As the result of a law passed in 2009 with the help of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina, Home Builders are eligible for property tax relief on homes they have completed but are not yet sold or occupied. The relief is available for up to five years, but is lost once the home is occupied (for example, if the home is rented) or sold.
January 31, 2011 is a VERY IMPORTANT date. The property tax exemption deadline for recertifying unoccupied homes that got property tax relief in 2010, and for certifying any newly constructed homes, or older homes that have not been enrolled in the program for the 2010 property tax year, is January 31. Those who fail to certify or recertify with their county assessor by January 31 will have no recourse and there will be no exceptions and no tax relief. If you think you might be eligible, contact your county assessor. When in doubt, call your assessor. There are significant savings to be had by participating in this property tax relief program.
Relief also is available for the part of the year in which the home is completed. However, you must apply for relief within 30 days of receiving a certificate of occupancy.
DETAILS OF LAW:
- Effective date: July 1, 2009
- Homes Covered by Law: Newly constructed unoccupied detached single-family homes built in 2007 or later.
- Extent of Tax Relief: Provides property tax relief only for real estate improvement (new home), but builder/developer still pays property tax on the unimproved land.
- First Eligible Tax Year: 2009 property tax year. No refunds are available for the 2007 and 2008 tax years. Exemption application must have been made by September 30, 2009, to be eligible for relief in the 2009 tax year.
- Duration of Eligibility: Until the house is sold, occupied, or it has reached the property tax year ending the sixth December 31(five years) from the date a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), if required, was issued, whichever comes first.
- Recertification: After the initial application, the builder will be required to re-certify homes with Certificate of Occupancy (CO) annually by January 31 every eligible year that the house remains unoccupied.
- Homes with No CO: Homes without a certificate of occupancy (if required) are not habitable, therefore they can’t be occupied. This means that they can’t be added to the tax rolls until both the CO is issued (if required) and the house is occupied (Administrative Law Court decision).
- Change in Occupancy: Builders are required to notify the assessor if the house is rented or is occupied by the builder. The house permanently loses its tax exemption with the notification. If the house is sold, the assessor will pick up the change in tax status when property deed is recorded.
- Legal Reference: Section 12-37-220(B) of state code of law. Bill – H. 3018, Ratification- R88, Act- 76
- Obtaining Exemption: Homes Receiving CO in 2009 or later, notify assessor within 30 days of receiving a CO, or by January 31, that the house is unoccupied.
If house sale is not pending, it would seem prudent to file the exemption form when the CO is issued just to be safe. Each county has a form to claim the exemption. However, the form may vary slightly from county to county. To protect your legal rights, the application must be notarized.