HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) – South Carolina attorneys are predicting record-high eviction numbers at the end of this month.

The CDC eviction moratorium currently protecting renters from evictions expires in the coming weeks on December 31.

State attorneys and the South Carolina Housing Authority (SCHA) are preparing for a substantial increase in evictions and homelessness. Before COVID-19, South Carolina already topped the nation in evictions.

What looks to be a concerning number of evictions, experts say, is only about to get worse in the new year.

SCHA reports there are more than half a million renters in the state; experts say almost half of them are at risk of eviction.

“One estimate is anywhere from 100,000 to 273,000 households may be at risk of eviction once this moratorium expires,” Adam Protheroe, Litigation Attorney at SC Appleseed, said.

South Carolina Appleseed is a legal justice advocacy group that helps low-income families, including those who can’t afford rent.

Attorneys are assuring struggling renters they are not alone, but they do need to take a few steps before it’s too late.

First, reach out to legal attorneys. At times, they can stop an eviction entirely. Another option is to ask for a court hearing.

“The only thing that is going to happen without a hearing is an eviction. The hearing may give you a chance to talk to the landlord to work something out if you have not had the chance to do that already,” Protheroe said. “So, just making sure you know that there is a step you need to take that’s easy, but you do need to take that step, and you don’t have a whole lot of time to do it.”

Attorneys say many interpret an eviction notice as “I have to move in 10 days.” However, what it really means is either move or contact the court and ask for a hearing.

South Carolina’s eviction rate is more than nine percent, according to a Princeton study. Data shows there is at least one eviction per 11 renter households.

The latest data showing Horry County evictions is from 2016. It shows eviction rates at about eight percent, right below the state average.

Attorneys say extending that moratorium after December 31 is going to be the key.

“It is not necessarily just about extending the moratorium because that kicks the can down the road. What’s needed is extending the moratorium and meaningful rental assistance to try and take care of this backlog,” Protheroe said.

The SCHA said they are currently working to fund a new program. It would assist both homeowners and renters experiencing financial loss from the pandemic.

More details will be available after the new year.

For rental assistance resources, click here. For information about the CDC eviction moratorium, click here.