OH SB 16 Trespass Immunity
On September 2, The Daily Reporter published an article titled Legislation Would Encourage Cleaning Blighted Properties.
Link to introduced bill. Following is the aforementioned article.
Legislation would encourage cleaning blighted properties
The mayor of Wellsville, the Cincinnati City Council and the Ohio Farm Bureau have joined a Canfield lawmaker in pushing to exclude remediation efforts from criminal trespassing laws.
“Wellsville, Ohio is on the tips of many tongues regarding the oil and gas boom,” said Mayor Susan Haugh. “We are located on the Ohio River and have made great strides to become self-sufficient by using our river, rail and highways to promote economic development. Wellsville is about growth and how a small community survived after hitting rock bottom. We have one major issue though, we are unable to provide adequate housing and/or attractive neighborhoods during this growth.” In testimony before the Senate Civil Justice committee, Haugh said tax and bank foreclosures have littered every village block. “Some of these foreclosures have sat empty for years, with no improvement and/or attempts to auction off in sight,” she said. “Not many would ever consider moving into a neighborhood with this type of blight. Senate Bill 16 will help with this issue.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Schiavoni, provides that a person is not criminally or civilly liable for trespassing on certain abandoned land or similar places of public amusement if the person enters or remains on the land or place of public amusement to remediate it. The proposal is a reintroduction of Senate Bill 109 from the 129th General Assembly. “It will allow us to, at minimum, cut/weed these properties and possibly add a little paint. Yes, we have ordinances in place but, when dealing with the government and banks, our ordinances seem to have little, if any, influence on their actions,” Haugh said, adding that the conditions are pushing out tax-paying residents. “Our police officers are continually going into these properties and removing strung out addicts who are lying in piles of dirty needles and used condoms. We are tired and fed up. We want our neighborhoods back.” Tony Seegers, Ohio Farm Bureau director of state policy, said the organization worked with Schiavoni to alleviate its concerns with SB 109. “These included clarification that there would be no reimbursement for cost or expense of remediation unless a prior agreement is made and owner immunity from liability to persons who enter to remediate the land,” he said. “Abandoned property in disrepair can bring down land values and be an eyesore for the community. SB 16 will allow citizens to remediate such property while giving property owners safeguards against civil actions.” The proposal also prevents anyone who remediates abandoned property from obtaining a right to possession of the land. On behalf of P.G. Sittenfeld, a member of the Cincinnati City Council, Ben Frech testified in support of SB 16. “We have seen some of our most historic and beloved neighborhoods be subjected to unsafe and poorly-maintained vacant homes, which have not only brought down property values but also the overall quality of life for our citizens,” he said, adding that the city council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the bill and has taken its own steps to reduce blight. “We see SB 16 as another huge step forward in this fight, and a valuable tool to help limit the impact that vacant and blighted properties have on our communities.”
Frech said there are various reasons why local and state governments are unable to manicure the vacant properties in their communities. “Though, as long as this is the case we should be offering our citizens the right to do what we are unable to: clean up their neighborhoods and maintain their property values and quality of life,” he said. “SB 16 is most likely not the type of legislation that any elected official hopes to have to write, debate or pass through … but it is a bill that represents the times we are in and one that offers solutions to a problem that has been going on too long and in far too many neighborhoods across Ohio.” Daniel Matthews, a Youngstown resident, also offered proponent testimony for the bill. “I purchased a nice, two-story brick colonial home on the south side of Youngstown, in a nice, thriving working-class neighborhood. I knew my neighbors by name. We had annual block picnics. It was a clean, safe place to live,” he said. “Over time things began to change. My neighborhood remains one of the nicer neighborhoods in Youngstown, but blight and crime are trying to take us over. My house alone is surrounded by six abandoned properties, not to mention the adjacent streets.” Matthews said he’s a member of a neighborhood organization that wants to take an active role in cleaning up their streets. “We’ve waited long enough for someone else to act,” he said. “It’s time to do it ourselves but fear of trespassing laws hinders us. We are fighting for survival. We are fighting for our city. We need a law that allows us the opportunity.” SB 16 specifies that remediation could only occur during daylight hours, in an effort to prevent squatters from obtaining immunity by claiming they were remediating. The proposal also would exempt abandoned manufactured homes, mobile homes and trailers from being eligible for remediation. The bill has not been scheduled for additional hearings.
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Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders, and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.