Descriptions, Legal: Overview

Legal descriptions come in many different forms: lot/block, unit/phase, sectional, metes and bounds, reference to a recorded plat, and other types. The legal description to property is considered to be sufficient if the property can be identified and located by a surveyor. 


The type of legal description most common in or around metropolitan areas will be by reference to a recorded plat. Lots or in the case of condominiums units, will typically be described as lot or unit number, block or phase number, subdivision name and plat recording reference. References should be made to all of these items. A recorded survey may serve as an insurable legal description provided it is certified by a licensed surveyor and there are provisions for this type of description in your jurisdiction. 


With respect to metes and bounds descriptions, if the current legal description differs from the description contained in the prior recorded document, the difference may stem from the fact that the lands to be insured have been carved out of a larger parcel of land (current parcel is smaller than prior parcel) or that more than one parcel has been combined either as contiguous parcels or with new legal descriptions encompassing the combined smaller parcels. Also, through time and with advancing technology, surveying equipment and methods have become more accurate. The accuracy of the equipment and the surveyors may vary, giving different results, which must be reconciled before the land can be insured. It is important to make sure the entire property has been searched in the public records. 


When dealing with metes and bounds descriptions, one should be able to trace from the point of beginning through all calls and end at the point of beginning without lifting pen from paper; if a break occurs, the legal description should be reverified by a surveyor or engineer. If the parcel does not close, running the description in reverse may help to locate the problem. As to all legals metes and bounds, lot/block, unit/phase the legal description set forth in the contract, loan closing instructions, title commitment, deed, mortgage, other applicable documents, and final title policies should be the same. Any discrepancies in the description should be corrected and applicable documents should be amended and initialed, as needed, to bring them into conformity.