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Controversial South Carolina Real Estate Transaction Resolved

A South Carolina circuit court ruled last month on one of the most unique real estate cases to grace the state's dockets in recent years.

The dispute centered on a real estate transaction involving a former movie theater in downtown Laurens. Since 1996, the theater has housed a retail establishment known as the "Redneck Shop." The controversial store, run by former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon John Howard, houses a Klan museum and deals in KKK memorabilia.

In 1997, a rival Klansman transferred ownership of the property to a church led by African-American civil rights activist the Rev. David Kennedy. The man had apparently developed a "spiritual relationship" with Kennedy's New Beginnings Baptist Church.

However, he included a clause in the deed that purported to allow Howard to continue to operate his store on the property until Howard died.

Following the transfer, Kennedy attempted on several occasions to have the property inspected. He was denied access, and in 2008 Kennedy and his church sued Howard.

On December 9, a judge ruled that the property rightfully belonged to New Beginnings Baptist Church.

It is not yet clear whether the ruling means that Howard must abandon his store. Kennedy has not publicly discussed his plans for the building; however, he has mentioned in the past that he thought the space would make a good home for his church.

South Carolina Commercial Real Estate Transactions

The facts of this case are certainly unusual, but they highlight relatively common issues in commercial real estate transactions. Sometimes, the seller's ownership of the property is disputed, causing difficulties for the buyer. In other cases, a buyer might purchase an occupied space and encounter pushback from the current tenant.

A South Carolina real estate lawyer can help commercial real estate purchasers resolve these issues before they become costly disputes.

Source: The State, "Judge: Black Church is Rightful Owner of KKK Store," Meg Kinnard, Jan. 4, 2012

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