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Ten, Infinity, Twelve, Fifteen, and Twenty-five
Source of Title Blog
May 30 2007

What do these numbers have in common? They represent the evolution of the statute of limitations on state liens in Ohio. When I started abstracting certificates of judgments in favor of the State were valid for 10 years. For some reason, the State decided in 2003 that their liens should never expire! That caused a lot of concern among the abstractors; not so much because it was a problem presently, but we all expected that to become a horrible nightmare in 5, 10, or 15 years.

Fortunately, someone in our legislature must have been clued in by someone more knowledgeable because they changed it a few years later. They decided that they would make them good for 12 years. I'm not quite sure how they settled on 12 years, but that made things a bit better. However, they now had a problem... what do you do with the liens that were still valid when they made the change?

They devised some "interim period" with special rules. I'm still not sure how it all worked. We simply looked at everything from the oldest date that a lien could have been filed and would still be valid: 10 years prior to the insanity, which was 1993. We just showed any unreleased liens from 1993.

This year, they decided that wasn't good enough. Now those state liens are valid for 15 years. And again, we have those special rules for the "interim period." Here is the explanation from our underwriter:

Ah... our glorious legislatures hard at work. I can only imagine that the State in their infinite wisdom decided that they could raise some extra, much needed revenue if they could collect on judgements for a couple of extra years. I guess this is better than eliminating the statute of limitations all together - liens that never expire are a scary creation that just made me cringe.

I think this makes some sense, but I do not like to think that in the year 2029, we will be searching for liens back to 1994. Suppose one gets missed - and in today's environment you just know that will happen more often than it should. I wonder if the underwriters will still allow agents to insure on current owner searches; and, if so, would it be wise for the agent to do so?

I think the better course of action is to search back at least to 1993, regardless of the number of owners involved. Of course, I never close on a current owner search. Time permitting, I still like to do full searches on anything I am insuring. You just can't depend on the "last guy" doing his job properly anymore.

Any thoughts?

Robert A. Franco