This past January, Ohio Senate passed the Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program. Ohio joined 36 states that allow survivors of domestic abuse to hide their true name and address when filing court documents or buying a home.
Any survivor looking to enroll can apply in person with a representative of a domestic abuse organization, verifying documents and processes are clear. A fictitious name and PO Box address are then assigned by the Secretary of State’s Office. Once the person applies to be part of the Safe at Home program, they are responsible for keeping their information confidential. If they sell or purchase real property, or are involved in a court proceeding, they must submit a Confidentiality Notice to the county recorder. The county recorder will then transmit the fictitious information to all parties involved and any auditor, engineer, or treasurer must remove all information from public records or databases within 5 business days.
Should a third party need the confidential information on the survivor, a document that includes the signature of the participant enrolled will need to be submitted and reviewed.
The work to maintain confidentiality rests on the survivor, not on the real estate professionals. Recent legislation passed in April 2022 makes clear that real estate professionals and county officials are not liable for any damages that could result in the release of the information if they did not know the property or person under the Safe at Home program. If a third party was found completely negligent, then it could be a judgment determined by the state courts.
Ohio seems to be doing great work, protecting survivors, while also keeping real estate professionals in the loop on how to operate when a participant seeks their assistance for buying a home.