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:
- 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?
Here is an example of a legal description that I recently came across on a property my client was looking at:
LOT XX, PLAN XXX, SUBJECT TO LIFE INTEREST AS IN 55853LY; SUBJECT TO 56905LY LONDON/LONDON TOWNSHIP
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.