Frank R. Mead, III, Respondent,
Beaufort County Assessor, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2014-002355
April 13, 2016
From The Administrative Law Court John D. McLeod,
Administrative Law Judge
Stephen P. Hughes and James Andrew Yoho, both of Howell
Gibson & Hughes, PA, of Beaufort, for Appellant.
Rhett Maybank, III and James Peter Rourke, both of Nexsen
Pruet, LLC, of Columbia, for Respondent.
appeal from the administrative law court (ALC), the Beaufort
County Assessor appeals the ALC's reversal of the
Assessor's determination Frank Mead, III was not eligible
for the homestead exemption in 2011 because for over fourteen
days that year he rented out the home he owned. The Assessor
contends the ALC erred in finding the primary residence
classification and homestead exemption are unrelated. We
affirm as modified.
was born in 1939 and turned sixty-five years old in 2004.
Mead owns one home, which is located on Hilton Head Island,
South Carolina. He purchased the home in 1976. From 2005 to
2010, he received the homestead exemption on his property. In
2011, he rented his home out for at least one hundred
thirty-eight days. While his home was being rented, he
traveled or stayed in an apartment for which he paid rent.
Assessor revoked Mead's homestead exemption for the 2011
tax year because she believed his property no longer
qualified for it as a result of his renting out his home for
more than fourteen days. Mead appealed the determination to
the Beaufort County Tax Equalization Board. Following a
conference with both parties' attorneys, the Board denied
Mead's relief by letter.
requested a contested case hearing before the ALC. Both
parties filed motions for summary judgment, agreeing the sole
issue was whether the homestead exemption under section
12-37-250 of the South Carolina Code is available only to
property that also qualifies for the preferential residential
assessment ratio in section 12-43-220(c) of the South
a hearing, the ALC issued an order granting Mead's motion
for summary judgment, finding Mead had met the requirements
for the homestead exemption. The ALC determined Mead had been
a resident of South Carolina for at least one year, was over
the age of sixty-five, was granted the homestead exemption in
2005, and had not done anything that would amount to a change
affecting eligibility. The ALC further found the homestead
exemption applies to a person's dwelling place and
despite Mead's practice of renting out his house and
living in a rented apartment, he does not hold out any other
property as his primary residence and thus, the subject
property is his dwelling place. Additionally, the ALC
determined the homestead exemption and the primary residence
classification are "two ships in the night" because
the two classifications relate to different constitutional
provisions, statutes, requirements, incentives, and types of
qualifying properties. The ALC further found the fourteen-day
rental rule does not apply to the homestead exemption.
Accordingly, the ALC granted Mead's motion for summary
judgment, finding he was entitled to the homestead exemption
for 2011 and subsequent years.
Assessor filed a motion for reconsideration. The ALC did not
rule on the motion, and the Assessor considered the motion to
be denied after thirty days pursuant to South Carolina
Administrative Law Court Rules. This appeal followed.
South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure may be applied in
proceedings before the ALC to resolve questions not addressed
by the ALC rules." Media Gen. Commc'ns, Inc. v.
S.C. Dep't of Revenue, 388 S.C. 138, 144, 694 S.E.2d
525, 527-28 (2010) (citing Rule 68, SCALCR). The purpose of
summary judgment is to expedite the disposition of cases not
requiring the services of a fact finder. George v.
Fabri, 345 S.C. 440, 452, 548 S.E.2d 868, 874 (2001).
When reviewing the grant of a summary judgment motion, this
court applies the same standard that governs the trial court
under Rule 56(c), SCRCP; 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.
Fleming v. Rose, 350 S.C. 488, 493, 567 S.E.2d 857,
court considering summary judgment neither makes factual
determinations nor considers the merits of competing
testimony; however, summary judgment is completely
appropriate when a properly supported motion sets forth facts
that remain undisputed or are contested in a deficient
manner." David v. McLeod Reg'l Med. Ctr.,
367 S.C. 242, 250, 626 S.E.2d 1, 5 (2006). "[C]ross
motions for summary judgments do authorize the court to
assume that there is no evidence which needs to be considered
other than that which has been filed by the parties."
Alltel Commc'ns, Inc. v. S.C. Dep't of
Revenue, 399 S.C. 313, 319 n.2, 731 S.E.2d 869, 872 n.2
(2012) (alteration by court) (quoting Harrison W. Corp.
v. Gulf Oil Co., 662 F.2d 690, 692 (10th Cir. 1981)).
"Where cross motions for summary judgment are filed, the
parties concede the issue before us should be decided as a
matter of law." Wiegand v. U.S. Auto.
Ass'n, 391 S.C. 159, 163, 705 S.E.2d 432, 434
(2011)). "The question of statutory interpretation is
one of law for the court to decide." Alltel
Commc'ns, Inc., 399 S.C. at 316, 731 S.E.2d at 870.
"The decision of the [ALC] should not be overturned
unless it is unsupported by substantial evidence or
controlled by some error of law." Original Blue
Ribbon Taxi Corp. v. S.C. Dep't of Motor Vehicles,
380 S.C. 600, 604, 670 S.E.2d 674, 676 (Ct. App. 2008).
Assessor argues the ALC erred in determining Chapter 37 is
the sole determinant of homestead exemption availability and
failed to acknowledge section 12-43-220(c) imposes an
additional requirement for qualification of the homestead
exemption. She also asserts the ALC erred in its
interpretation of section 12-37-252. She contends there is
not a separate 4% assessment ratio for the homestead
exemption; the only 4% assessment ratio is provided by
section 12-43-220(c). Additionally, the Assessor maintains
the ALC erred in finding the 4% assessment under section
12-37-252 is separate from the 4% assessment under
12-43-220(c) because only one 4% assessment is authorized by
the South Carolina Constitution. We disagree.
(A) Pursuant to the provisions of [s]ection 3, [a]rticle X of
the [s]tate [c]onstitution and subject to the provisions of
[s]ection 12-4-720, there is exempt from ad valorem taxation:
. . .
(9) a homestead exemption for persons sixty-five years of age
and older, for persons permanently and totally disabled and
for blind persons in an amount to be determined by the
General Assembly of the fair market value of the homestead
under conditions prescribed by the General Assembly by
general law . . . .
S.C. Code Ann. § 12-37-220(A) (2014); see also
S.C. Const. art. X, §3 ("There shall be exempt from
ad valorem taxation . . . (i) a homestead exemption for
persons sixty-five years of age and older, for persons
permanently and totally disabled and for blind persons in the
amount of ten thousand dollars of the fair market value of
the homestead under conditions prescribed by the General
Assembly by general law; provided, that the amount
may be increased by the General Assembly by general law,
passed by a majority vote of both houses . . . .").
The first fifty thousand dollars of the fair market value of
the dwelling place of a person is exempt from county,
municipal, school, and special assessment real estate
property taxes when the person:
(i) has been a resident of this [s]tate for at least one year
and has reached the age of sixty-five years on or before
December thirty-first; . . . .
S.C. Code Ann. § 12-37-250(A)(1) (2014).
"'Dwelling place' means the permanent home and
legal residence of the applicant." S.C. Code Ann. ...