Pennsylvania Law disfavors hyper-technical, rigid determinations of real property rights where the facts and circumstances warrant a departure from the broader rules of general application. When an actual, de facto boundary between two adjoining properties exists apart from the legal descriptions of both properties by deed, Pennsylvania Law provides that property lines which are respected and mutually acquiesced to for a statutory prescribed period of twenty-one (21) years become the legal boundary between the properties. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recognized the doctrine of “Consentable Lines” to settle issues concerning mistakes as to the boundary between adjoining properties. Sometimes referred to as “boundary by consent and acquiescence,” the Doctrine of Consentable Lines permits the passing of title to property where adjoining landowners establish a mutually respected boundary either by mistake and inadvertence or dispute and compromise, each landowner claims and occupies the land on his side of the boundary as his own, and the occupation continues uninterrupted for a period of twenty-one (21) years. This twenty-one year requisite can include “tacking” of years from one owner to his successor in order to aggregate to a twenty-one year sum.
There are two ways in which one may prove a consentable line: by dispute and compromise or by recognition and acquiescence. There are three requirements for the establishment of a binding consentable line by dispute and compromise:
- A dispute with regard to the location of a common boundary line,
- The establishment of a line in compromise of a dispute,
- The consent of both parties to that line and the giving up of their respective claims which are inconsistent therewith.
The requirements for establishing a binding consentable line by recognition and acquiescence are:
- A finding that each party has claimed the land on their side of the line as their own, and
- A finding that this occupation has occurred for the statutory period of 21 years.
The doctrine of boundary by acquiescence (i.e., consentable lines), functions as a rule of repose to quiet title and discourage vexatious litigation. The determination of what constitutes actual possession of property, for purposes of establishing a binding consentable line under the recognition and acquiescence
method, depends on the facts of each case and the character of the premise. There is, however, no requirement that activities be conducted on the entire property in order for a party to prevail under the doctrine.
The establishment of a consentable boundary line is always a matter of compromise, in which each party supposes he or she gives up for the sake of peace something for which in strict justice he or she is entitled. There is an express mutual abandonment of their former rights, upon an agreement, that
whether they be good or whether they be bad neither is to recur to them on any pretense whatever or claim anything that he or she does not draw from the terms of the agreement. A consentable line is not created if the parties, from misapprehension, adjust their fences and exercise acts of ownership, in conformity with a line which turns out not to be the true boundary, or if permission is ignorantly given to place a fence on the land of a party. Whether proving a consentable line by dispute and compromise or by recognition and acquiescence, it is not necessary that the boundary line be substantial.
- Based upon a rule of repose sometimes known as the doctrine of consentable line, the existence of a boundary line by acquiescence may be proved either by dispute and compromise between the parties or recognition and acquiescence by one party of the right and title of the other.
- Acquiescence, in the context of a dispute over real property, denotes passive conduct on the part of the lawful owner consisting of failure on his part to assert his paramount rights or interests against the hostile claims of the adverse user.
- A determination of consentable boundary line by acquiescence requires a finding:
- that each party has claimed the land on his side of the line as his own, and
- that he or she has occupied the land on his side of the line for a continuous period of 21 years.
Because the finding of a consentable boundary line depends upon possession rather than ownership, proof of the passage of sufficient time may be shown by tacking the current claimant's tenancy to that of his predecessor; to do so, however, the claimant must show sufficient and credible proof of delivery of possession of land not within but contiguous to property described by deed of conveyance, which was previously claimed and occupied by the grantor and is taken by the grantee as successor in such interest.