Liens and Incumbrances

1. Generally

There exists in the law of South Carolina numerous statutory liens; liens on real property, mechanics' liens, liens on ships and vessels, laborers' liens, mining liens, agricultural liens, and still others found in S.C. Code Ann. § 29-1-10 et seq.

Only a few of these liens are within magisterial jurisdiction and of concern to judges in the magistrates' courts. But before going into further detail, magistrates should understand what a lien is and which are within their jurisdiction.

A lien is generally defined as a security, charge, claim, or incumbrance against some specific property. The statutes beginning at § 29-1-10 relate to mortgages, which are liens which may be imposed upon real and personal property. A security interest, sometimes referred to as a lien, is an incumbrance specially created by Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

2. Jurisdiction

As stated before, the Code provides for mortgages, liens and other encumbrances in § 29-1-10 et seq. A reading of the statutes in their entirety reveals that some of the liens are specifically stated to be within the magistrates' jurisdiction, while in others no reference to jurisdiction is made. It is reasonable to assume that magistrates only have jurisdiction over those liens in which magisterial jurisdiction is specifically bestowed. The following is a list of liens and encumbrances over which magistrates have jurisdiction:

Mechanics' liens §§ 29-5-10 through 29-5-430
Agricultural liens § 29-13-10
Repair or Storage liens § 29-15-10
Certain Animal Owner's liens § 29-15-50

Besides real property mortgages and liens, there are about eight other types of liens which are beyond the jurisdiction of magistrates. Only those specific types of liens listed above are within the jurisdiction of magistrates and only as limited by the statutes themselves. The amount of jurisdiction in each lien situation may be found by referring to the specific sections in the following discussions. In any of these lien situations, if the parties disagree as to the amount of the lien, the magistrate may determine the amount in dispute if it does not exceed $7,500.00. If the amount in dispute could be greater than $7,500.00, the circuit court must determine the amount of the lien, and, if appropriate, the magistrate may sell the property pursuant to the lien.

3. Mechanics' Liens

a. Generally

Magistrates have jurisdiction over mechanics' liens when the amount claimed is not in excess of $100 (§ 29-5-130).