Can I prevent someone from building on the vacant land next to my house?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I prevent someone from building on the vacant land next to my house?

My house was built in 1962 on the very end of a cul de sac. There is a vacant lot that separates the end of my street and the beginning of the next. The original owner of my home had the land rezoned before I purchased it. The vacant lot in question was always owned by the owner of my current residence. After 10 years the vacant land stood undeveloped and nothing changed. Recently I found out the man who owned the land went bankrupt and never paid the taxes on the land. It was then seized by the city of Philadelphia and sold at auction to a builder. Is there any way to prevent a home being built on this land? It’s going to eliminate 3 parking spaces on an already crowded street when they pave a driveway. Also, since 1962 the neighborhood children have used the land for safe playing and activities. Not to mention a home being built will totally ruin my neighbors and my view of the park that we are surrounded by. Is it possible to prevent this from happening?

Asked on September 16, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, assuming the land is zoned for development, the owner may develop it. The fact that it may impact you or other neighbors does not bar the owner from using the land for any lawful or properly zoned activities. A property owner does not need to take into account the impact on his neighbors so long as what he is doing is legal; and the law does not let you stop someone from making legal use of their land. You and the neigbors could come together and try to buy the land from him, then do whatever you want with it if he'll sell at a price you are able and willing to pay; and if he seeks any zoning variances (e.g. to build more units or a larger home than is currently permitted), you can go to zoning board meetings and register your opposition and try to convince the board to not grant the variances--but this is all you can do.

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