Starting in 2020 people who sell or manage real estate in South Carolina will have to undergo a background check to renew their license. The law, signed by Gov. Henry McMaster, requires real estate agents, property managers, brokers, and their supervisors to undergo a fingerprint-based check every third license renewal, or every six years.
“Hopefully, it will make people more secure,” Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, the bill’s main sponsor, said Monday. “This is the result of a terrible situation.”
This law was prompted by the case of Todd Kohlhepp, who was arrested after authorities found a woman who had been missing for months chained by her neck in a storage container on his property in a rural part of the state. The remains of her boyfriend, as well as the remains of a couple who had disappeared previously, were also found on his property. Authorities said that Kohlhepp also confessed to a 2003 cold case where four people were murdered in a motorcycle shop.
Kohlhepp had a criminal history prior to receiving his real estate license in 2006. As a teenager he was convicted of raping his 14 year-old neighbor at gunpoint and threatening to kill her siblings if she reported the assault. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and was released in 2001.
When Kohlhepp applied for his real estate license in 2006, no background check was required. A law requiring background checks for first-time applicants wasn’t enacted until May 2015. He did check off that he had a previous felony conviction on the application, but he lied about the reason for his conviction.
The bill passed the state Senate and House unanimously; it also had the support of local realtors.
“By passing this bill, the Legislature found a way to honor the victims of the horrible crimes reported last year,” said Nick E. Kremydas, CEO of SC Realtors. “We knew it was our responsibility to ask the Legislature to enact tougher laws to better protect the public and our Realtor members.”
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