Skip to comments.McMaster Tax Issue Puts Rental Properties in Spotlight
Posted on 04/21/2010 4:29:55 PM PDT by Force of Truth
As South Carolina nears the Republican statewide primary elections, the campaigns of those angling for the governors office have become increasingly outspoken in their attempts to tear down their rivals and claw their way into the hearts of a hardcore conservative electorate that will be voting June 8.
Between the two top-fundraising candidates, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and state Attorney General Henry McMaster, the latest back-and-forth has been centered around tax issues.
In Barretts case, the issue is his 2008 vote in favor of the TARP bailout of Wall Street banks. In McMasters, its closer to home a years-old issue of late payments on property taxes that has led to more general criticism of McMaster and his wife as landlords.
On April 15 Tax Day the Barrett campaign unloaded on McMaster for having to pay $20,000 in late fees several years ago for back property taxes he owed on several rental units that he works on with his wife in the leafy neighborhoods surrounding the University of South Carolina.
McMasters spokesman, Rob Godfrey, shot back by pointing out that Barrett might not want to talk about taxes. He was, remember, booed off the stage at an Upstate Tea Party rally last year, Godfrey said, for his flip-flopping and voting to spend one trillion of our tax dollars to bail out Wall Street banks.
Godfrey added that, Thanks to Congressman Barrett and his colleagues in Washington, well all be paying a lot more in taxes for generations to come.
The McMasters have been up to date on their property taxes for the past five years.
But as tax issues involving the McMasters rental properties have taken center stage, current and former tenants of theirs have come forward to criticize the McMasters as shoddy landlords.
Over the past several years, the McMasters have purchased nearly a dozen properties in the University Hill neighborhood around USC.
By asking renters to take liquor bottles out of window frames, dropping by to spruce up the landscaping, discussing the rent or playing mediator between tenants and his wife, Henry McMasters presence has been legendary among college-aged University Hill residents for years. The attorney general in a shirt and tie could often be seen hammering away at pieces of wood or hauling paint cans around the open garage he used as a hub for his properties at the corner of Greene and Henderson streets.
He has since backed off from the day-to-day operations as he has campaigned for governor.
All in all, the McMasters own 11 houses in Richland County, according to the county treasurers office. Five are on Greene Street; they also own two houses on Senate Street; one on Marion Street; a residence on Gibbes Court; a house on Henderson Street and another on Gregg Street. All of them are rental properties, except their familys main residence on Senate Street, and each is divided into several units.
In the time that theyve been local landlords the McMasters have developed a reputation among their neighbors and tenants.
Several current and former tenants complain of bad plumbing; broken windows; awkward confrontations with Henry; windows painted shut; bats, insects and mice; non-working appliances; rude text messages; unjustified rent hikes; water pouring from light fixtures; being forced out of apartments and the withholding of security deposits.
The most widely observed complaint, however, is a general lack of attention to the properties or to the tenants.
Its gotten to the point that we dont even call them anymore, says one current tenant who didnt want to be named out of fear of retribution. Because theres no point.
The McMaster campaign declined to go into detail in their response to the allegations leveled at the candidate as a landlord.
We are not going to respond to anonymous sources other than to say that, when youre renting to college students, it always seems to be the landlords fault, said Godfrey, McMasters spokesman.