Stronger Background Checks Bill Heads to SC House

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA)—A bill to strengthen South Carolina’s law requiring criminal background checks for anyone getting a real estate license is now headed to the full state House of Representatives. The House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee passed the bill unanimously Thursday morning.

The bill was filed in response to the case of real estate broker Todd Kohlhepp. Kohlhepp is accused of seven murders in Spartanburg County and kidnapping and holding another woman hostage. He was able to get a South Carolina real estate license because, at the time he applied, the state did not require a criminal background check. It does require them now but the law is not retroactive.

Kohlhepp was convicted in Arizona of kidnapping and was also charged with sexual assault. Court records say he forced a young girl who lived near him into his home at gunpoint and raped her.

Under the bill, in addition to requiring a background check to get a license, that background check would be done again every six years.

Rep. Heather Crawford, R-Socastee, told the committee, “Getting a real estate license through South Carolina, you do have a background check. However, it’s only an initial background check. It’s not whenever you renew your license. There’s no fingerprinting involved.”

The bill originally would have required a new background check every time someone got their real estate license renewed, but the committee adopted an amendment to change that to every third renewal. Rep. Crawford explained, “A real estate license is renewed every other year. So instead of at every renewal having to have that updated background check, this would make it at every third renewal, which would be every six years. With 34,000 real estate licenses issued in South Carolina, that can be a lot, doing those 34,000 every other year. So, at the (Real Estate) Commission’s request, we have changed that to six years.”

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