Adverse possession is a much-misunderstood principle of law. In my own life, my father-in-law Jim, who is a relatively small-scale real estate developer, swears up and down that he is entitled to several nebulous and ill-defined tracts of lands all throughout Lehigh County. He’s never been right by my estimation, but our Sunday-dinner discussions on the matter have inspired me to write this guide. And while I think convincing Jim that you can’t so easily stake a claim to your neighbor’s land is a lost cause, I hope this guide provides some assistance to you in your own life.
There are generally five requirements to obtain title to land by Adverse Possession in Pennsylvania. The requirements are as follows:
- Actual Possession:
This one is relatively simple. One who is claiming a right to title by adverse possession must actually be in possession of the land. Mowing the grass, parking a vehicle, and planting a garden all demonstrate actual possession.
Generally speaking, an individual must use the land he or she is claiming a right to for an uninterrupted period of 21 years. Occasionally, an individual can toll the 21-year period if certain circumstances are met.
In other words, adverse. One can’t have permission to use the land and then claim a right to the land’s title. Essentially, one must be trespassing.
- Open and Notorious
One can’t hide their use. A stop-watch running for 21 years, hidden in some overgrowth, will not get the job done. Instead, the true property owner must be able to see the use and have an opportunity to stop it. Consistently mowing an unowned tract of grass is a good example.
The trespassing party must be the only one using the land regularly. If the property owner, for instance, occasionally uses a piece of his or her back yard, one can’t claim a right to that yard by consistently mowing it.
As always, this mile-high overview of the law is meant to be generally informative. If you have think you have a claim to a piece of property, or if you would like to remove an individual from your property, please call 484-272-5133 or send an email inquiry.