Legal Descriptions Ontario

Understanding Legal Descriptions

What is a legal description exactly?
A written land description which delineates a specific piece of real property.

A legal description of property is a formal and detailed method used to identify pieces of real estate in legal documents. Unlike a street address, which can change, a legal description provides a permanent and unique identifier that precisely outlines the property’s boundaries. In Ontario, these descriptions are crucial for transactions, registrations, and any legal proceedings involving property.

It’s the universal identifier of your property used by all stakeholders who manage land and real property:

  • Deed
  • Parcel Register
  • Other conveyance documents
  • Survey Plans
  • Agreement of Purchase and Sale
  • Property Tax Assessment

There are primarily two types of legal descriptions used in Ontario:

Lot and Plan Descriptions: Most common in urban areas, these descriptions refer to a lot number and plan number registered with the Land Registry Office. For example, “Lot 12, Plan 733, City of Toronto” gives a clear, unambiguous location within a specific plan of subdivision.

Metes and Bounds Descriptions: Used mainly in rural areas or for properties not part of a subdivision plan, metes and bounds descriptions detail the property’s boundaries in terms of measurements (metes) and directions (bounds). This method can be complex, often referencing natural landmarks or other properties as points of reference.

Understanding a legal description requires knowing what each part of the description signifies.

Here’s how to break down and read the two main types:

Descriptions: Start with the plan number to identify the specific subdivision or development map. The lot number then pinpoints the exact parcel of land within that plan. Additional details may include the municipality and sometimes the section or concession in rural areas.

Metes and Bounds Descriptions: Begin by identifying the starting point, often a corner of the property, and follow the sequence of directions and distances around the property’s perimeter back to the starting point. This might include references to geographical features, other lots, or roadways.

PT(S) – Part(s)
LT – Lot
BLK – Block
PL – Plan PCL – Parcel
SEC – Section
LT – Lot
CON – Concession
TWP – Township

What about Easements?

Easements are rights granted to use the property of another for a specific purpose, and they can significantly impact how a property is used or accessed. While not always explicitly detailed in the simplest form of legal descriptions, easements are often referenced or implied within them, especially in more detailed documents or associated records. Here are the different types of easements you might encounter:

RT – Right of Way
ROW – Right of Way
S/T – Subject To
T/W – Together With

  1. Right of Way: Perhaps the most common type, this allows individuals or entities to pass through someone else’s land. It’s often granted for access to utilities, roads, or neighboring properties.
  2. Utility Easements: These allow utility companies to install and maintain utilities like water, electricity, gas lines, and sewer systems on or across a property. They can be specific about the location within the property.
  3. Drainage and Water Easements: These give certain parties the right to use or access a property for drainage purposes or to manage water flow, which is crucial in areas prone to flooding or where water management infrastructure is necessary.
  4. Conservation Easements: Aimed at preserving land in its natural state, these prevent certain types of development on parts of a property to protect the environment, historical sites, or scenic views.
  5. Emergency and Fire Easements: Granted to emergency services, allowing them access to a property in the event of an emergency, ensuring quick response times for fire trucks, ambulances, and other emergency services.
  6. Private Easements: These are established between private parties and can include things like shared driveways or walkways. They’re often set up to allow one property owner access through another’s property.
  7. Prescriptive Easements: Acquired through continuous and open use of property without permission over a period defined by law. This can include paths or roads that have been used publicly without formal agreement.
  8. Avigation Easements: Related to air travel, these allow for the freedom to fly above someone’s property at a certain altitude, and may also permit the noise associated with aircraft taking off and landing.

Understanding the type of easement and its implications is crucial when evaluating a property’s legal description. Easements can affect property value, usage, and your ability to modify or develop your land. Always review a property’s title and associated documents carefully, or consult with a real estate lawyer to understand the impact of any easements on a property you’re considering.

Easements are not always explicitly included in the basic legal description of a property, but they are legally binding and affect the use of the property. Legal descriptions primarily focus on defining the boundaries and location of a parcel of land. Easements, on the other hand, are rights that are typically recorded separately in the property’s title or deed records.

However, easements are an integral part of the property’s title and can significantly impact the property’s use and value. They are typically recorded in public records accessible through the local land registry or county recorder’s office. When a property is transferred or sold, the title search will reveal any existing easements.

While the basic legal description might not detail these easements, they are attached to the property and “run with the land,” meaning they remain in effect regardless of ownership changes. It’s crucial for property buyers or owners to perform a thorough title search and understand any easements that may affect their property rights. For specific details about easements on a property, consulting a real estate attorney or conducting a title search is advisable.

Here is an example of a legal description that I recently came across on a property my client was looking at:

The listing realtor said she had 7 offers so far in hand and not one had asked her about it and she hadn’t noticed it herself when inputting it. 

Why are Legal Descriptions Important?

Legal descriptions provide a definitive way to identify property, crucial in ensuring that transactions are conducted for the correct parcel of land. They are used in a wide range of documents, including deeds, mortgages, and leases, serving as a critical reference point in legal disputes over boundaries or ownership.

Tips for Dealing with Legal Descriptions

  • Verify Accuracy: Always cross-reference legal descriptions with other property documents and maps to ensure accuracy, especially before making any transaction or agreement.
  • Consult Professionals: When in doubt, consult with a legal professional or a land surveyor. They can provide clarity and interpret complex descriptions, ensuring you understand exactly what land is being referred to.
  • Understand Local Variations: Legal descriptions can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. Familiarize yourself with the local conventions in Ontario to better understand these descriptions in your specific area.


Posted in Sold Prices London Ontario.