Hurricane Florence Threatens Property Ties in Carolina’s Lowcountry

Thousands of acres throughout the flooded Carolinas are heir’s property, a form of land ownership that leaves residents vulnerable to speculators.

News Story (North Carolina, South Carolina)

Laura Bliss
September 15, 2018

Tags: Disaster Recovery, Housing: Title

Organizations mentioned/involved: Center for Heir’s Property Preservation, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS)


As climate change brings more dangerous hurricanes and rising seas, and as the Gullah/Geechee network expands with younger generations living away from home, that connection may be fraying. Many neighbors in the small village where he grew up did leave this time, according to Scott. And they did so with the understanding that their ancestral homes face a double threat—the hurricane itself, and also a vortex of laws that imperil residents’ property rights.

If Scott’s mother’s home is damaged or destroyed, she could face huge barriers to rebuilding or receiving FEMA relief. Worse, a speculator could buy up the land from beneath her. That’s because the land is classified as “heir’s property,” a legal condition that leaves it particularly vulnerable, especially in a disaster. “It’s a constant conversation, but it becomes more sensitive and heightened during times like these,” Scott said.