Get It In Writing! Understanding the Ohio Statute of Frauds Part 4: Interest in Land

Land can be at the center of many disputes, ranging from leases to the buying or selling of property, from property inherited across generations to interests in land acquired through new business or personal relationships. (For a discussion on the importance of putting promises made in consideration of marriage into writing, see Part 3 of our series on the Ohio statute of frauds). Many of these disputes may be avoided, however, if agreements are secured in compliance with the Ohio statute of frauds.

Ohio Revised Code § 1335.04 states that, “No lease, estate, or interest, either of freehold or term of years, or any uncertain interest of, in, or out of lands, tenements, or hereditaments, shall be assigned or granted except by deed, or note in writing, signed by the party assigning or granting it, or his agent thereunto lawfully authorized, by writing, or by act and operation of law”.

Ohio Revised Code § 1335.05 further provides: “No action shall be brought whereby to charge the defendant * * * upon a contract or sale of lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or interest in or concerning them * * * unless the agreement upon which such action is brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, is in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith or some other person thereunto by him or her lawfully authorized”.

These provisions collectively mean that any contract for the transfer of an interest in land, including a contract to buy or sell land, or a contract to dispose of an interest in land (such as a mortgage or agreement allowing another to use your property for a specific purpose), has to be in writing to be enforceable.

A written agreement can easily dictate the course of a case, as was seen recently in a Franklin County case involving a land dispute.

Gary Carson and his four siblings were in a dispute with Second Baptist Church over who had a claim over an area of real property that was originally owned by Mr. Carson’s great aunt. Mr. Carson claimed the property was passed down to him and his siblings via Mr. Carson’s father. The church, however, had been using the property as a parking lot for several years. Evidence existed that Mr. Carson’s father, along with all the others who had received the remainder of the great aunt’s estate, had executed a deed in 1974 that transferred all of his interest over to the church. While Mr. Carson argued such a transfer would not have been in line with the intent of his great aunt, he wasn’t able to produce a written document showing that title to the property had been transferred to him and his siblings, and so he wasn’t able to establish that he had a better claim to the land than the church who had the deeds. For this reason, the church was deemed to have title to the property.

As this case shows, a written agreement showing a transfer in an interest of land is enforceable. For that reason any contract for the transfer of an interest in land, or any contracts to buy, sell, or dispose of an interest in land, needs to be made in writing. Given the prevalence of land agreements and disputes, and the implications of those disputes, it is best to talk to a qualified attorney for assistance in putting such agreements into writing and for any further discussion of possible exceptions to the statute of frauds.

Crumpton Law LLC and its attorneys practice small business law in Columbus, Ohio, and throughout the surrounding counties and cities of Franklin County, Delaware County, Union County, Madison County, Pickaway County, Fairfield County, Licking County, Dublin, Powell, Lewis Center, Worthington, Westerville, New Albany, Gahanna, Bexley, Reynoldsburg, Canal Winchester, Grove City, Hilliard and Upper Arlington.

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