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Ohio House bills circumvent standard evictions process for squatters

The Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
The Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.

Four GOP state lawmakers want to crack down on squatters, arguing the current eviction process doesn’t provide enough legal protections to property owners.

Two nearly identical bills—House Bills 478 and 480—would allow owners to “immediately” request removal, by law enforcement, of an unauthorized person in a residential place under certain conditions. The bills would also broaden the definition of criminal mischief and create a title fraud charge in Ohio.

HB 478 and HB 480 are being debated as squatting stories go viral online. That includes a TikTok video widely shared among conservative circles, including by U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), of a man in central Ohio claiming he could legally take over abandoned properties through adverse possession laws.

Legal sources told The Columbus Dispatch that it's not so easy.

Rep. Steve Demetriou (R-Bainbridge Twp.) is sponsoring HB 480 and said the issue is personal. Demetriou was in the process of selling an investment property in Florida when his broker discovered a squatter in the house after his final tenant moved out—which delayed the sale.

“Peeking through the window, it looked like they had made themselves quite at home,” Demetriou said in an interview. “I think they just saw a vacant property, and probably knew that it was getting sold and probably knew that it was potentially an out-of-state owner, and took advantage of that.”

The intention with the bill, he said, is to target people who enter a unit illegally.

“We're certainly not trying to create avenues for landlords that want to use this as an avenue just to kick out a legitimate tenant that maybe they just don't like,” Demetriou said.

But opponents, including the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), have said they are fearful of that scenario, and that the legislature should focus its efforts elsewhere.

“If this committee is serious about preventing squatting, we should empower cities to hold negligent and absentee landlords accountable for creating conditions conducive to squatting,” COHHIO Advocacy Director Gina Wilt said in committee testimony.

Rep. Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.) is sponsoring HB 480 alongside Demetriou, which includes an emergency clause, while Reps. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) and Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Twp.) are sponsoring HB 478, which doesn't. Both are still being heard in the House's criminal justice committee.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at