As Ohio State University explains, adverse possession in Ohio is a holdover doctrine from old English law that may give caretakers the right to legally claim land they utilize.
This doctrine historically encouraged settlers to maximize available land and make it productive. Today, it typically applies to property line disputes.
What is adverse possession?
Adverse possession is a legal doctrine in Ohio that gives a squatter or trespasser the right to obtain lawful possession of the land they care for — even if it is under someone else’s ownership. For example, if your backyard fence includes some of your neighbor’s property, and you maintain that land for a substantial amount of time, you may be able to claim it as your own.
Similarly, if a squatter lives on and cares for your property, he may have the chance to obtain that land in court.
To prove adverse possession, the trespasser would need to demonstrate that giving up the land would create an undue hardship. Both state statute and case law defend this doctrine in Ohio.
When can I use it?
In adverse possession cases, courts tend to prefer the lawful owner’s claim to the property unless the trespasser can demonstrate that the owner effectively neglected or abandoned the land — and that the abandonment was sufficient to give the trespasser a greater right to it.
When a dispute arises, the burden of proof rests on the squatter or trespasser to demonstrate their right to the property. In rare cases, the courts may rule that the trespasser is better utilizing the land and has a better claim to the title.