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An Introduction to Pennsylvania Boundary Disputes

The law governing boundary disputes in the commonwealth is complex and detailed.

Disputes over boundaries between adjoining Pennsylvania landowners can arise in so many different ways. Language in deeds can be conflicting or ambiguous. Surveys, plats or maps may be inconsistent with legal descriptions or features of the land itself. People may have used their land for years believing the boundary to be in a different place than a new survey shows it is.

Not only is a boundary dispute about the potential reduction in value of a real estate parcel that might be smaller or less desirable than originally thought, but such a disagreement can be wrapped up in emotion when the land has been in a family for years or generations. Despite this, often parties to a boundary dispute are able to negotiate a compromise and settle the matter by drawing a line in the sand, so to speak.

Settlement often ends up a financially smarter option than going to court, which can be drawn out and expensive. Putting on a case to quiet title to the disputed area can involve extensive evidence like costly surveys and expert opinions. The Pennsylvania court tasked with a boundary dispute must try to understand the intentions of original or earlier owners who divided larger parcels when granting smaller parcels to others. The plain and obvious meaning of the deed that transferred the interest is considered the best evidence of the grantor's intentions.

The court must apply complicated rules about how to analyze conflicting or ambiguous provisions in deeds, legal descriptions and surveys. For example, certain "calls" take priority over others such as a natural object trumps a manmade monument; a manmade object on the land trumps an adjoining boundary; and so on. Boundaries running with flowing bodies of water are governed by another set of rules.

Ultimately, the Pennsylvania court may use any of several legal theories to resolve the dispute, depending on the circumstances, including adverse possession, prescriptive or implied easements, establishment of a consentable boundary line and others.

Anyone embroiled in a boundary dispute or who suspects a true boundary may be in conflict with a neighbor's use of the land should seek legal advice as early as possible from an attorney with broad real estate knowledge and experience. Legal counsel can research the history of the parcels involved and lay out the options and likely outcomes to help the landowner make an educated decision how to proceed, whether in negotiation and settlement or in court.

The lawyers at Weisberg Law with offices in both Philadelphia and suburban Morton serve Delaware Valley clients from Pennsylvania and New Jersey in title, easement and boundary disputes and in a wide array of other real estate matters, including litigation.

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  • Matthew B. Weisberg Esq. Photo
    Matthew B. Weisberg Esq.

    Managing Partner

    Matthew Weisberg concentrates his practice on financial injury-based litigation, including business disputes, legal malpractice, real estate litigation including mortgage foreclosure, and consumer fraud. Matthew also represents victims of civil rights and employment violations. A peer-acclaimed trial attorney, Matthew also represents individuals (including attorneys) in disciplinary matters. A true "lawyer's lawyer," Matthew is proud to continuously receive referrals and praise from unaffiliated ...
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    David A. Berlin

    Attorney

    David Berlin is a versatile litigator who has secured multiple jury verdicts for his clients. Before entering the law David’s four years as a journalist writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune prepared him to be an investigator. In his seven years as a practicing attorney, he has effectuated change and influenced the futures of individuals and companies alike. David now handles cases nationwide. Some examples include protecting people from police abuse, advocating for victims of employment ...
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    L. Anthony DiJiacomo, III Esq.

    Attorney

    Anthony DiJiacomo is a litigation-focused attorney who cares deeply about solving his clients' problems and is determined to aggressively protect their interests. Anthony focuses his practice, under the direction of Managing Partner Matthew Weisberg, on consumer fraud (particularly related to real estate and automobile sales), civil rights (police interaction and prosecution, as well as employee discrimination), and professional negligence, particularly legal malpractice. Recently, Anthony was ...
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    Gary Schafkopf

    Attorney

    Gary Schafkopf is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He has been admitted pro hac vice or appeared as out of state counsel in many other jurisdictions including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York. Gary focuses his practice on complex business and civil litigation matters. He has successfully litigated, arbitrated, and/or negotiated complex litigation matters leading to the recovery of millions of dollars for his clients. Gary's combination of legal knowledge ...
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