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Ohio REALTORS Combat Squatting, Fight to Protect Property Rights

Ohio REALTORS Combat Squatting, Fight to Protect Property Rights

May 15, 2024

By Anastasia Kotkovskaya, Manager, Advocacy and Research

This week, Ohio REALTORS submitted proponent testimony for two crucial pieces of legislation, House Bills (HB) 478 and 480. Designed to increase protections for property owners against squatters, these bills would ensure that properties are legally safeguarded from unauthorized occupation and strengthen the integrity of Ohio’s housing market.

The issue of squatting has gained national attention as more reports of unauthorized occupants disrupting the lives of rightful property owners have surfaced. Legal loopholes in state laws allow squatters to exploit the system and delay their removal, leaving property owners with limited and often burdensome legal recourse to reclaim their properties.

HB 478 and HB 480 address these issues with several key provisions that would authorize property owners to take swift action against squatters. Each bill creates a standardized form for property owners to request the immediate intervention of a county sheriff in removing squatters from their premises. Sheriffs would have the authority to arrest squatters for trespassing and, for a fee, property owners could request their presence during the process of removing the squatter’s belongings and changing locks.

Additionally, squatters frequently use fraudulent tactics, such as forging documents, to falsely claim tenancy or ownership after unlawfully occupying a property. HB 478 and HB 480 further combat these deceptive practices by prohibiting the forging of documents to falsely represent legal occupancy and criminalizing the advertisement and rental of properties by individuals who lack ownership. Importantly, these bills provide a legal pathway for individuals who have been unjustly removed from the property that they were legally leasing.

These bills differ in the severity of the penalties they impose on squatters. HB 478 classifies the unlawful occupation of a residential dwelling as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties escalating to a fourth-degree felony if property damage exceeds $5,000. HB 480 imposes stricter penalties, categorizing this unlawful occupation as a second-degree felony.

Ohio REALTORS values the protection of private property rights as a cornerstone of a thriving real estate market. We will continue to advocate for legislative measures that uphold necessary safeguards in protecting property owners’ investments and assets.

Read more about HB 478: HB 478 | 135th General Assembly | Ohio Legislature

Read more about HB 480: HB 480 | 135th General Assembly | Ohio Legislature

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