This blog features case law related to real estate, land use, zoning, and municipal law in Pennsylvania

Month: February 2017

Period of Public Ownership Tolls, Rather Than Restarts, Adverse Possession Period

In this quiet title action out of the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County, the Superior Court was asked whether a temporary period of ownership by a political subdivision restarted, or merely tolled, the 21-year period necessary to assert a claim of adverse possession. In concluding that such ownership merely tolled, rather than restarted, the 21-year period, the Court reversed the order ejecting the adverse possessors from the subject property.

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Township Can be Held Vicariously Liable for Actions of Board of Supervisors Members

In this breach of contract action out of Montgomery County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine whether a municipality could be held vicariously liable for the actions of members of a Township Board of Supervisors. In reversing the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County’s decision, the Commonwealth Court held that, similar to a private corporation, a political subdivision can only carry out its duties through its agents, servants, and employees; including members of its governing body.  As agents of the municipality, the municipality could be held vicariously liable for their actions.

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Underlying Merits of Applications Irrelevant in Determining Deemed Approval

In this mandamus action out of Washington County, a billboard company (“All State”) sought to compel a Borough to issue billboard permits after Borough Council failed to act on the applications for nearly 6 months. The Court of Common Pleas of Washington County granted summary judgment, based in part on the fact that the proposed billboards would only have been permitted if the zoning ordinance were found to be exclusionary.  The Commonwealth Court reversed, stating the underlying merits of the applications was irrelevant where a deemed approval was asserted, and remanding the matter to determine whether the applications had been deemed approved.

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Vacation Rental of Entire Home Does Not Qualify as Tourist Home Use

In this appeal of a zoning violation notice, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine whether short-term rentals of entire properties, made common by services such as AirBnB, are encompassed by existing definitions for more traditional uses, such as tourist homes, hotels, or motels.  In strictly applying the terms of the applicable ordinance, the Court concluded that “shoe-horning” such uses into existing definitions was improper, and the regulation of such uses must be done by amending the applicable zoning ordinance.

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