Plat maps - Posted by Zee

Posted by David Krulac on April 25, 2000 at 19:34:55:


Ask the township if it was ever dedicated.
There are three different types of “official” maps in Pa. The township will have a set of maps, go look at them. The “tax maps” are usually in the tax assessment office in the courthouse. And the third “map” is the subdivision plan recorded at the recorder of Deeds office at the courthouse. Check out all three.

When the township approved the plan, it may preceed there requirement for approval, they do NOT necessairly accept the street or all the streets. Or after accepteance they could abandon or vacate a street. That’s where the 21 years comes in.

Fencing would assert your claim to the street, but could provake the ire of your neighbors, in any event you still have to have the 21 years. Good luck and keep us posted.
David Krulac

Plat maps - Posted by Zee

Posted by Zee on April 22, 2000 at 21:36:37:

Where can I obtain plat maps of subject properties? My county is totally databased (tax assessor’s office), but all they have is simple line drawings showing only lot sizes. I asked about the engineering data maps, but a clerk said everything was on computer, there are no printed maps.

I need the facts. Who do I need to see?

Re: Plat maps - Posted by Bill K - FL

Posted by Bill K - FL on April 23, 2000 at 20:02:42:

You can buy them. They might be in your larger libraries. Some realtors have them in their office. More importantly, what are you looking for? A legal description, lot size. You probably could get whatever info you need for another source. Tell us what you are looking for.

Re: Plat maps - Posted by Zee

Posted by Zee on April 24, 2000 at 02:28:28:

Sorry, Bill. I didn’t realize there was so much involved on a plat map that I needed to specify what I was looking for from one.

Basically, I want to see property lines to compare against legal description (deed), and also where easemeants, underground utilities, rights of way, etc. are.

I am trying to determine if there is a 25’ wide township right of way behind my property, or, if the neighboring two lots ajoin mine. Then I want to determine if there is a way I can acquire this 25’ section from the township, since the township will never actually be using it as the roadway they planned years ago.

Many property owners next to my lot commonly use this 25’ as their own yards (although they don’t build on it). I need to see if this strip is owned by the township, the backyard neighbors, etc. and find out if I can acquire (via “quit claim” for example)

Some of this info also is a prelude for landscape designing, and before hiring a surveyor, if necessary.


In Pennsylvania… - Posted by David Krulac

Posted by David Krulac on April 24, 2000 at 20:18:52:

There are private rights and public rights. If an undedicated road/street/alley is not claimed by the township for more than 21 years, then the public rights are extinguished. The public rights are the rights of ANYBODY to cross this land.

However, the private right may need to be extinguish by a Quiet Title Action (a lawsuit) or a Quit Claim Deed from ALL owner of ALL parcels on that specifc subdivision plan, NOT just the owners that adjoin this alley.

An alternative may be adverse possession, which requires a minimum of 21 years in Pennsylvania. To be on the safe side you should fence off the area in question and include in your yard for the next couple of decades. Good Luck.
David Krulac

Re: Plat maps - Posted by ray@lcorn

Posted by ray@lcorn on April 24, 2000 at 10:10:22:


Plats are usually filed with deeds, or at least referenced in the chain of title and kept in another related index system. Some jurisdictions will record surveys on microfiche, then catalog the film. Our courthouse makes actual copies of the plats and files them in a plat cabinet located in the deed room. We look up the deed and read the “being” clause. (Being the land acquired by the Grantor herein on such and such date blah blah blah, recorded in deed book blank page blank…) This clause will often reference a plat if one exists. if not, read the property description for reference to a section map or covenants of subdivision.

Depending on where you are, your deed references may be from sections rather than metes and bounds. This makes searching title a bit more cumbersome (to me, but I’m an easterner!), but if you ask for help it should be fairly simple to ascertain the ownership of the alley by examining the plats and maps in the chain of title. The original subdivision map is often the best source of information. You may see a reference in the deed description that says “being Lot X in the Blankety blank subdivision recorded at deed book XX page XXX…”

My guess is that the alley is a “paper street”. These are rights of way (ROW) that were platted with the original subdivision, but for whatever reason were never built. If the township accepted the plat with the public right of way, then the township owns the ground. In that case, you can petition the township to vacate the right of way. It would be a good idea to have your neighbors involved and in agreement with the request to vacate the right of way. In most cases when a right of way is vacated the real estate then transfers to the adjacent landowners. So each landowner would get half of the width of the alley, and the neighbor on the other side of the alley would get the other half, and so on down the length of the alley.

In some cases the township may want the land to be purchased, but this is hard to justify if the residents have been caring for the land and no improvements have been constructed. Arguments aginst purchase include that the vacation will put the ground back on the tax rolls, the town will not be responsible to build and maintain the alley, the town will have no liability for the alley, etc.

One test often used to determine whether a township “owns” a right of way is the “official map” of the jurisdiction. If the town has an “official map” that shows this particular ROW, then it is a public ROW by default. If the map doesn’t show it, and the town asserts no ownership, then you have a common easement that can be disolved most easily with the concurrence of all adjacent landowners. if someone objects, then things may get complicated. The only way I know to obtain the ROW through quit claim is if you own all the lots that front the alley. In that case you can petition for the vacation of the entire subdivision, which renders the alley moot.

One note: I’m not a lawyer… but I may sound like one from paying so many of them through the years… I’ve been involved in two of these actions… I won one and lost one. Learned a lot from both.

Hope this helps,


Re: Plat maps - Posted by Bill K. - FL

Posted by Bill K. - FL on April 24, 2000 at 09:09:28:

From your post I could not tell whether you were looking for something pertaining to a specific property or investments in general. I assume you did not get a survey done when you bought the property? Check your title insurance policy for any mention of the easement. Try contacting the building and zoning dept at city hall and ask them for help. They should be able to track it down for you.

Re: In Pennsylvania… - Posted by Zee

Posted by Zee on April 25, 2000 at 02:21:22:

Hi, Dave,

How would I find out whether or not the township is, or has been claiming the ROW?

It seems to me that when it accepted the subdivision originally (taking on its street maintenance, etc.) the ROW just came along with it, hence, it is still “claimed”?

Also would not my fencing it in deny others their public access? I am fairly sure the township, not private parties, owns it…I will be checking on this.

Re: Plat maps - Posted by Zee

Posted by Zee on April 25, 2000 at 02:15:39:

Well, Ray, that’s a bunch of information to digest, so, thank you.

My deed does have the “plan and page” listed. There are no mentions of any ROW’s, covenants, etc.

It also appears I was looking in the wrong county office (tax). Need to ask at Recorder of Deeds. Then the township.

One reason I may not want to get this ROW split among the neighbors is that one who ajoins my property is actively cutting his trees to improve his view (he is on a hillside above mine). Right now, four large trees live in this ROW and provide privacy from him looking down into my swimming pool. If the ROW ever got divided, he’d wind up owning those trees…

For now, he seems “providentially hindered” from taking them, since they belong to the township.

On the other hand, nothing stops any neighbor from using this 25’ ROW. I suppose he could “maintain” some parts of it as I am doing (mowing grass, keeping these trees).

Is there anything I can to, like petitioning the township, to help preserve these trees from the axe, his or anybody else’s?

Re: Plat maps - Posted by Zee

Posted by Zee on April 25, 2000 at 02:28:51:


This question was about my own home/lot. I am one who learns best by first-hand experiencing, so, asking this now about my own place nets me the understanding I’ll keep handy in later investment deals. (Just so happens, I stepped withing an eyelash of buying a residential building lot last month before I discovered deal-killing problems with the market it is in. Land is on my mind, I guess)

My deed/title insurance does not mention any ROW or easement. I get this 25’ ROW information from other neighbors, and the PO. And, yes, I’m off to the correct office to research this more.