Bill Would Improve Multiple Facets of Ohio Real Estate Title Law

Omni Title’s General Counsel, Rick Craven, recently testified before the Ohio House Finance Committee on behalf of the Ohio State Bar Association, in support of Ohio House Bill 237, which would improve multiple facets of Ohio real estate title law, including electronic recording, access to real property records, powers of attorney, lien priority, and judgment liens.

If it becomes law, this proposed Bill would require County Offices throughout Ohio to accept documents electronically for recording and to provide access to records electronically going back to at least 1980.  Additionally, language that our lawyers drafted was amended into HB 237 to improve Ohio judgment lien law and to codify the Restatement view of mortgage subrogation in lien priority cases.

Check out Rick Craven’s impressive testimony in support of HB 237 by clicking here to view a video of the Hearing before the Ohio House Finance Committee, during which Rick explained the Bill and its contours extremely well to the members of that inquisitive legislative body.

Real Property Taxation Bill Future Uncertain

The Ohio House of Representatives unanimously rejected the Ohio Senate’s amended version of House Bill 126 that would have changed Ohio law to only allow school boards to file complaints to increase value in response to a complaint to reduce value.  That Bill now heads to a Conference Committee with select members of the House and Senate set to determine its fate.

Omni Title Team Grows with the Addition of The Title Company Team

Omni Title LLC is excited to announce that the talented title professionals at The Title Company, Ltd., a title agency that has been conducting business for over 22 years, have joined the Omni Title team.  In doing so, we are welcoming five new team members to join our already remarkable team, to bring our title and escrow team to a total of 15 team members throughout Ohio.

We are excited about this next phase of our journey, and we know that you will experience an even higher level of service that we have been fortunate to provide to our Clients over the past 18 years, now fortified by an even deeper bench of extremely talented title and escrow professionals who share our primary core value of having genuine care and concern for your success and well-being.

Don’t Lose Your Property by Adverse Possession

Ohio’s Eleventh District Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court’s judgment in favor of a Defendant that pled adverse possession in response to a civil trespass claim.  Hedrick v. Szep, 2021-Ohio-1851.

Ohio’s Eleventh District Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the Trial Court’s decision, finding that the undisputed evidence established that the fence had been in place since at least 1991, and that the disputed property had been exclusively possessed by the Defendant and the prior owner in an open, notorious, continuous, and adverse manner for more than 21 years.

Adverse possession is one of very few ways that ownership of real estate may be different than the public records reflect.  When purchasing real estate, you should be mindful of whether the elements of adverse possession might have been satisfied by someone else, despite what the public records show about ownership.  Always obtain a survey, and make part of your due diligence whether and how the property you are purchasing is being used by others.

Article by Mike Sikora in OLTA Title Topics

The Ohio Land Title Association’s November 2021 issue of Title Topics featured an article by Omni Title’s President, Mike Sikora,  on an Ohio Appellate Court decision that addressed the power of enforcement of express easement rights and their interpretation.

Check out that article in OLTA Title Topics here.

Sales Contract Does Not Negate Adverse Possession

In a recent Ohio appellate court decision, the Appellate Court overturned a trial court decision that had determined that the existence of a sales contract negated the adversity required to establish ownership by adverse possession.  See Hampton v. Lively, 2020-Ohio-4713.

In Hampton, suit was brought by the Estate of Carol Jean Hampton (the “Estate”) against Chad Lively (“Lively”), who was the record owner of a home, alleging that the Estate had obtained legal ownership of the property by adverse possession.  Lively acquired title to the property in 2016, through the estates of his deceased grandparents – Thomas and Loise Lively (“Lively Family”) – who had acquired title to the property in 1960 and remained the record owners.  It is undisputed, however, that Carol Jean Hampton (“Hampton”), her husband, and three sons all lived at the home from 1980 until 2012.

Ultimately, the trial court determined that the plaintiff  proved “exclusive possession and open, notorious, and continuous use of the property for a 21-year period.”  However, the trial court concluded that Hampton did not prove that the possession was adverse and therefore could not acquire title to the property by adverse possession.  The Estate then filed an appeal contending that the trial court erred by misapplying the meaning of “adverse,” as it relates to an adverse possession claim.

The Court noted that when “a buyer takes possession of property after paying the purchase price, the buyer manifests an intent to treat the property as his or her own because the buyer’s performance triggers the seller’s duty to convey legal title to the buyer.”   As such, because there was evidence that he accepted the check as payment for the property in 1980, as well as other evidence of a sale, Lively should have conveyed legal title to Hampton.  Having believed that Hampton had acquired title upon the purchase of the property, the Court of Appeals found that regardless of whether there was a valid deed of conveyance, Hampton adversely possessed the property by her actions with respect to the property for more than 21 years.

Accordingly, the Appellate Court concluded that the Estate established all of the elements of adverse possession by clear and convincing evidence, reversed the judgment of the trial court, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

To review the Hampton Decision, click here.

Real Property Tax Values May Be Reduced Due to Covid

Ohio Senate Bill 57 passed the House on March 25, 2021.  If and when signed by Governor DeWine, it will allow property owners to seek a reduction in their real property taxable value due to COVID related circumstances that existed as of October 1, 2020.  That law requires the property owner to plead those circumstances with particularity in the tax reduction complaint.  To review Senate Bill 57, click here.

Greatest Change to Ohio Title Law in Decades

Greatest Change to Ohio Title Law in Decades

Michael J. Sikora III spearheads first change to title cure law in 56 years

Back in 2010, Michael J. Sikora III began spearheading the change to Ohio’s title curative law when he became president of the Ohio Land Title Association. As managing partner of Sikora Law LLC (a law firm focused on real estate) and president of Omni Title LLC (a commercial title agency), he heard multiple clients raise concerns that they faced title issues in Ohio that weren’t issues in other states.

After more than 50 years of stagnation, Ohio’s title curative law was completely overhauled in 2017 when Senate Bill 257 went into effect. This change was seven years in the making, and it marks the most significant change to Ohio title law in decades.

“Anyone who has a real estate deal may be affected, especially if there are any issues with the documents on that deal – which there just are sometimes, but there is no way of knowing without reviewing the title evidence,” Sikora says. “Most significantly, it’s going to affect real estate developers and owners, lenders and title insurance companies, because the more volume and magnitude of real estate deals that you have, the more likely and more significantly you will be affected by this change in the law.”

Sikora drafted the new statute by taking the best attributes of other states’ curative laws. He gained the backing of the Ohio Land Title Association in 2011. Then he took the matter to the Ohio State Bar Association, first getting its Real Property Law Section Council on-board, and then convincing the Ohio State Bar Association as a whole to take the lead advocacy role on the issue. The Ohio Association of Realtors also agreed to support the initiative.

Sikora spent hundreds of hours advancing the bill from inception to passage. He presented expert testimony on behalf of the Ohio State Bar Association before the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House Committees. This is the second Ohio real property statute that Sikora has drafted and served as the Bar Association’s expert witness.

Because of his instrumental role overhauling Ohio’s title curative law, Sikora says his firms are uniquely positioned with the expertise to help real estate owners, developers, brokers, lenders and title insurance companies leverage the new statute to close deals and minimize post-transaction risk.

Omni Title LLC is an independent title agency that serves commercial real estate clients throughout Ohio from offices in Cleveland and Columbus. Omni’s experienced title professionals work closely with developers, transactional attorneys, commercial brokers and lenders to mitigate and eliminate risk through a full range of title and closing services. With extensive title law expertise, talent and technology in place, Omni is structured to complete commercial real estate transactions efficiently, while providing exceptional client service. Since 2004, Omni’s team has resolved thousands of title issues. To learn more, visit www.omnititlellc.com.

American Land Title Association’s Title News Features Sikora Law’s Appellate Victory

The American Land Title Association’s Title News Online featured Sikora Law’s 32nd appellate victory (Clinton v. Home Investment Fund V, LP, 2020-Ohio-4555 ) on the subject of lis pendens.   Check out that article on ALTA’s website by clicking here.

Multiple Real Property Tax Bills Go Right Up to the Finish Line

Ohio’s House Bill 75 – the proposed Bill that would have improved the tax appeal process passed the Senate but failed to obtain concurrence in the House and the Governor’s signature before the end of 2020.  Below are some of the main objectives of that legislation:

  • Required a school board or the legislative authority of a county, municipal corporation, or township, before filing a property tax complaint or counter-complaint, to pass a resolution approving the complaint or counter-complaint at a public meeting.
  • Modified the circumstances under which a county auditor must notify the property owner or a school board that a property tax complaint has been filed against a property.

Click here to review the latest version of House Bill 75.

There was also a concerted effort to enact legislation to provide the opportunity for property owners to seek a reduction in property value due to COVID-19 circumstances.  That effort came extremely close to passing but fell just short of the finish line.  Both efforts will resume this year – with the COVID-relief language having a chance at passing on an expedited basis.