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Philadelphia lot subdivision laws

Consolidating and Subdividing Lots in Philadelphia

Are you interested in consolidating or subdividing land? Consolidating land involves taking several parcels and combining them into one, while subdividing takes one plot and divides it into several. 

Typical reasons for changing property boundaries include consolidating parcels of land to build a family home, or subdividing plots for an investment. Whatever your reason, you will need to comply with Philadelphia’s regulations, which can be complex and time-consuming. Failing to comply may result in building code violations, expensive fines, and work stoppages.

Let’s walk through the most important issues you’ll face throughout the process.

Surveying the Land

The first step in the process is hiring a surveyor. The surveyor will document the current lot configurations and will also draw out your proposed subdivided or consolidated plot.

Additionally, the surveyor should provide you with a “legal description” of the proposed lot. The legal description defines the boundaries of the property so that it can be accurately identified and recorded in property records.

It’s possible to schedule a surveyor from the city, but doing so will likely take longer than hiring one privately.

Government Approvals

After you’ve obtained the proper plans and legal descriptions from the surveyor, the next step is to get agency approval. 

First, you will need to submit the proposed lot configurations to your Survey District (Philadelphia is divided into dozens of these survey districts). The Survey District must review and approve your proposed modifications.

Next, you will need to submit your proposal to the Philadelphia Planning Commission. Depending on the complexity of your consolidation or subdivision, the timeline for planning commission approval can vary from days to weeks.

Zoning Approval

The next step is completing a zoning permit application and receiving a zoning permit from the Department of Licenses and Inspections. You will need the zoning permit even if your subdivision or consolidation is continuing the land’s prior use.

Finals Steps and Considerations

If you’ve received all the required approvals up to this point, you’re almost done. At this point you’ll need to take all your approved plans to the Office of Property Assessment (OPA). OPA will review your application and, if approved, issue you a new address for the consolidated or subdivided plot.

After this, the final step is to record your deed—containing the newly assigned OPA address—with the Department of Records. Failing to comply with this final step means that you have not officially changed your property’s new boundaries and legal status. Moreover, failing to change and record your deed will cause problems later on if you want to sell your home or take out a mortgage.

Subdividing or consolidating land may also cause changes in property values and tax liability. You should research the neighborhood and comparable properties surrounding yours so that any property value changes do not come as a shock.


Navigating Philadelphia’s regulatory approval process can be challenging. We can help direct you through the process to make sure your property receives the right approvals in a timely manner. Contact us to learn more at 215-717-2200.

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