In reviewing the grant of a summary judgment motion, the appellate court applies the same standard which governs the trial court under S.C.R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. When an appeal involves stipulated or undisputed facts, an appellate court is free to review whether the trial court properly applied the law to those facts.
Plaintiff landowner filed an action in the seeking a declaration that a sublease was a nullity pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 27-35-60. . Following a hearing on both parties' motions for summary judgment, the trial judge held that S.C. Code Ann. § 27-35-60 prohibits the sublease of property without the written consent of the landlord, and as a result, the sublease was invalid. Defendant tenants appealed. The tenants contended that the terms of the lease agreement controlled the issue of whether the original tenant was able to sublease the property. They argued that, because the lease contained language to the effect that the original tenant could use the property "as desired," and because the original owner testified that he had no intention of limiting the original tenant's ability to sublease the property, under the terms of the lease, the original tenant had the right to sublease the property. The lower court's judgment was affirmed.
Did the trial court err in finding that S.C. Code Ann. § 27- 35-60 prohibits the sublease of property without the written consent of the landlord under the facts of this case?
The instant court concluded that the language in the lease agreement that the tenant would "use and occupy the premises as desired, including the construction of a dwelling, etc., thereon" was not sufficient to convey to the original tenant the right to sublease the property. Applying the plain meaning of S.C. Code Ann. § 27-35-60 to the facts and circumstances of this case, absent the owner's written consent, the sublease is a nullity.