COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – A Lexington County magistrate has held a South Congaree landlord WIS who appeared in an investigation in contempt of court.

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

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

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

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

Lexington County court records show that Halter did not notify Richards of $4,771 worth of unpaid rent until January 2021. 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 an appeal from September 2021. Richards’ appeal was ultimately dismissed on September 21, 2022.

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

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

After 45 days, Richards’ eviction would continue if the cockroaches were removed.

If the cockroaches were not removed, Richards would be able to stay longer.

Halter declined to comment before the hearing and seemed 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 crumb floor in her garage.

Halter brought proceedings in August. Johnson gave an order to evacuate on August 15, and it was served on August 18.

She told Johnson that rent was not paid for September or October. Johnson ordered her to vacate by October 21, with a warrant of eviction possibly following on October 24 if she doesn’t.

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

The SC Residential Landlord and Tenant Act does not relieve a landlord of habitability responsibilities based on unpaid rent, nor does it relieve tenants of their responsibility to pay rent based on a landlord’s failure to make repairs.

Friday’s proceedings may be unclear. In August, the town of South Congaree revoked Halter’s business licenses for her four parks in the town.

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 within 30 days.

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