6 Common Ways Of Marking And Demarcation Of Land Boundaries

By on February 23, 2017

There are 6 common methods of describing a piece of land. However, you should be smart enough to know that different states and countries might practice varying ways to do this.

They may use the same methods but with different terms to describe them. Or even retain the methods but with minor adjustments to better suit local cultures.

For most homeowners, being able to tell which house or area belongs to which location is pretty straight forward and common sense.

But as we all know, common sense is not always acceptable in the court of law.

There are practical reasons for more clarity too.

For example, if you tell a friend that you reside at Liberty, he would be confused at where that is exactly when there is Liberty Street, Liberty Lane, Liberty Crescent, etc. You get the idea.

And sometimes, houses can have one address… yet sit on 2 lots of land. And some single family homes actually have 2 different addresses and postal codes. This can create a nightmare scenario especially for those who make a living calculating your property tax for the year.

The 6 common ways to demarcate land is:

  1. Meets and bounds
  2. Rectangular survey system
  3. Recorded plat
  4. Document reference other than maps
  5. Informal references
  6. Assessor’s parcel number

The first to the fourth methods are usually considered legal descriptions. Meaning they are good enough to specifically identify and describe a piece of land with little to no confusion.

While the last 2 methods are more informal references where representative real estate attorneys often spend years and charge a fortune to challenge each other in court.

1) Meets and bounds

To have a basic understanding of what meets and bounds comprehend, get familiar with the below 3 terms.

  • Natural monumentsM
  • Man-made permanent monuments
  • Compass directions

Natural monuments provide an intuitive way for people to make sense of what area belongs to which piece of land. The best example to illustrate this is a river or narrow water stream that divides up two areas. Obviously, you would be able to tell that those are 2 different locations.

However, nature has it’s way of playing tricks with real estate investors and homeowners. Back to the previous example, riverbanks can erode. Making a blur to the claimants of the land.

To rectify this glitch in marking land, permanent man-made monuments are placed are particular corners of the parcel in question. This “marker” is usually a steel rod or pipe piercing several feet into the ground.

To counteract the possibility that vandals might sabotage the marker by removing or destroying them, it is referenced by a connection line to another permanent reference mark in the vicinity. This will be conducted by a survey agency established by the state.

The parcel will then be officially described in terms of direction and distance. This when the compass plays it’s role.

It is a detailed and in-depth process. It is suggested that you read this up if the meticulous details interest you.

2) Rectangular survey system

This is a system based on using the east-west latitude lines and the north-south longitude lines as imaginary lines to trace out land parcels.

In the US, main longitude lines are marked as principal meridians. An intercepting longitude line on each of this is called a base line. And every 24 miles north and south of base lines are marked as correction lines (standard parallels). Then every 24 miles east and west of of principal meridians are guide meridians.

Confused already? Well… we are just getting started on this one.

There are many more confusing terms like:

  • Range
  • Check
  • Quadrangle
  • Township
  • Section
  • Acre
  • Quarter section
  • etc

Again, if you want to learn deeper into how this works, do visit the library and pick up the official guide to land description.

3) Recorded plat

When a big tract of land is subdivided into lots for residential and commercial real estate, using recorded plat as reference is the easiest and method to describe land that ticks all the boxes.

A plat is basically a legal real estate term for a map. Not just a map though. It is a map that shows the boundaries and location of individual properties. In this sense, maybe it’s more like a blueprint.

Sometimes the recording plat is also called a recorded map, lot-block-tract, or recorded survey.

4) Document reference other than maps

This refer to documents like title deeds and mortgages that contain a full description of the of the particular piece of land.

This is the lazy man’s way of land description. And it’s not surprising that this practice is commonly used these day.

If for example you have already provided a full description (including fixtures) of the parcel in question in the past and filed it with the public records office. You can make a legally binding agreement just by referencing “all the land described in [that document]”.

Although it convenient, it also prevent any party from leaving out details from the original document.

The problem is… whether the original document is clear and specific enough for the average person to understand.

5) Informal references

This is the typical language we use on an everyday basis to describe a place or address.

  • Building name
  • Address
  • The first house along Freedom Avenue
  • etc

Although a lot of people should be able to understand what is being communicated when informal references like these are mentioned, it is never a good dependable manner to apply in real estate contracts.

It’s just not precise enough. And a shark of an attorney would make mince meat out of a claimant using informal references as basis.

6) Assessor’s parcel number

Many counties in the United States have the tax assessor assign parcel numbers to each parcel of land in the county. The main objective is for easier tax collection purposes.

Assessor’s parcel numbers that pinpoint each parcel lot are public information and are often used as reference by real estate professionals in their dealings. These include lawyers, agents, appraisers, investors, etc.

So widely is this practice being used by those in the industry that many actually think that it’s a standard that can be held up unquestionably in court. This especially when the tax collectors are the ones who started the system.

But… do note that they assessor parcel numbers are not the official method of land description.

You can use this for casual communication. But never rely on their to hold up in legal agreements and contracts.

Finally, be reminded that real estate law can differ and vary from county to county, state to state, and country to country. You should always engage a qualified real estate attorney for the most reliable updated information.



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