LANCASTER COUNTY, SC (FOX 46) - A local woman found out the home she paid to rent was illegal to live in - and has been condemned for nearly 20 years. The ordeal has left many to wonder - how could this happen?
Turns out, a condemned notice doesn't have a lot of meaning in Lancaster County.
The woman who signed the lease said she needed to move in somewhere quickly and didn't get a great look at what was going on inside. It wasn't until her complaint in early May the county put up a condemned notice, but it's dating back to the year 2000.
The house located off McManus Lane is currently listed for rent. The issue, legally, people can't see. It's been condemned for nearly 20 years.
"When you go rent a home you want it to be able to be lived in," Michelle Nevitt said.
Nevitt found the house on Craig's List. She had a tour, admitting it needed a fix, and signed a lease. But when move-in day came, the people living there before her trashed the house.
"The power cables were ripped out. All the light fixtures were ripped out. The tub, toilet was gone," she said.
She also believes mold is spreading across the ceiling of the house.
"I cried. I cried and then I called the police out there," Nevitt said.
The landlord gave her money back but FOX 46 Charlotte did some digging. Turns out, there are other issues. The house has been condemned for almost 20 years. It's never been fixed and it's still being rented.
"Makes me mad, I can't believe that somebody would legally be able to do that," she said.
That's the thing, they can't. The structure and premises listed are illegal, according to county records.
"I would rather live in a tent somewhere."
FOX 46 reached out to the landlord, Craig Stoneburner.
"How is this house being rented if it was condemned back in the year 2000?" FOX 46 Charlotte asked.
He said the house isn't being rented to live. He calls it a "handyman's special" where he rents it to someone who won't live there until it's fixed up.
One neighbor, however, said he's seen multiple families living there over the past few years.
Regardless, the lease Nevitt signed had no such agreement.
"At least about four different couples (lived there)," the neighbor said.
"I don't see how he can live with himself, to do something like that. I think it should be criminal," Nevitt added.
So, what are the legal ramifications for renting a condemned house? The Lancaster County Sheriff's Office said it doesn't handle these cases as criminal matters and we should ask the county offices.
FOX 46 Charlotte reached out to Lancaster County and got this response from its attorney...
"...the county is only responsible for condemning property, not oversight."
Nevitt said this can happen to move people.
"When I got my money back that day he told me had eight people who wanted that house and he was going to rent it," she said.
As far as oversight of these homes, she said it looks like, after 17 years of being condemned, local government isn't holding the landlord accountable.
"He is a true slumlord. Very much, yeah," Nevitt said.
FOX 46 Charlotte asked Lancaster County how many condemned homes are in the area. It said it does not keep track.