South Carolina City Pulls the Plug on Banning U-Haul Rentals

by: Michael Realbuto
3 Jan 2023

A property owner in Mauldin, South Carolina felt some holiday cheer this December when he found out that the city repealed an amortization ordinance that would have banned his long-standing U-Haul rental business.

For over a decade, Jeremy Sark and his partner Marie Dougherty operated a U-Haul rental business alongside Sark’s Automotive shop in Mauldin. However, the U-Haul business was in jeopardy when Mauldin passed an amortization ordinance that prohibited the “sale and rental of moving trucks [and] trailers” in all city zones but one, effective December 31, 2022. Amortization refers to banning a landowner’s property use while also providing time for the owner to “wind up” and recoup their investment in the property. As evident in Jeremy and Marie’s case, amortization typically falls far short of compensating an owner for the loss its business when there is an expectation to continuing operating indefinitely. The new ordinance allegedly stemmed from a broad overhaul of the city’s zoning laws with the purpose of attracting new development in the city.

After learning about the ordinance, Jeremy filed a lawsuit with the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national non-profit law firm that defends property rights and economic liberty. During the pendency the suit, and just days before Sark’s Automotive might have been forced to lay off employees, the city repealed the amortization ordinance. IJ attorney Seth Young stated that “Jeremy and Marie’s business was no threat to Mauldin’s future development. It’s hard enough to be a small business owner without cities changing the rules.” Upon hearing the news of the repeal, Jeremy was “relieved that this important part of our business will continue next year…What the city tried to do wasn’t right and it would have hurt our employees, customers, and people who move to and from Mauldin.” Likewise, the IJ hopes “that other South Carolina cities won’t follow Mauldin’s lead by even trying to use amortization to deprive people of safe, reasonable property uses. But if they do, we’ll be ready to defend the constitutional rights of whoever is ready to stand up to government abuse.”

Kudos to Jeremy, Maire, and our colleagues at the IJ for representing the owners and achieving a great result. We will say, again and again, one of the easiest and most effective ways for property owners to protect their rights is to retain experienced counsel as early as possible. For more than 55 years, McKirdy, Riskin, Olson & DellaPelle, P.C. has concentrated its practice in eminent domain law and real estate tax appeals. Our firm has earned a reputation for persistently defending its clients’ constitutionally-recognized property rights. Please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.