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Solar Tax Credits & Other Incentives Heat Up Energy-Efficient Demand in South Carolina Construction

With an abundance of sunshine in South Carolina (August’s total solar eclipse notwithstanding), developers and builders are jumping on ways to take advantage of the sun’s rays to provide energy-efficient construction.

Solar panels provide cheap energy, but a major obstacle to mainstream use is the upfront installation cost. The most common residential solar installation – a 5-kilowatt system – costs about $20,000 to install in South Carolina, but generates only about $500 to $1,000 in annual energy savings.

Federal and state tax credits are the most significant tool to offset initial costs, along with rebates and other incentives from private utilities in South Carolina. A lucrative rebate for Duke Energy customers was exhausted at the end of January after falling victim to its own popularity. The utility offered a $5,000 annual rebate for the average household by paying $1 per watt of energy generated from solar panels. Another program for South Carolina Electric & Gas customers offered performance payments of up to 4 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated from solar panels. It expired at the end of 2016. 

Still, South Carolina users enjoy some of the best tax credits in the country and may be able to take advantage of new legislation pending in the House.  

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Eminent Domain in South Carolina: What Happens When the Government Wants Your Land?

South Carolina property owners and businesses have taken notice of recent actions across the state where the government is using eminent domain authority to clear the way for roads, infrastructure and other public uses.

Although a state constitutional amendment in 2006 prohibited the use of eminent domain for economic development, eminent domain is on the table for other uses and has been viewed as a bargaining tool for municipalities to accelerate the sale of coveted land.

Negotiations to acquire property for a library and museum in Myrtle Beach are continuing after the city council in February allowed the city manager to use eminent domain, if necessary, to force the sale of two downtown parcels.

In April, the Charleston City Council authorized the use of eminent domain to acquire the site of a former supermarket for a new intersection and park. One month later, the city reached an agreement with the developer to purchase the 2-1/2-acre site for $3 million.

And plans for Interstate 73, which aims to connect Myrtle Beach to North Carolina and up to Michigan, could involve more right-of-way acquisitions across South Carolina.

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7 Steps to Prepare Your Business for Sale

Putting your business up for sale is a major decision with implications that extend far beyond the financial considerations. Selling your company affects not only your future but the future of your valued employees. What’s more, letting go of a business you’ve grown for years or even decades can be a difficult process.

First, you need to consider whether you are truly ready to sell your business. Talk to family members and others who care about your future and may have a stake in your decision. Working through any personal concerns before proceeding will make the entire process a lot easier.

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Not On My Land? Clarifying the Elements For a Prescriptive Easement

Imagine finding that a neighbor, or a company, or even the public has acquired the right to use part of your property without compensating you. A recent ruling in South Carolina sets new case law and provides important guidance for issuers of title insurance, parties impacted by property litigation and anyone who may be seeking advice about the validity of an easement, which is a right to cross or use someone else's land for a specified purpose.

In Simmons v. Berkeley Electric – a property dispute over whether utility companies had the right to use a individual's land for water and power lines – the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals erred in recognizing two methods, adverse use and claim of right, of proving the third element of a prescriptive easement. (A prescriptive easement is earned by regular use; it is not something that is purchased, negotiated or granted, and the user does not gain title to the land.)

This ruling concluded that when analyzing the third element of a prescriptive easement, South Carolina courts should apply a new test for adverse use, which is the practice of using property without the authorization of the owner.

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Avoid These Legal Snares in 2016

We always like to look ahead and advise our business clients about legal issues that may receive more attention throughout the year. Some are pushed to the forefront by public policy and politics – immigration, for example. Other issues, such as data protection and workplace harassment training, always are important, but the beginning of the year is a good time to review whether your business follows best practices.

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Court Comes Down Hard On Bank That Didn’t Satisfy Open-Ended Mortgage in 90 Days

The South Carolina Supreme Court recently sent a clear message to banks: all mortgages – including those with a home equity line of credit (HELOC) – must be satisfied within 90 days of receiving a payoff. Banks that don't have a procedure for timely execution of payoffs where there is a line of credit should implement one immediately or risk certain liability.

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Why You Must Renew South Carolina Buy-Sell Agreements to Reflect Inclusion of Goodwill

A recent South Carolina court ruling has adopted the emerging majority approach utilized by the courts nationwide, and for the first time has recognized the distinction between “enterprise goodwill” and “personal goodwill” for equitable distribution purposes in a divorce action. 

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Guarantors Can’t Slow Down Foreclosures by Asking for a Jury Trial

One way for debtors to slow down the foreclosure process in South Carolina has been to file counterclaims and request a jury trial. For guarantors of bad loans, that door was closed in January, thanks to a decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court. In what banks should regard as a victory for creditors’ rights, the high court said that guarantors who have been included in a foreclosure action in order to seek a deficiency judgment do not have a right to a jury trial. 

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Don’t Misunderstand the Memorandum of Understanding

Can a city change its mind about development partners after signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU)? 

That question bounced around in South Carolina courts for a decade, and the state Supreme Court issued the final answer last summer. A city – or any party – may back out of an “understanding” that doesn’t include a definitive agreement. 

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Unloading Beasts of Burden: SC’s New Expedited Foreclosure Law

South Carolina’s real estate market is not yet out of the woods from recession woes. According to a June 2013 RealtyTrac nationwide study, South Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for the number of abandoned properties in foreclosure. South Carolina’s ranking is ahead of its neighboring states, Georgia and North Carolina, despite having half as many housing units as these states.

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