What is a Legal Property Description, Part 2: How is Your Land Defined?

Posted by CourthouseDirect.com Team - 08 June, 2013

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legal property descriptionIn the first part of our series on legal property descriptions, we discussed government land surveys, lots and blocks or platting. But what about street addresses?

In fact, street addresses can change for a variety of reason. The most common reason in recent years is due to the implementation of 911 emergency plans. During the implementation of 911 emergency planning, rural route addresses have been converted to street addresses, and street names are sometimes changed because they are not “through” streets, rather they are streets where there may be a physical gap (such as an un-bridged stream) that would prevent emergency services from efficiently mapping, locating and arriving at the site of the emergency. By changing the street name in these instances, emergency services can use updated mapping to route emergency personnel more efficiently to that distinct location.  

Legal descriptions can change, too, but you must file documentation in the real property records in order for the change to take place. Most commonly, changes to legal descriptions are the result of a new survey of the subject property. Such a survey must be performed by a licensed surveyor. The new legal description must be attached to any documents affecting the subject property, and said documents must be recorded in the real property records of the county in which the subject property is located. Another way to change a legal description is through the recording of a plat. The plat will contain a legal description of the entirety of a tract of land, and most commonly will designate smaller divisions with a Lot & Block type description. This then allows for the use of a much shorter Lot/Block legal description, which essentially refers back to the recorded plat for distinct property location information.  

County Appraisal Districts (CAD) will typically provide a “brief” legal description of the property based upon a cursory review of the recorded deed. The key word here is “brief”. It is merely provided as a reference, and is not intended to be a complete legal description of the subject property. It is also subjective: the legal description attached to a CAD record may have been keyed by someone who is not well versed in legal descriptions, and therefore they may overlook or abbreviate important information related to the distinct legal description of the property. As a result, it is not uncommon to see “brief” legal descriptions attached to CAD records that are somewhat arbitrary with regards to the actual legal description of a particular property. While most brief Lot/Block descriptions may contain enough information to distinctly identify a property, many brief descriptions of acreage property do not provide enough information to be used as a “stand alone” legal description.   

For example:   

“Lot 1 Block 1 Sec 1 Tower Oaks” should provide enough information for the user to distinctly identify a property. It is still not complete a complete legal description, because it lacks the plat reference information. The user is advised to retrieve the complete legal description from the deed record. There have been several instances where the Subdivision Section Number was omitted, or the full name of the Subdivision was incomplete. If that were the case in this example, what would you do if there were multiple Sections of Tower Oaks? What if there was not only a subdivision called Tower Oaks, but another subdivision called Tower Oaks Estates or Tower Oaks Village? The entry of the brief legal in the CAD record is subjective; we cannot rely upon a data entry clerk with the County Appraisal District to capture all of the information necessary to distinctly identify the subject property.  

Another example:  

“5.26 acres A. Viesca Surv. A-510” only provides a bare minimum of information. Which 5.26 acres out of the A. Viesca Survey Abstract No. 510? What if there are multiple properties in that survey that are comprised of 5.26 acres? It will be necessary to obtain the full metes and bounds description in order to distinctly identify the subject property. There are a multitude of instances where the brief legal description in the CAD record could have referenced literally dozens of different properties.  

In summation: The brief legal description attached to a CAD record is there for reference purposes ONLY, and should never be deemed to be sufficient for attachment to recorded legal documents. Anyone who does so runs the risk of having the description deemed “arbitrary” or “indistinct” should the matter become the subject of litigation.  

* Image courtesy of stock.xchng

Topics: Surveying


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