COLUMBIA, S.C. – It can be called the “Todd Kohlhepp Bill,” a bill prefiled in the South Carolina House to require anyone renewing a state real estate license to pass a state and national criminal background check.
Kohlhepp is accused of seven murders. 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.
Rep. Chip Huggins has prefiled a bill in the House that he hopes would prevent the same thing from happening again. Real estate agents and brokers have to renew their licenses every two years, and under his bill the state would require state and national criminal background checks at renewal.
“If someone is a known criminal, maybe they will reconsider trying to get a license for something they know they’re going to have an issue with if that background check is going to show something that they’ve done,” Rep. Huggins says. “That person that calls you to buy a home, buy a property or whatever, they’ll hopefully have a little better feel that this background check’s been done so I’m dealing with someone that at least has been checked out as best we can.”
Realtor Mary Lane Sloane says when she heard about the charges against Kohlhepp and that he was a real estate broker, “It made me sick to my stomach. I had a huge pit because I was, first of all, anytime something like that happens you have a hard time believing that something like that so terrible could happen. But it really made me think, ‘Oh my gosh! How did this man get to this point and nobody did anything about it?'”
She says she hopes the law will pass because it would protect not only clients but also real estate agents themselves, since they often have to go to homes to meet other agents they don’t know.
Rep. Huggins says he wonders whether two years is too long, since that could let someone slip through the cracks, so he’ll consider changing his bill to require the background checks every year.