COLUMBIA (AP) — Legislation to help elderly South Carolinians live on their own and help homeowners rent to tourists has advanced in the state House.
A House subcommittee unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday to let homeowners rent out their homes up to 72 days a year without losing their lower, owner-occupied 4 percent tax assessment ratio.
Currently homeowners may only rent out their legal residences up to 14 days a year or face paying a higher 6 percent rate.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate last year.
“I think the whole freaking state should be 4 percent as far as property taxes,” Rep. James Merrill, R-Charleston.
Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, said increasing the number of permitted rental days would bring in more tourism.
Bill Otis, mayor of Pawleys Island, said coastal residents are being forced to leave because they cannot afford to pay the higher tax rate as a result of a 2012 Court of Appeals ruling against a Hilton Head couple for renting out their home beyond 14 days.
“This court ruling has basically caused them an increase on their property taxes that nobody voted on. That’s not fair. That’s not the way we do things in South Carolina,” Otis said.
The subcommittee also unanimously approved legislation dubbed “Uncle Preston’s Law” to let family members pay a 4 percent property tax assessment ratio on a house occupied by a relative 65 years of age or older.
Likewise, property currently not claimed by owners as their legal residence is taxed at 6 percent. The bill does not apply to relatives paying rent.
Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, said he named the bill after a friend struggling to keep an uncle in his home.
Herbkersman said, “It quite simply allows for a relative to own a property that the older folks are in as long as they are able to live in it and not have to be at a six percent tax.”
Herbkersman said he is considering an amendment to extend the bill to disabled relatives.
Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, said he is sympathetic to Uncle Preston.
“Keeping someone in a home rather than a nursing home or assisted home facility cuts the cost tremendously,” Skelton said. “I’m acquainted with a situation where the last parent in a family died and the property tax went from $757 to about $3000 because of the six percent and having to pay for the operating expenses of schools.”
Both measures now head to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Law keeping S.C. elderly in homes advances