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Mimi McKenzie, Public Interest Law Center

The law of adverse possession has been around for almost 4,000 years, but time is of the essence for Philadelphia community gardens. As far back as 1754 BC, civilizations recognized that if you abandoned your land and thereafter your neighbor gardened on it for a certain period, your neighbor acquired your land. One of the earliest legal codes, the Code of Hammurabi provided, “if a chieftain or a man leave his house, garden, and field and hires it out, and someone else takes possession of his house, garden, and field and uses it for three years: if the first owner returns and claims his house, garden, and field, it shall not be given to him, but he who has taken possession of it and used it shall continue to use it,” Law Code of Hammurabi, Number 30 (1754 BC). From Mesopotamia to Ancient Rome to English common law, societies have agreed that there should come a time when an owner may no longer sue to recover land used by another. Today Pennsylvania law provides that an individual or entity can adversely possess private property if it can demonstrate continuous, open, notorious, adverse and exclusive possession for more than 21 years, see Flannery v. Stump, 786 A.2d 255, 258 (Pa. 2001); and Conneaut Lake Park v. Klingensmith, 66 A.2d 828, 829 (Pa. 1949).

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