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TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 29-3-625 SO AS TO PROVIDE A PROCESS FOR EXPEDITING MORTGAGE FORECLOSURES AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMINOLOGY.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Article 7, Chapter 3, Title 29 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 29-3-625. (A) For the purposes of this section, 'abandoned property' means real property subject to a mortgage where either:
(1) the mortgaged property is not occupied and at least two of the following conditions exist:
(a) windows or entrances to the property are boarded up or closed off or multiple window panes are damaged, broken or unrepaired;
(b) doors to the property are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked;
(c) hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials have accumulated on the property;
(d) gas, electric, or water utility services have been terminated by the utility for at least thirty days due to failure to pay by the property owner;
(e) a risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public exists due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct, or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property;
(f) an uncorrected violation of a building, housing, or similar code during the preceding year that the property owner has received notice to correct and has failed to do so;
(g) an order by governmental authorities declaring the property to be unfit for occupancy and to remain vacant and unoccupied;
(h) a written statement issued by any mortgagor expressing the clear intent of all mortgagors to abandon the property;
(i) written statements of neighbors, delivery persons or governmental employees indicating that the property is abandoned; or
(j) any other indicia of abandonment; or
(2) the mortgaged property is vacant, unimproved land and is in need of maintenance, repair, or securing;
(3) a showing under items (1) or (2) of this section must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.
(B) For the purposes of this section, real property must not be considered 'abandoned' if, on the property, there is:
(1) an unoccupied building which is undergoing construction, renovation, or rehabilitation that is proceeding diligently to completion, and the building is in compliance with all applicable ordinances, codes, regulations, and statutes;
(2) a building occupied on a seasonal basis, but otherwise secure; or
(3) a building that is secure, but is the subject of a probate action, action to quiet title, or other ownership dispute.
(C) A mortgagee or successor in interest to a mortgagee may move the court for an expedited judgment of foreclosure and sale of real property that is considered 'abandoned' pursuant to this section. The motion must be a motion to expedite foreclosure and sale, which:
(1) must be supported by affidavit and must set forth the facts pursuant to subsection (A) demonstrating that the mortgaged property is abandoned; and
(2) may be filed by the mortgagee at the time the foreclosure complaint is filed or any time thereafter.
(D) In addition to any notices required to be served by law or the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, a mortgagee shall, with any rule to show cause served as original service of process or a motion to proceed pursuant to this section, serve a notice that the mortgagee is seeking, on the return date of the rule to show cause, or on the date fixed by the court for entry of a judgment and decree of foreclosure.
(E) A motion to expedite foreclosure and sale may be heard by a circuit judge or referred to a master-in-equity or special referee pursuant to the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.
(F) If a motion to expedite foreclosure and sale is filed at the time the foreclosure complaint is filed or before the period to answer the foreclosure complaint has expired, the motion must be heard by the court no earlier than before the period to answer the foreclosure complaint has expired, and no later than twenty days after the period to answer the foreclosure complaint has expired.
(G) If a motion to expedite foreclosure and sale is filed after the period to answer the foreclosure complaint has expired, then the motion must be heard no later than twenty days after the motion is filed.
(H) The court shall grant the motion to expedite foreclosure and sale and enter a judgment of foreclosure and sale upon a finding by clear and convincing evidence that:
(1) the mortgaged property is abandoned as defined under subsection (A); and
(2) the pleadings, documents filed with the court, and testimony supports the entry of a final judgment of foreclosure and sale.
(I) The court shall not grant the motion to expedite foreclosure and sale or enter a judgment of foreclosure and sale if the court finds that:
(1) the mortgaged property is not abandoned; or
(2) the mortgagor or any other defendant has filed an answer, appearance, or other written objection that is not withdrawn and the defenses or objections asserted provide cause to preclude the entry of a judgment of foreclosure and sale.
(J) If a motion to expedite foreclosure and sale is denied, the court may direct that the foreclosure action continue pursuant to standard procedure under South Carolina law for mortgage foreclosure actions for properties that are not abandoned.
(K) Nothing in this section may be construed to supersede or limit procedures adopted by the South Carolina Supreme Court to resolve residential mortgage foreclosure actions."
SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
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