Some say “what you don’t know won’t hurt you,” but for the community of Spartansburg County, South Carolina, what they — and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) — didn’t know about former real estate broker Todd Kohlhepp put them in grave danger.
In November, Kohlhepp was arrested after a missing South Carolina woman was found in a metal container on his property. Shortly thereafter, the bodies of a 25-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were also found.
In light of the Todd Kohlhepp case, South Carolina Rep. Chip Huggins pre-filed the “Todd Kohlhepp Bill,” which would require real estate agents to pass a national background check during their initial licensing application, and again every time they renew their license, which is currently every two years.
The discovery of the missing woman and the bodies catalyzed other disturbing details about Kohlhepp to resurface, such as a 15-year jail sentence he served for forcing a 14-year-old into his bedroom (at gunpoint) and raping her.
Police connect him to at least seven other killings, including a quadruple murder at a motorcycle shop that has gone unsolved for years.
One of the most chilling aspects about Kohlhepp was that clients, who gave him a bevy of five-star reviews on Zillow, were completely unaware of his gruesome history. He also had nearly two dozen recommendations on realtor.com.
Furthermore, the South Carolina LLR real estate commission was oblivious to the broker’s past — at the time he applied for the license, the department didn’t perform background checks to verify an applicant’s criminal history (or lack thereof).
“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,” said Rep. Huggins in an interview with WSAV News.
“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.”
Huggins also said he might consider tweaking the bill to require real estate license renewal every year instead of every two years.