Since July of 1994, when seven year old Megan Kanka of Hamilton, NJ was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender who lived in her neighborhood, states have been adopting laws for community notification of sex offenders.
Ohio’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law, HB 180, was adopted in 1996 with an effective date of July 1, 1997 for the registration and community notification provisions. Ohio’s Megan’s Law was amended by Senate Bill 175, which became effective on May 7, 2002
HB 180 requires individuals convicted of a sexually oriented offense to register with the local sheriff’s office within 7 days of establishing residence in a county. The sheriff will notify the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI). BCI will include this information in the State Registry of Sex Offenders and also notify the FBI. The offender must notify the sheriff of an address change and must periodically verify their current address. The registration requirement will last from 10 years to life depending upon the offender’s conviction.
The notification requirements of HB 180 applies to all sexual predators and to habitual sex offenders where the sentencing judge imposes the public notification requirement. If the offender is subject to the notification requirements the sheriff is required to notify the victim (if requested by the victim) of the offender’s address or change of address notification.
The offender is required to provide written notification to the sheriff of the offender’s intent to reside in the county at least twenty days prior to the date the offender actually moves in. Local law enforcement will also receive the notice.
The sheriff is also required to give community notification by providing written notice within 72 hours to residences within 1,000 feet of the offender’s residence or intended residence. The sheriff is also required to provide written notice within 7 days to all of the following who fall within the school district the offender resides in:
- Executive director of the public children services agency
- Superintendent of the school district
- Hiring officer of each chartered nonpublic school
- Director of each preschool
- Administrator of each child day-care center
- President of each college or university
The written notice provided by the sheriff will include the offender’s name and address, the offense for which the offender was convicted and state that the offender is a sexual predator or habitual sex offender. HB 180 provides that the written notice is a public record and is open to inspection under Ohio’s Public Records Law. Anyone should be able to obtain information from the local sheriff’s office regarding registered offenders in the area.
HB 180 does not address a property owner’s or real estate licensee’s duty to disclose to a tenant or buyer that a known sex offender lives in the neighborhood. It is impossible to say with certainty how a court would rule on this disclosure issue as some decisions state that information of public record does not have to be disclosed and other decisions indicate that this could be found to be material information that should have been disclosed. Due to this uncertainty, if the property owner has been notified by the sheriff, the cautious approach would be to disclose this information to the buyer or tenant. Of course this issue and the brokerage disclosure policy must be discussed with the property owner and consented to. If the property owner does not consent, the broker must decide whether to comply with the owner’s request not to disclose or decline to sell/rent the property due to the possible risk involved.
To facilitate the seller’s disclosure of notice received under HB 180 and the buyer’s awareness of a sex offender’s requirement to register with the local sheriff, a sex offender provision can be included in the Contract to Purchase, Exclusive Right to Sell Agreement and the Buyer Agency Agreement. These provisions are not required by HB 180. However, they provide Realtors® with a means to notify the seller and buyer of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification law and to address the disclosure issue.
It’s important for Realtors® to understand that prospective buyers are the ones who should be doing the offender research, should they desire. If the Realtor® gets involved, it could result in potential liability problems, as with any disclosure issues relating to the property.
Information on local registrations for sex offenders can be obtained through Internet access at the following sites:
Butler County Sheriff: http://www.butlersheriff.org
Clermont County Sheriff: http://clermontsheriff.org
Hamilton County Sheriff: http://www.hcso.org
Highland County Sheriff: http://www.highlandcoso.com
State of Ohio: http://www.drc.ohio.gov/OffenderSearch/Search.aspx
State of Kentucky: http://kspsor.state.ky.us/