The Basics of Ohio Abandoned Property Law

Jerry has your guide to abandoned property laws in Ohio, from abandoned homes to cars and more.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Abandoned property laws in Ohio can get pretty complex depending on if you’re trying to claim houses, cars, or other property. If you’re looking for your own property, you can contact Ohio’s
Division of Unclaimed Funds
Abandoned homes, cars, and other personal property are a lot more common than some might think. For example, sometimes landlords have to deal with tenants that leave their cars or possessions behind. Or a house sits empty for a few weeks or months and no one knows what to do with the property. 
Most states have laws surrounding how to identify and deal with abandoned property, but navigating those laws can be a headache. That’s why
put this guide together to make Ohio abandoned property laws a breeze. We can do the same thing for your
Ohio home insurance
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Ohio abandoned home law

There might be several reasons why you need to know the Ohio laws surrounding abandoned property. Maybe there’s an empty lot next door to your house that you’d like to use or buy. Or there’s an abandoned house down the street that’s become a hazard for kids in the neighborhood. Or maybe you’re a landlord trying to deal with tenants that broke their lease and vanished. 
Whatever the case may be, we’ll walk you through how the Ohio courts will decide if a property is abandoned and how to handle unwanted guests on abandoned property.

What qualifies as an abandoned home in Ohio? 

For a property to be considered abandoned in Ohio, it needs to meet at least three of the requirements listed in the
Ohio statutes.
Some of these include:
  • The property’s utilities have been disconnected
  • Windows and doors are boarded up, smashed or broken, or in complete disrepair
  • Junk, litter, or trash have accumulated on the property
  • Furnishings or other personal items are absent from the property 
  • The property is the object of vandalism or illegal activity
If someone does own the property, they can provide a written statement to the court to try and prove the property is not abandoned. However, the owner will have to prove they’ve been paying the mortgage on the property (and that it’s not in default) or they own the property outright.
In some cases, someone might be able to claim property (whether it's abandoned or not) through a process called adverse possession. However, there are certain criteria that need to be met first.

What is an adverse possession claim?

There are no specific laws in Ohio about adverse possession claims, but there have been several court cases that have established a legal precedent. To claim ownership of property a person must:
  1. Hostile claim: Whoever is trying to claim the property is doing so without the permission of the property’s owner. 
  2. Actual: The claimant has control over the property and treats it like their own. 
  3. Exclusive: The claimant has been living alone on the property.
  4. Open and notorious: The claimant has made no attempt to hide their occupancy of the property.
  5. Continuous: The claimant has lived on the property for the statutory period of 21 years or more.
If the above criteria are met, and the original owner of the property makes no attempt to remove the squatter for the 21-year statutory period, then the property’s ownership can be claimed by the squatter.

Ohio abandoned vehicle law

Just like abandoned houses, the Ohio statutes for abandoned vehicles list several criteria. Let’s take a look.

What qualifies as an abandoned vehicle in Ohio? 

According to Section 4513.63 of the Ohio Code, you cannot leave a vehicle on someone’s property without permission for more than 72 hours. If a vehicle is left on a public road, highway, or public property for more than 48 hours, it can be considered abandoned.
These rules also apply to junk vehicles. To be classified as an abandoned junk vehicle, the vehicle must meet all the following requirements:
  • Has been left on private property longer than 72 hours, or on public property for more than 48 hours
  • Is three years old or older
  • Is extensively damaged (i.e. missing wheels, doors, or mechanical parts)
  • Is apparently inoperable
  • Has a fair market value of $1,500 or less

What happens to abandoned vehicles in Ohio?

Any vehicle in Ohio that’s been deemed abandoned will be photographed by law enforcement, and details like make, model, serial number, and details of damage will be recorded. The vehicle will then be taken to a salvage yard or scrap metal processing facility
Law enforcement will keep records of the confiscated vehicles for two years. Anyone who is caught abandoning a car can be charged with a misdemeanor. 

Ohio abandoned personal property law

So what about other personal belongings like clothes, furniture, or even money? Unfortunately, Ohio doesn’t have any laws that explicitly state what to do with abandoned personal property. This can make things especially tricky for landlords who find themselves knee-deep in stuff their tenants left behind.
So if you’re in this or a similar situation, what can you do? First, make sure lease agreements include abandoned property rules. These rules should include:
  • Taking inventory of abandoned property
  • Storing items for a specific period of time
  • Giving written notice to tenants to reclaim property and giving a deadline
  • Requirements for reimbursement for storing abandoned property
  • Explicitly stating that failure to reclaim property will make it legally abandoned.

What should I do with abandoned personal property in Ohio?

If you’ve made every reasonable attempt to notify the property owners to have them reclaim their items and they fail to do so, you can then dispose of the abandoned property in any manner you choose. 
However, to be as safe as possible, you can sell the items in a public sale, publish the details of the sale, and send the property owners a final notice before the sale begins.

How can I find my abandoned property?

If you’ve lost some property, there are two options for getting it back:
  • If you’re looking for lost money, try the nationwide
    Missing Money
  • If you’re looking for other property, you can search for it through the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of
    Unclaimed Funds database

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It depends on the property. Abandoned vehicles are disposed of by local law enforcement, while personal property can be sold or otherwise disposed of. If you’re looking for property you’ve lost, your best bet is to contact the
Unclaimed Funds
division of the Ohio Department of Commerce.
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