Ohio Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What are Squatters' Rights in Ohio?

Squatters rights, also known as adverse possession, refers to a legal principle that allows a person to potentially gain ownership of an abandoned or unoccupied property that they are occupying without permission from the property owner. 

The concept behind squatters rights is that if a property owner has neglected their duty to monitor and maintain control over their property, and someone else occupies and cares for the property openly and continuously over an extended period of time, the squatter can make a legal claim to take ownership of the property away from the legal owner.

In the state of Ohio, there are specific requirements that a squatter must meet in order to make an adverse possession claim. The squatter must live on the property for a continuous 21 years and pay the property taxes during that time. Their possession must also be actual, open, notorious, exclusive and hostile to the actual property owner.

If a squatter successfully meets the legal requirements for adverse possession, they can file a quiet title lawsuit to gain legal ownership of the property. However, the property owner can fight against the claim in court, so the squatter is not guaranteed to win.

The concept of squatters rights presents an interesting dilemma between protecting private property rights of legal owners vs. granting rights to people using and maintaining abandoned properties. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue. This article will provide a complete overview of squatters rights and adverse possession laws in Ohio.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in Ohio  

In order for squatters to make an adverse possession claim on a property in Ohio, they must meet several requirements.

Time Period Required

The squatter must occupy the property for a continuous 21 years. The time period begins as soon as the squatter starts living on the property or making improvements to the land. The 21 years must be uninterrupted. If the squatter leaves the property for any period of time, the clock resets.  

Open, Continuous, Exclusive, and Hostile Possession

The squatter must possess the property in a manner that is open, continuous, exclusive, and hostile:

  • Open means the possession is obvious and conspicuous, not hidden or secretive.  
  • Continuous means the squatter occupies and uses the property nonstop for the full 21 years. They cannot leave and return sporadically.
  • Exclusive means the squatter is the only one in possession of the property. They cannot share possession with strangers, the owner, or others.  
  • Hostile means the squatter occupies the property without permission from the legal owner. Their use of the land must be against the rights of the true owner.

Payment of Property Taxes

The squatter must pay all property taxes for the full 21 year period in order to make an adverse possession claim in Ohio. If the squatter fails to pay taxes even once, it can void their continuous possession.

Removing Squatters from a Property in Ohio

If you find squatters occupying your property in Ohio, you will need to legally remove them by going through the proper procedures. Here are the main steps property owners should take:

Serve Eviction Notice

The first step is to serve the squatters with a written eviction notice. This gives them formal notice to vacate the premises within a certain time frame, usually 3-30 days depending on the type of notice. Make sure to keep a copy of the notice and record the date and time you served it.

File Eviction Lawsuit

If the squatters do not leave after the notice period expires, you will need to file an eviction lawsuit with your local municipal or county court. This starts a formal legal procedure to remove the squatters from the property. You will have to provide documentation proving your ownership of the property.

Police Remove Trespassers

Once you receive a court ordered eviction, if the squatters still refuse to leave you can contact the local police department and show them the court order. They can then arrest any squatters for criminal trespassing if they do not vacate the premises appropriately. The county Sherriff's office is usually in charge of physically removing squatters and their belongings after receiving a court ordered eviction.

Having the proper paper trail showing notices served, lawsuits filed, and court orders granted is crucial for getting law enforcement to assist in removing unwanted squatters from your property in Ohio. It is a legal process that takes time, but following all the proper steps will get you the result you need.

Preventing Squatters in Ohio

Taking steps to prevent squatters from occupying your property in Ohio is crucial. Once squatters establish occupancy, they can be difficult and costly to remove. Here are some tips for keeping squatters away:

Conduct Frequent Property Checks

  • Travel to the property regularly to check for any signs of trespassers or damage. Look for broken locks, doors, or windows.
  • If the property will be vacant for an extended time, consider hiring a property management company to check it periodically.
  • Ask neighbors to alert you if they see any suspicious activity on the premises.

Install a Security System

  • Motion-activated lights, cameras, and alarm systems can deter potential squatters. 
  • Make sure the security system is visible and prominently displayed.
  • Post signage indicating the property has a security system.

Never Miss a Property Tax Payment

  • Pay property taxes on time, every time. Delinquent taxes can be an invitation for squatters to occupy the property.
  • Set up automatic payments or calendar reminders for taxes so they are not forgotten.
  • If traveling for an extended time, arrange for someone to pay taxes in your absence.

Taking preventative measures can stop squatters from gaining a foothold on your property in the first place. Don't take chances - be proactive in protecting your real estate assets from unwanted trespassers.

Squatters vs. Trespassers in Ohio

In Ohio, squatters and trespassers are treated differently under the law. The key differences between squatters and trespassers in Ohio include:

Occupation of property

Squatters occupy a property that is unoccupied or abandoned, whereas trespassers knowingly enter a property without permission while it is still in use by the owner.  


Squatters intend to inhabit the property long-term and make it their residence. Trespassers only intend to enter the property temporarily.


Squatters may eventually be able to make a legal claim on the property through adverse possession if they meet all the requirements. Trespassers have no rights to the property they entered.

Owner action

To remove squatters, the property owner must follow a formal legal eviction process. For trespassers, the owner can ask police to remove them without following eviction procedures.


Squatting itself is illegal, but after a long period of time, squatters may be able to legally claim rights through adverse possession laws. Trespassing is always illegal.  

Criminal charges

Trespassers may face criminal charges for trespassing and breaking and entering. Squatters are usually only removed through civil eviction procedures.

In summary, the main difference is that squatters intend to live on an abandoned property long-term and may try to legally claim it, while trespassers knowingly but temporarily enter property without permission and have no rights. Property owners must follow proper legal procedures to remove squatters in Ohio.

Damage Caused by Squatters in Ohio 

Squatters who occupy a property without the owner's permission create a tricky situation when it comes to liability for any damage they may cause. Under Ohio law, the property owner is responsible for maintaining the safety and habitability of their property. However, the owner did not give the squatters permission to occupy the premises.

If the squatters cause damage to the property, the owner does have options to recover costs for repairs. The owner can file a civil lawsuit against the squatters for damages such as broken windows, kicked down doors, graffiti, or theft of appliances and fixtures. The court may order the squatters to pay back the owner for repair costs and damages. 

Filing a damage claim requires knowing the identities of the squatters, so it's critical for owners to thoroughly document trespassers. Another option is to file an insurance claim if the property is insured. However, damages caused by illegal activity or trespassing may not be covered.

To remove damage-causing squatters, the property owner will likely need to pursue a forced eviction by filing a lawsuit. Police in Ohio cannot physically evict or remove squatters without a court order. The only exemption is if the squatters pose imminent harm to the property or people. Then police could arrest them for criminal trespass. 

Overall, while property owners are still liable for property condition, they can take legal action to recover repair costs if squatters cause damage. But preventing squatting in the first place is the best way for owners to avoid these issues of liability and eviction lawsuits.

Paying Taxes and Maintenance as a Squatter

In order to make a claim for adverse possession in Ohio, squatters must pay property taxes on the property continuously for the statutory period of 21 years. Simply occupying the property is not enough - the squatter must demonstrate a good faith effort to take financial responsibility for the property.

The payment of property taxes serves as evidence that the squatter is openly and notoriously possessing the property exclusively. It shows their intention to act as the true owner of the land. Failure to pay taxes could weaken a claim for adverse possession.

In addition to paying property taxes, the squatter should make efforts to maintain the land they are occupying. Upkeep and maintenance reinforce the squatter's claim to be in actual, continuous, and hostile possession of the property. Squatters should keep detailed records of any repairs, improvements, maintenance, and other costs associated with caring for the property.

If the lawful owner of the property fails to pay property taxes or abandons maintenance, this can also support the squatter's adverse possession claim. It may demonstrate that the owner has neglected their responsibilities while the squatter has occupied and cared for the land.

Overall, paying property taxes and conducting maintenance are vital for meeting the legal requirements of adverse possession in Ohio. They help prove the elements of open, notorious, exclusive, continuous, and hostile possession over the statutory 21-year period. Without evidence of tax payments and maintenance, a squatter will likely fail in an attempt to claim ownership.

Ethics of Squatters Rights in Ohio

The concept of adverse possession raises complex ethical questions. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue.

Arguments in Favor of Adverse Possession

  • Empty properties can become rundown eyesores and adverse to the community. Squatters occupying and improving them brings the property back into productive use.
  • Most squatters only adversely possess properties that have been completely abandoned and neglected by the legal owner. They are not typically taking properties from owners who want to maintain possession.
  • Adverse possession laws incentivize property owners to monitor their properties and not let them fall into disrepair. Without adverse possession, many more properties would likely be abandoned.
  • Adverse possession allows people without financial means to eventually gain legal ownership of a home through their own hard work and investment into the property.

Arguments Against Adverse Possession  

  • Adverse possession in practice often amounts to legally sanctioned theft of property from the legal owner. The owner loses their property rights simply because of neglect or lack of resources.
  • The original property owner may have intended to make use of the property eventually or keep it in the family. Adverse possession denies them this right.
  • The continuous occupancy requirement for adverse possession is based on the calendar, not any moral wisdom. Why should 20 or 21 years give stronger property rights versus 19?
  • Wealthy squatters can hire lawyers to take properties through adverse possession that individual homeowners may have difficulty defending against. The law does not always favor individuals in practice.
  • Property owners may have difficulty monitoring vacant properties, especially if they live far away or have health issues. They do not deserve to lose their property rights for reasons outside their control.

There are good faith arguments on both sides of this issue. The ethics depend much on the specific circumstances of each adverse possession case.

Notable Squatter Cases in Ohio 

In recent years, there have been several high-profile squatter cases in Ohio that gained media attention and shed light on the issue of adverse possession in the state.

In 2019, a man moved into a $350,000 home in Cincinnati that had been vacant for years. The man claimed squatter's rights and adverse possession, saying he had maintained the property for several months. However, the owner of the home was able to provide property records showing he had paid taxes and conducted maintenance over the years. The squatter was removed by police and charged with breaking and entering.

Another case occurred in Columbus in 2018, when a group of self-proclaimed "freemen" moved onto a vacant $600,000 property that had fallen into disrepair. They began making repairs and renovations to the home. The owner had neglected the property for over a decade but still paid property taxes on it. He was eventually able to have the squatters removed through a court-ordered eviction after proving he was the rightful owner. 

In Akron in 2016, a woman moved into a foreclosed home that had sat vacant for 3 years. She lived in the home for over a year, making improvements and paying utilities before the bank that owned the property discovered she was there. She claimed adverse possession, but was removed by police when the bank provided documentation showing ownership and payment of taxes. She was not charged criminally but did have to vacate the home.

These cases illustrate that while squatting does occur in Ohio, property owners who have proof of ownership and pay taxes are often able to utilize the police and court system to have squatters removed and charged criminally for trespassing if they refuse to leave. Paying attention to properties and maintaining records is key to defeating claims of adverse possession.

Resources on Squatters Rights in Ohio 

Ohio has specific laws regarding squatting and adverse possession. It's important for both property owners and squatters to understand their legal rights.

Property owners can take steps to prevent and remove squatters:

  • Conduct regular inspections of unoccupied properties.
  • Hire a property management company to monitor vacant properties. 
  • Serve proper eviction notices to unwanted occupants.
  • Work with local law enforcement to remove trespassers.
  • Consult with a real estate attorney to understand all legal options.

Key Takeaways

  • In Ohio, squatters can claim legal ownership of a property through adverse possession after occupying it continuously for 21 years, provided they also pay the property taxes during this time.
  • For a successful adverse possession claim in Ohio, the squatter must demonstrate actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile possession of the property, alongside the payment of property taxes for 21 continuous years.
  • Squatters who meet the adverse possession criteria can initiate a quiet title lawsuit to gain legal ownership, though the original property owner has the opportunity to contest the claim in court.
  • Property owners looking to remove squatters must serve an eviction notice, proceed with an eviction lawsuit if the squatter does not vacate, and can involve law enforcement to enforce a court-ordered eviction.
  • Owners can deter squatters by conducting regular property checks, securing the property thoroughly, posting "No Trespassing" signs, and ensuring timely payment of property taxes to demonstrate active ownership.
  • Ohio law differentiates between squatters and trespassers based on the duration and intention of the property occupation. Squatters aim for long-term occupancy and potential ownership, while trespassers enter without permission but do not seek ownership.
  • The concept of squatters' rights in Ohio raises ethical debates about the balance between protecting property owners' rights and recognizing the efforts of individuals who maintain and inhabit neglected properties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you evict a squatter in Ohio?

Yes, you can evict a squatter in Ohio. Property owners must first serve a written eviction notice to the squatter, then file an eviction lawsuit if the squatter does not leave the property within the specified time. Law enforcement can enforce a court-ordered eviction to remove the squatters.

What are the 5 requirements for adverse possession in Ohio?

The five requirements for a squatter to claim adverse possession in Ohio are: (1) Actual possession, indicating physical occupancy and use of the property; (2) Open and notorious possession, meaning the squatter's presence is obvious to anyone, including the property owner; (3) Exclusive possession, where the squatter does not share control of the property with others; (4) Hostile possession, indicating the squatter's occupation is without the property owner's permission; and (5) Continuous possession for a period of 21 years, without any interruption.

How long can you squat in a house in Ohio?

In Ohio, a squatter must occupy a house continuously for at least 21 years to make a claim of ownership through adverse possession. The squatter must also meet other legal requirements, including paying property taxes, to potentially gain legal title to the property.

How long does a squatter have to be in a house in Ohio?

A squatter must be in a house for a continuous period of 21 years in Ohio to be eligible to claim ownership of the property through adverse possession. This occupation must be actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile against the rights of the true owner.

Featured Tools
Finding and Selecting the Best Tenant
For a $2,000 monthly rental: 1. You lose $1,000 if you have your rental on the market for 15 additional days. 2. You lose $1,000+ for evictions. Learn how to quickly find and select a qualified tenant while following the law.
More Tools