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South Carolina’s Statutory Exemptions for Collections Actions 

Collecting money from a debtor that refuses to pay can be challenging, especially in this economic climate. When cash is unavailable, property can sometimes be seized to make good on a debt. However, in South Carolina, certain property, or equity in property, cannot be seized to satisfy a judgment. These limitations are outlined in the South Carolina Code of Laws and referred to as Statutory Exemptions. These exemptions can make it challenging for a creditor to collect what a debtor owes.

At Crawford & von Keller, LLC, we want to help you explore what South Carolina’s statutory exemptions mean when it comes to collections actions.

Judgment Proof Assets and Consumer Debt

While a judgment can feel like a win, finding assets to collect can be challenging. In South Carolina, judgment exemptions generally apply to a person’s personal property and their homestead. Legally, a creditor cannot seize any of these exempt assets if they have a value below the threshold set by the law, essentially making a debtor judgment proof despite the existence of some known assets.

Common examples of South Carolina exemptions include:

  • Wages – South Carolina does not permit wage garnishment for judgment satisfaction on a consumer debt.
  • Property – Some forms of property may also be exempt. Debtors with less than $67,100 in equity in a home are generally exempt from sale or levy.
  • Vehicles – The same principle applies to vehicles. Debtors with less than $6,700 in equity in one vehicle are out of reach to creditors.
  • Jewelry – Wedding rings are always exempt and cannot be sold to satisfy a judgment. Other jewelry with a total value of less than $1,350 is also considered a protected asset.
  • Tools of the Trade – If a debtor needs specific tools for work or to remain employed, those tools can be considered protected assets up to $2,025. Examples may include hand tools, machinery, and professional books or resource material.
  • Basic Household Items – Basic household items include furniture, household goods or tools, clothing, books, appliances, and animals worth less than $5,375. The total value of these household goods is determined by estimating the “garage sale value” of each item and adding them together.
  • Health Aids – Required or prescribed medical devices are always exempt and cannot be taken to satisfy a debt. CPAP machines, oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, and other durable medical equipment are common examples of exempt health aids.
  • Life Insurance – Life insurance with a value of $5,375 owned by the debtor that has not yet matured cannot be seized.
  • Liquid Assets – Cash, unpaid earnings, vacation time, and prepayments are exempt for up to $6,700.

Are Other Sources of Income Exempt?

The answer is yes. There are other sources of income that a debtor may rely upon that cannot be taken by a creditor. For the most part, these additional sources of income can be considered off-limits:

  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Social Security benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Payments from pensions, annuity, or stock bonuses

As a judgment holder, you can continue to demand payment for up to ten years. After that period expires, however, the debt can no longer be collected. However, if the debtor continues to accumulate assets or property or property is paid off prior to the end of the ten-year period, that property may be open to seizure.

Contact an Experienced Creditors’ Rights Lawyer Today

The legal team at Crawford & von Keller, LLC, are well-rounded attorneys who understand the complications of creditors’ rights law. We have over 70 years of combined legal experience that we wield for the benefit of our clients.

Need effective legal representation? Turn to the dedicated professionals at Crawford & von Keller, LLC. Contact our South Carolina office online or call us at 803-790-2626 today for advice about your specific legal issue.


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