After an August 2021 report by The Pew Charitable Trusts on the crisis of “tangled title” in Philadelphia, housing advocates invigored efforts to find solutions to complicated, unclear, or otherwise cloudy chains of ownership on residential properties throughout the city. Recently, several targeted solutions have been proffered by municipal officials and public interest organizations, such as a recent city council legislative initiative to require funeral parlors to advise family members about issues surrounding tangled title and legal resources to address inheritance and other probate matters. Despite these concerted efforts, untangling title is often time-consuming and expensive.
One legal tool to untangling (or quieting) title to a property is an action under Pennsylvania’s adverse possession statute. Pennsylvania’s adverse possession statute requires the “actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile” of property for the statutory period, which until 2018 stood at twenty-one years for all cases of adverse possession. However, the statutory period of twenty-one years remains a significant hurdle for occupants seeking more immediate relief from tangled title issues and for those Philadelphians who must establish clean title prior to taking part in choice city programs.