Prom house liability agreements parents sign likely not worth 'paper they're printed on'

Aerial view of Isle of Palms beach houses (WCIV)

It’s officially prom season, with most Lowcountry schools hosting proms in late April.

After the prom comes the party, and so called "prom houses" — sometimes at an oceanfront beach house parents rent out for the weekend.

Towns like Isle of Palms are already bracing for the next wave of what they’ve labeled a concern.

“We don’t know that they are prom houses until we respond to a noise complaint or occupancy complaint,” said Sgt. Kraig Thompson with the Isle of Palms Police Department. “It’s been a fairly big issue in the past. As of right now we try our best to deter it.”

Thompson said the town’s short-term rental ordinance helps by limiting the number of people and cars at each home.

The problem hasn’t been eliminated, though.

“Once we respond to it we usually find out there are underage children there consuming alcohol and even have some kind of drugs there as well,” he said.

He said most times when officers respond to complaints there are no parents on site.

“They'll have their parents enter into agreements to allow them to host these parties,” explained attorney Ryan Huntley.

Parents sign the rental agreements for the students to host prom after-parties, and parents are now going one step further to shield themselves from both civil and criminal liability should anything go wrong.

“You also see parents drafting contracts with other parents to shift that burden onto the other students, the other party attendees, parents if anything does happen,” Huntley said.

The main issue, though, is whether the agreement between the parents is enforceable.

“Usually they are unenforceable and not worth the paper they are written on,” he said. “The general rule is the renter or the person renting the property, signing that rental agreement, is going to be on the hook for anything that happens.”

Huntley encourages anyone considering entering into one of these agreements or a rental agreement for a prom house to think twice.

Thompson wants the same message shared to both parents and students.

“Just don’t do it because you can get in a lot of trouble,” Thompson said, “It can affect scholarships. It can even effect your parents with arrests and fines.”

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