PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
RESOLUTION SUPPORTING A REDUCTION IN THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON ADVERSE POSSESSION
WHEREAS, the law of adverse possession in Pennsylvania has its origins in British common law, allowing property that has essentially been abandoned by the owner of record to be re-titled in the name of another who has been in actual, continuous, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile possession of the property for over twenty-one years;
WHEREAS, many states have shorter statutes of limitation than Pennsylvania for adverse possession of residential property, including even shorter periods for special circumstances like payment of taxes and claims under color of title;
WHEREAS, the statute of limitations in England was reduced to twelve (12) years in 1874, and was recently reduced to ten (10) years for those with a right to register their claims;
WHEREAS, the legal services collaborative, "HomeSMART", funded by the City of Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development, provides free legal services for clients with a variety of "Tangled Title" cases with grants up to $2500 to pay the costs of resolving such cases;
WHEREAS, the HomeSMART collaborative must turn away clients who have "adversely" occupied their homes for fewer than twenty-one years, and without such reform, these occupants cannot qualify for grants or loans for needed repairs to their homes, obtain insurance, nor enter into payments agreements for unpaid real estate taxes and water/sewer bills in arrears;
WHEREAS, low and declining property values in disinvested urban communities and deterioration of properties make abandonment a reasonable alternative for occupants who cannot wait the required twenty-one (21) years before commencing an adverse possession action;
WHEREAS, about 10% of the housing stock in Philadelphia (over 26,000 homes) is abandoned, and over 300,000 Philadelphians live on blocks with an abandoned house;
WHEREAS, abandoned properties burden local governments, negatively impact the values of neighboring properties, and contribute to urban blight and community disinvestment;
WHEREAS, instead of encouraging housing investment, the current statute of limitations for adverse possession tends to reinforce negative urban neighborhood conditions that lead to properties falling into legal limbo and quasi-abandonment;
WHEREAS, legislation has been introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature, including HB 2412, which would shorten the statute of limitations on adverse possession claims on single family residential properties to ten (10) years;
WHEREAS, modernization of the statute of limitations on adverse possession will help keep homes in urban areas occupied, assist in preventing the blight of vacant and abandoned residential properties, preserve stable neighborhoods, and strengthen the real estate tax base in urban areas in Pennsylvania.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors supports legislation designed to reform the Pennsylvania statute of limitations on adverse possession to promote homeownership and combat urban blight.
AND IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or his/her designee to communicate the support of such reform of the statute of limitations on adverse possession on residential property to elected officials in Pennsylvania and to take such other action as may be appropriate.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: JUNE 24, 2004