Ohio’s real estate title cure statute just went from the worst to the best in the country. The former statute had not changed since it was enacted in 1961, so over time, it had become the weakest and most ineffective title cure statute in the nation. But now, for those who know how to use it, the new law will make it easier to complete certain real estate transactions and resolve certain disputes concerning real property.
I received complaints from my clients for years about problems they encountered with real estate issues in Ohio that they didn’t see anywhere else. When I became president of the Ohio Land Title Association in 2010, I asked the association’s legislative committee to gather title cure statutes from each state. I then personally reviewed and analyzed all of those statutes and prepared a chart that compared the key language and the most common attributes of statutes throughout the country.
That began my seven-year quest to improve Ohio’s title cure law by making it (i.e., more effective.
What the Research Showed
We found that outside of Ohio, the longest title cure period was 10 years. Ohio had a 21-year cure period – more than twice as long as any other state. On top of that, Ohio’s previous title cure statute had very limited application because it hadn’t kept up with changing times. Many other states updated their title cure statutes over time, but inertia took its toll on Ohio’s cure statute.
Other states also added helpful provisions in their statutes to help facilitate real estate transactions, such as presumptions of validity and constructive notice. Ohio’s statute did not include any of these helpful provisions.
What We Concluded
Ohio’s title cure statute was completely out of touch with title cure statutes throughout the country. Not only did our title cure statute have a much longer cure period, but it lacked any favorable provisions such as a presumption of validity or constructive notice. Our overly narrow and dated title cure statute was the main reason why my clients faced title problems in Ohio that they did not face in other states. We were long overdue for an update and rewrite, and that had to change.
How We Drove Change
Once I saw how Ohio compared, my next step was to draft a new title cure statute that incorporated the best attributes of title cure statutes throughout the country. The Ohio Land Title Association agreed to support my efforts to enact that statute. As a member of the Ohio State Bar Association real property section council, I presented the issue to that group, which consists of approximately 30 of the top real estate lawyers in the state. They understood the need for change almost immediately. Then, after presenting the issue to the Ohio State Bar Association screening committee and the council of delegates, the OSBA decided to take the lead on advocacy efforts to help the new title cure statute become law.
Senator Bill Seitz, a republican senator from Cincinnati, and Senator Michael Skindell, a democratic senator from Lakewood, co-sponsored the legislation that became known as SB 257. I testified in support of that bill before the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate Committees as the expert for the OSBA. At the end of 2016, SB 257 finally passed the Ohio General Assembly; Gov. Kasich signed it Jan. 4, 2017. It became Ohio law April 6, 2017.
Finally, after seven years, we accomplished our mission to overhaul Ohio’s title cure statue.
What the New Title Cure Statute Does
Ohio’s new title cure statute accomplishes three main things. First, it presumes that anyone who signs a real property instrument must have intended to grant or encumber that person’s interest. Second, it reduces Ohio’s cure period from 21 years to four years, bringing Ohio in line with cure periods throughout the country. Third, it affords constructive notice of any instruments that are properly recorded in the chain of title to real property.
Before this change, many real estate transactions were difficult to complete in Ohio due to technical problems with documents and other issues. Sometimes it required considerable additional efforts to track down individuals or representative of entities that arguably had some outstanding interest in real property.
Now, for those who know how to use it, this new law will be a useful tool to help complete certain transactions that could not have been completed under the old law – or at least save considerable efforts and expense while completing transactions and streamlining litigation involving real estate. Michael J. Sikora III