. (This post was written at 3am)

@Rudey Botham Unfortunately, if he has been indicated as an occupant, I believe he has the legal right to occupy the property for the lease terms. He doesn't necessarily have to be the Lessee on the agreement to be an occupant. If you wrote his name in as the occupant, he has the right to be there. Especially if they have paid any rent or a deposit. That's consideration for the agreement. However, most SC leases have a rider in there about criminal activities and unlawful behavior. I don't think it's retroactive, but if the cases are ongoing, you may be able to use that clause as means to evict. We can still evict in SC for reasons other than non-payment. I just recently evicted 3 tenants in a triplex who no longer had current leases. They were all month to month, so we were able to use the "holdover tenancy" reason to evict them by using the Month-Month terms in the expired leases. The SC courts do provide a public defender to tenants now that request them, so you may have some pushback from an attorney, but I think a magistrate would understand the concern if you did not know about any of this stuff before you signed the lease. You may even want to try to contact the Judge handling the criminal cases and see if you can get them to help. 

Check your lease.  Do you have a clause about illegal actions of occupants/tenants, whether convicted or not, as a lease violation leading to eviction?  It's a must-have in leases these days as class action lawsuits are being filed against landlords who refuse to rent to convicted felons.

I would definitely speak to a real estate attorney. The law is fairly clear about not being able to remove an occupant noted on the lease but this guy is a threat to himself and others. I'm shocked he's being released and I would want to know the full criteria: Does he require supervision?  Can he be left alone in the house? Is he allowed to play with matches - who let this guy out?!!!

I would replace the anxiety with action and cowboy up on this tenant. She's the problem.