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  1. #1
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    Nov 2013
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    Default Commercial Tenant Wants to Remove a Garage Door When Vacating

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: South Carolina,

    Tenant came with land I purchased in July. Property has house and small commercial garage, both rented for many years by the same couple. They live and he works on the property. 30 day Notice to Vacate given. Tenant has decided he wants to be recompensed for the cost of a garage door he had installed. He is planning to remove the supports for a roof extension he made. I suspect they will want the front door as well. Who knows what else will arise.

    I have been trying to find the statutes that cover this kind of situation, but don't know exactly what terms to search.

    And no, I have NO intention of ever being involved with "tenants" again...

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Commercial Tenant Wants to Remove a Garage Door When Vacating

    You need to start by reading the lease between the tenant and the former owner, which should cover the issue. Ideally you will have obtained a formal assignment of the lease when you took possession.
    Quote Quoting Hyman v. Wellman Enters., Inc., 522 S.E.2d 150, 152 (S.C. Ct. App. 1999).
    The law of trade fixtures derived as an exception to the somewhat confusing law of fixtures. Planter's Bank v. Lummus Cotton Gin Co., 132 S.C. 16, 128 S.E. 876 (1925).

    A fixture is generally defined as an article which was a chattel, but by being physically annexed to the realty by one having an interest in the soil becomes a part and parcel of it. By mere affixation the chattel does not become a fixture. The test for determining whether an item remains personalty or becomes a fixture include the following criteria: (1) mode of attachment, (2) character of the structure or article, (3) the intent of the parties making the annexation, and (4) the relationship of the parties.

    Carson v. Living Word Outreach Ministries, Inc., 315 S.C. 64, 70, 431 S.E.2d 615, 618 (Ct.App.1993). As a general rule, whatever is once annexed to the freehold becomes part of it and cannot afterward be removed except by him who is entitled to the inheritance. City of Greenville v. Washington American League Baseball Club, 205 S.C. 495, 32 S.E.2d 777 (1945). However, an important exception exists to this rule where the structures are erected or chattels are annexed for the purpose of trade or manufacture. Id.

    It has been said that the underlying reason why property placed on leased premises by the tenant for purposes of trade is regarded as personal rather than real is based upon the rule that the law implies an agreement that it shall remain personal property from the fact that the lessor contributed nothing thereto and should not be enriched at the expense of his tenant when it was placed upon the real estate of the landlord with his consent.

    Id. at 511, 32 S.E.2d at 783 (emphasis added). The purpose of such a rule allowing a tenant to remove as a trade fixture that which has been apparently affixed to the land is to encourage trade and industry. Carroll v. Britt, 227 S.C. 9, 86 S.E.2d 612 (1955).
    From what you have told us, the garage door and supports would not be trade fixtures -- but as you can see, that of itself doesn't answer the question of whether the tenant is entitled to some amount of compensation.

    If you do not know and the issue is not resolved by reference to the lease, you can inquire with the former owner about why the tenant replaced the garage door and if there was any agreement about ownership of the replacement door.

  3. #3
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    Nov 2013
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    672

    Default Re: Commercial Tenant Wants to Remove a Garage Door When Vacating

    Thanks. I wish I had the option of reading a lease, but that probably never existed, at least no one remembers a written agreement. We will be talking to the former owners (sons of the original "landlord"). Just shows WHY I'll never do this again, I thought that once it was installed it became part of the property. I bought a house with a door, a garage with a door, and a roof extension. Now I have to prove they are mine.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Commercial Tenant Wants to Remove a Garage Door When Vacating

    Quote Quoting Catmad
    View Post
    Thanks. I wish I had the option of reading a lease, but that probably never existed, at least no one remembers a written agreement. We will be talking to the former owners (sons of the original "landlord"). Just shows WHY I'll never do this again, I thought that once it was installed it became part of the property. I bought a house with a door, a garage with a door, and a roof extension. Now I have to prove they are mine.
    Maybe you need to get an injunction against them to prohibit them removing those things until ownership can be determined in court.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    672

    Default Re: Commercial Tenant Wants to Remove a Garage Door When Vacating

    We've decided that he may take "his" door(s). Cheaper than the alternatives at this point, be the cost time or money.

    Thanks!

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