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How to Get Rid of Squatters in Cleveland, Ohio, and Its Surrounding Suburbs

As a veteran real estate agent with 23 years of experience in Cleveland, Ohio, and has handled over 1700 home sales, I’ve encountered numerous cases where property owners face the daunting challenge of dealing with squatters. Unauthorized occupants can claim possession rights over a property they don’t legally own or rent, leading to complicated legal battles. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share insights into squatter removal, understanding property rights, and navigating the legal landscape in Cleveland and its suburbs, including a potentially swift solution—selling the property to a cash investor.

Eviction notice form on wooden table prepared for squatter removal in Cleveland, Ohio.

Understanding Squatters’ Rights in Cleveland, OH

Ohio law provides certain protections to squatters under the doctrine of “adverse possession.” To claim adverse possession, a squatter must occupy a property openly, notoriously, exclusively, and continuously for a period of 21 years. Although this scenario is rare, as a property owner, it’s crucial to act quickly if you discover squatters to prevent any potential claim of adverse possession.

Immediate Steps to Take When You Discover Squatters

In my experience, once you discover squatters on your property in Cleveland or its suburbs, it’s essential to first verify that they do not have a legal right to be there. Last year, I assisted a homeowner in Lakewood who initially mistook squatters for a misunderstanding with a previous tenant. After confirming they were indeed squatters, we took the following steps, which I recommend:

  1. Contact Local Authorities: Immediately report trespassing to the Cleveland police or local law enforcement. They can often determine if the squatter can be removed immediately without court involvement.
  2. Issue a Notice: If law enforcement cannot resolve the situation, issue a formal eviction notice. Even though they are not tenants, an official notice often compels squatters to vacate the property.
  3. File an Eviction Lawsuit: If squatters do not leave after receiving a notice, you will need to file an eviction lawsuit, often referred to as an “unlawful detainer action“, in a local court.

Navigating the Eviction Process in Cleveland Suburbs

The eviction process in Cleveland and its suburbs requires property owners to file a complaint in the county court where the property is located. This process includes:

  • Filing the Complaint: Prepare and file a legal complaint against the squatters, outlining the reasons for eviction and proving your ownership of the property.
  • Serving the Notice: The squatters must be legally served with the eviction notice, informing them of the lawsuit and giving them an opportunity to respond.
  • Court Hearing: Both parties will have the chance to present their case in front of a judge. I always advise bringing all relevant documents, including proof of ownership and any communication with the squatters.
  • Enforcing the Eviction: If the court rules in your favor, they will issue an order of eviction. Local sheriffs can enforce this order, physically removing squatters from the property if necessary.

Legal Help and Resources

Throughout my career, I’ve built a network of trusted legal professionals specializing in property law. For example, a reliable attorney in Cleveland helped a client swiftly navigate the local court system to evict squatters last fall. It’s vital to seek professional legal advice and familiarize yourself with the specific local laws and ordinances, as these can vary significantly across suburbs and impact the eviction process.

Preventative Measures

Preventing squatting is easier than dealing with eviction. Here are some tips based on what has worked for my clients:

  • Regular Property Inspections: Ensure there are no unauthorized occupants by regularly inspecting the property, especially if it’s vacant.
  • Secure the Property: Keep all entrances secure and maintain the property well to deter squatters.
  • Clear Signage: Posting “No Trespassing” signs can deter squatting and support legal actions if squatting occurs.

Selling to a Cash Investor

In situations where dealing with squatters becomes overly burdensome, selling the property to a cash investor might be a viable option. This can be a quick way to resolve the issue without enduring prolonged legal battles. Cash investors often purchase properties “as-is,” including those with legal complications like squatters.


Dealing with squatters in Cleveland, Ohio, and its popular suburbs requires a proactive approach and an understanding of legal procedures. By acting swiftly, consulting with legal professionals, and possibly considering selling to a cash investor, you can effectively manage squatter situations and protect your property rights. Remember, every situation is unique, and tailored advice from experienced professionals can make all the difference.


1. What is adverse possession?
Answer: Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows a person to claim ownership of a property if they occupy it openly, notoriously, exclusively, and continuously for a specific period, which is 21 years in Ohio. This scenario is relatively rare, but it underscores the importance of addressing squatter issues promptly.

2. How do I know if there are squatters on my property?
Answer: Signs of squatters may include unexpected people living on the property, changes to locks or alterations without your permission, and reports from neighbors about unusual activity. Regular inspections are recommended, especially for vacant properties.

3. What should I do first if I find squatters on my property?
Answer: The first step is to verify that they do not have any legal right to occupy the property. If they are indeed squatters, contact local law enforcement immediately to report trespassing.

4. Can the police immediately remove squatters from my property?
Answer: Police can sometimes remove squatters if their presence is clearly illegal, such as when they are trespassing without any claim to possession. However, if the situation involves claims of tenancy or ownership, you might need to proceed through the courts.

5. What does issuing a formal eviction notice involve?
Answer: Issuing a formal eviction notice involves notifying the squatters in writing that they must leave the property by a specified date. This notice should be served legally to ensure it holds up in court if eviction proceedings become necessary.

6. How long does the eviction process take in Cleveland, Ohio?
Answer: The duration of the eviction process can vary significantly, often depending on the complexity of the case and the local court’s schedule. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

7. What legal resources are available for dealing with squatters in Cleveland?
Answer: There are numerous legal resources available, including consulting with attorneys specializing in property law. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with local laws and perhaps contacting local real estate associations for advice can be beneficial.

8. What are some preventative measures to avoid squatting?
Answer: Key preventative measures include regular property inspections, securing the property effectively, and placing clear “No Trespassing” signs. Maintaining good relationships with neighbors who can report suspicious activity also helps.

9. Is selling to a cash investor a good option if I have squatters?
Answer: Selling to a cash investor can be a practical option if you wish to avoid the lengthy and potentially costly process of evicting squatters. Cash investors often buy properties “as-is” and may handle the eviction themselves.

10. Can I handle squatter removal without a lawyer?
Answer: While it is possible to initiate some steps on your own, such as contacting the police or issuing a notice, legal proceedings typically require professional legal advice, especially to navigate the complexities of property laws effectively and ensure that all actions are legally sound.

These FAQs provide succinct, actionable answers that property owners in Cleveland might need when facing issues related to squatters.

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