FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas
House passes bill to combat urban blight
HARRISBURG, May 3 – State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, Democratic chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee, said the state House has passed legislation aimed at reducing urban blight.
House Bill 1022, which was introduced by state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, would reduce the adverse possession statute of limitations for single-family homes from 21 years to 10 years. Under the law of adverse possession, a property that has been abandoned by the owner can be re-titled in the name of someone who has a long-standing relationship to the property.
House Bill 1022 would apply to individuals who have occupied single-family homes on a half acre or less for the full 10 years.
The bill is intended to address cases where individuals and families reside in homes to which no one has clear title, such as when the landlord has disappeared or died, or there is an inheritance that never went through the legal process.
Thomas said the legislation is the result of bipartisan efforts and recommendations from a workgroup that he established during the 2009-10 legislative session that included legislators, legislative staff and stakeholders, including the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania and Regional Housing Legal Services. Specific recommendations included the following provisions in the bill:
· The basic elements for adverse possession that have been established through case law (possession that is actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile) would have to be present throughout the prescriptive 10-year period.
· An owner of record of the property (who must be notified of the action) would have up to one year to come forward and re-assert his ownership. If such action is unsuccessful, the individual would be entitled to payment of any outstanding rent payments.
· A claimant that is unsuccessful in his effort to a claim of adverse possession, would have the right to be reimbursed for the costs of maintenance, improvements, repairs, renovations, taxes or other expenses that benefitted the property.
"This bill offers an important tool for municipalities across Pennsylvania that are faced with managing blighted and abandoned properties," said Thomas, D-Phila. "I urge the Senate to take swift action on this legislation."
The bill moves to the Senate for consideration.