Opposing possession – a possible solution to Philadelphia’s tangled title problems


After an August 2021 report by The Pew Charitable Trusts on the “tangled titles” crisis in Philadelphia, housing advocates have redoubled their efforts to find solutions to convoluted, unclear, or otherwise murky ownership chains on properties. residential throughout the city. Recently, several targeted solutions have been proposed by city officials and public interest organizations, such as a recent City Council legislative initiative to require funeral homes to notify family members of tangled title and resource issues. legal counsel to settle estates and other probate matters. Despite these concerted efforts, untangling a title is often time-consuming and expensive.

A legal tool for unraveling (or settling) title to a property is an action under Pennsylvania’s adverse possession law. Pennsylvania’s adverse possession law requires “real, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct, and hostile” ownership of property for the statutory period, which until 2018 was twenty-one years for all cases of adverse possession. However, the twenty-one-year statutory period remains a significant hurdle for occupiers seeking more immediate relief from entangled title issues and for Philadelphians who must establish proper title before participating in City of Choice programs.


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