Though a commonly used term, "squatter's rights" is often misunderstood. Squatter's rights allow someone who doesn't have title to a property to gain title to that property without having to buy it from the owner. The law of adverse possession is the only legal basis through which this can happen in Ohio.
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A squatter is someone who lives or resides on a piece of real property without owning it or otherwise being authorised by the owner to be there. Typically, squatter's rights cases involve two or more property owners who own adjacent pieces of real property. If one party uses the others property for a significant length of time (at least 21 years) and the other party is aware of it but does nothing to stop the use, the non-owner can claim the right to the property.
Ohio law recognises the legality of adverse possession. Though originally a common law real property concept, Ohio has codified the process in Ohio Revised Code § 2305.04.
The law in Ohio deals with the recovery of real estate. It imposes a duty on owners of real property to bring a recovery of property action against any trespasser within 21 years from the date on which the cause of action began. However, if the owner has an impediment (is of unsound mind or a minor) at the time when the cause begins, he has an additional 10 years to bring the cause of action after the impediment ceases.
Actions for adverse possession of real property are based both on statutory authority and common law legal precedent. While the Ohio statute allows for acquiring title through adverse possession, Ohio courts impose common law elements to determine whether or not a person's activity constitutes adverse possession.
In Evanich v. Bridge, 2008-Ohio-3820, the Ohio Supreme Court explained that in addition to the 21 year possession required by statute, parties seeking adverse possession can only acquire title if the possession was open, notorious and continuous. This means that the party claiming adverse possession must possess the property in full view of everyone, including the property owner, and must do so for the entirety of the 21-year period.
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