How to Vacate a Paper Street in Pennsylvania

A paper street sounds like something out of a cartoon, but it is a challenging problem that arises in Pennsylvania real estate. A paper street refers to the phenomenon that occurs when a township or other municipal authority has claimed land for a street which is ultimately never constructed. Paper streets can exist for years and in some cases as plans change, these paper streets have to be “vacated.” This takes action from the municipal authority to formally abandon their claim to the paper street or paper road.

In such a case, landowners on either side of the paper street have a right to half of the street that would have existed; however, to formalize this requires several steps.

First, municipal bodies must formally abandon their claim to the paper street. This means that the borough has to have a meeting, which in many counties also requires planning commission approval. After the meeting a resolution is passed, and that resolution gives the landowners the right to approach the court of common pleas in the county they are in for “quiet title.”

We have discussed quiet title in other articles. A quiet title action allows the landowner involved to get an order from a court allowing them to begin to include their half of the paper street in the deed. In some cases, a landowner may even be entitled to the entire street. Often, after a paper street is vacated, the landowners have to meet and discuss how they want to divide the street. Even though the law is fairly clear on the 50-50 split for neighboring landowners, there are sometimes very good reasons why the landowners prefer a different split. One of these reasons is that additional taxes will be due every year to the local school district on the land that is added. Another reason is that sometimes a paper street has been developed in such a way that the landowner party does not want to take expense to undo.

Whether by agreement or otherwise, ultimately a court order has to issue to ensure that the landowner has a clear title to the land that was formerly a paper street. These are sometimes referred to as “comfort orders” in that all the parties may be in agreement, but an order is still needed from the courts so that deeds can be properly recorded.

So, what happens if you don’t pursue this process and get a quiet title? In that case, it may be that nothing bad happens at all. However, in most cases when you go to sell your property, a real estate agent or title company may refuse to go forward with the transaction until the quiet title action is filed.

It is almost always better to take action on real estate problems sooner rather than later. If you need to vacate a paper street or secure a quiet title to land, contact the real estate attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm so we can help you through the process. Our real estate lawyers have helped clients in various situations involving paper streets, quiet titles, disputed boundary lines and more. Contact us today for a consultation.