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.

ALTA TitleNews Online Features Omni Title’s President

The November edition of American Land Title Association’s The Docket and TitleNews Online publications featured Omni Title’s President Mike Sikora’s article on a recent Ohio Appellate Court decision that addressed the power of enforcement of express easement rights and their interpretation.

Check out that article by clicking 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.