According to the suit filed Jan. 3 in the 15th Judicial Circuit Court of Common Pleas by the owners of more than a dozen short-term or weekly rental motels, staff members have called law enforcement for renters who fail to pay or violate the rules and conditions of their stay.
The purpose of the calls is to seek assistance with ejecting the renters from the premises, the suit states.
According to the owners, officers with the Myrtle Beach Police Department and the Horry County Sheriff’s Office have refused to remove those in violation of motel rules over the past several months. Instead, law enforcement has told the owners they must file eviction actions with the Horry County Magistrate’s Court or the Myrtle Beach Municipal Court, the complaint states.
The plaintiffs said South Carolina statute defines them as innkeepers. Despite this, at least one judge has said they are landlords and subject to the S.C. Residential Landlord Tenant Act, according to court documents.
“This legal conclusion is simply wrong, false and flies in the face of the clear language of South Carolina statutes,” the lawsuit states.
Court documents state that certain arrangements are not governed by a chapter of the S.C. Residential Landlord Tenant Act, specifically: “transient occupancy in a hotel, motel, or other accommodations subject to the sale tax on accommodations.”
“Incredibly, Defendants require Plaintiffs to pay accommodations taxes, thereby recognizing them as hotels or motels, while at the same time labeling them ‘landlords’ when such classification suits them in Court, which is totally inconsistent, illogical and irreconcilable,” according to the complaint.
The motel owners said their being subjected to landlord status costs them substantial amounts of money in free accommodations due to the time taken to evict those renters, “when no such eviction is legally required.” They are seeking a judicial declaration and confirmation of their status as innkeepers, and a declaration that they are not landlords.
WMBF News has reached out to a number of the motel owners named in the complaint. One said they would not be commenting at this time.
Officials for both Myrtle Beach and Horry County said they do not comment on pending litigation.
The full lawsuit can be read below: