Ohio Legislators Propose Bill to Combat ‘Squatters’ Seizing Homes

Ohio Legislators Propose Bill to Combat 'Squatters' Seizing Homes

Lawmakers in Ohio want to protect homes from “squatters,” or people who try to claim ownership of someone else’s home. Advocates for housing, on the other hand, are worried that the new law will have unintended effects that will hurt people who are homeless.

In this state, people who own land have to give squatters eviction warnings and then go to court to get them to leave. People can only be arrested by the cops if they have warrants.

“If they waive a lease in front of law enforcement, even if it’s a fake lease, it forces law enforcement to treat it as a civil matter,” said state Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township). “This means you’d have to go through the entire judicial process to have somebody removed from a house that you own and you pay a mortgage on.”

LaRe and state Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) presented House Bill 478 to close a loophole and make it easier to get people who are breaking the law out of the property faster.

“We want to make sure that these homeowners don’t have to go through the expense and the process of gaining control of what’s rightfully theirs,” said LaRe.

The bill spells out when a county sheriff can and cannot step in. For example, police cannot remove a member of the record owner’s closest family.

“It’s important that we protect the rights of people who own homes and other property,” Edwards said. “This law will clarify and speed up the process for property owners to get squatters off their land.”

Squatting is also made a first-degree crime by the bill. If the person damages the property by more than $5,000, they will be charged with a fourth-degree crime.

LaRe brought this up because he said that alleged undocumented immigrants were giving out information on how to take someone else’s or an empty house.

Leonel Moreno is a popular person on social media. In a video that went viral, he was speaking Spanish to his fans and giving them advice on how to claim “squatter’s rights” over a property.

The video was taken down from the app, but conservative leaders and commentators have put it back online.

The Truth About “Squatting”

Prof. Avi Cover of Case Western Reserve University’s law school said that squatting isn’t as easy as politicians are making it sound.

He said that “squatting rights,” if you want to call them that, are only “valid” when someone has lived in a house for a long enough time that it seems like they own it. State law says that the person who is accused of trespassing must show that they have lived there openly for at least 21 years.

There are red flags for Cover because the words “squatting” and “squatter” are not in the bill.

“When you create such a sweeping law, it will bring in people who aren’t doing that sort of thing,” he said.

He is also on the board of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. He said that most cases of so-called squatting are not like the situation lawmakers talk about, where a family goes on vacation and comes home to find a guy living in their house.

Over the years, we’ve talked about problems with squatting, but most of them happen in empty or abandoned homes. That being said, people have called us to tell us about properties that are a nuisance because squatters have made empty homes a mess.

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