June 26, 2023


Correct and legally binding property descriptions are crucial in the real estate industry. However, a small mistake or an insignificant error can cause a significant setback for individuals involved in the transaction. This is where the concept of incorrect legal descriptions of the property comes into play.

It refers to a condition when the official documents describing the property have inaccurate information, leading to disputes and legal challenges. In this article, we will explore the causes, impact, and measures to prevent incorrect legal descriptions of the property.

Overview of Incorrect Legal Descriptions

What Are Incorrect Legal Descriptions of Property?

Incorrect legal descriptions of the property refer to errors in the written description that outlines the boundaries and characteristics of a property. A legal description typically includes information such as the property’s dimensions, geographic location, and any buildings or fixtures on the property. Accurate legal descriptions are essential for a variety of legal actions, including buying and selling property, transferring deeds, and resolving disputes.

Errors in legal descriptions can result in legal disputes, misaligned property boundaries, and even loss of property ownership. Identifying and correcting these mistakes can be a complex and time-consuming process that requires the expertise of professionals such as surveyors, attorneys, and real estate agents.

Importance of Accurate Legal Descriptions of Property

The importance of having accurate legal descriptions of a property cannot be overstated. These descriptions are a fundamental element of real estate law and are necessary for establishing clear title to land. They provide an essential framework for identifying and describing property boundaries, corners, easements, and other important elements of a parcel of land.

Accurate legal descriptions are essential for property transactions, boundary disputes, zoning cases, and other legal matters that involve real property. Property owners, real estate agents, attorneys, and surveyors rely on them to protect property rights and avoid costly errors.

Causes of Incorrect Legal Descriptions of Property

Incorrect legal descriptions of the property are often a result of various contributing factors. One of the most significant causes is human error, either during the initial drafting of the legal description or during subsequent revisions. This can happen when the description is typed incorrectly or when the individual responsible for drafting it fails to accurately record the property’s legal boundaries.

Additionally, the use of outdated or incomplete records or maps can result in an incorrect legal description. Often, these errors are not discovered until a legal dispute arises, causing significant delays or even loss of property rights. In some cases, fraud or misrepresentation by one party may lead to an incorrect legal description, intentionally or unintentionally.

Other causes may include lapses in due diligence by attorneys, surveyors, or title companies, and inconsistent legal descriptions in prior deeds or land records. Regardless of the cause, the importance of accurate legal descriptions cannot be overstated, as they form the foundation of property transactions, boundary disputes, and land use decisions.

Types of Incorrect Legal Descriptions

Errors in Metes and Bounds

The physical description of a property is critical to ensure its accurate identification and ownership. Mistakes in the physical description may occur due to various reasons, such as errors in surveying equipment, lack of precision in measurements, and incorrect record-keeping. These mistakes can result in disputes over property ownership, misaligned property boundaries, or lost assets.

One common type of error is Mistakes in Metes and Bounds. Metes and bounds is a survey system that uses physical features to define property boundaries. Mistakes in metes and bounds may occur when monuments, such as trees or rocks, used to define the property boundaries have been removed or destroyed, or if an error occurred in the measurement process.

The incorrect description of the property’s physical boundaries may lead to disputes between neighboring properties and may also impact the value of the property. Therefore, it is essential to employ a professional land surveyor to avoid mistakes in the physical description of the property, particularly Mistakes in Metes and Bounds.

Errors in Lot and Block

Errors in Lot and Block refer to inaccuracies in the recorded plat map of the property, which divides the land into individual lots and blocks. These mistakes can occur during the surveying phase, where the boundaries of a lot or block are incorrectly marked or measured. Errors can also arise during the re-recording of the plat map, where mistakes are made in copying or transferring information.

When mistakes occur in the recorded plat map, it can lead to legal disputes, as the recorded boundaries do not match the actual property boundaries. This can result in the incorrect allocation of property taxes, boundary disputes with neighboring properties, and difficulty selling or financing the property.

To rectify Errors in Lot and Block, property owners may need to seek the assistance of a land surveyor or real estate attorney to resolve any disputes and ensure the accuracy of the recorded plat map. Property owners should also take preventative measures such as regularly checking the recorded plat map for any inaccuracies and addressing them promptly.

Errors in Street Address

Mistakes in the address of the property can cause significant issues during a real estate transaction, as this is the primary means of identifying the location of the property. Errors in the street address can occur for a variety of reasons, including typos, incorrect information provided by the seller or agent, and changes in address numbering or street names.

Even minor errors, such as transposing numbers or misspelling street names, can lead to potential confusion and delays in completing the transaction. It is crucial for both buyers and sellers to verify the accuracy of the street address and confirm it with the county records to avoid any potential legal or financial ramifications.

Errors in Assessor’s Parcel Number

Errors in Assessor’s Parcel Number refer to mistakes made when assigning identification numbers to properties by the assessor’s office. These identification numbers are crucial for identifying and assessing properties accurately, and any errors in them can lead to various legal issues. These errors can stem from data entry errors, inadequate software, or incorrect interpretation of legal descriptions.

The consequences of these errors can be significant since they can cause discrepancies in property values, resulting in improper taxation. Moreover, these errors can cause hindrances in real estate transactions, title clearances, and land surveys, leading to significant financial and legal losses for property owners.

Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the assessor’s office provides accurate and reliable identification numbers for all properties in their jurisdiction. Property owners should periodically check their identification numbers and work with the assessor’s office to correct any inaccuracies promptly. Additionally, property owners can seek legal help in case of severe discrepancies, ensuring that their legal rights are protected throughout the process.

Consequences of Incorrect Legal Descriptions

Title Issues

The issue of incorrect legal descriptions of property can lead to a variety of Title Issues that can significantly impact the ability to transfer ownership or obtain financing. These Title Issues can arise from mistakes in recording the property’s boundaries, mistakes in drafting the property’s legal description, or discrepancies between the legal description and the physical characteristics of the property.

Inaccuracies in the legal description of the property can also lead to disputes between buyers and sellers, potentially leading to legal battles that can be costly and time-consuming. Therefore, individuals involved in any transaction involving real property should be aware of the potential Title Issues that can arise from incorrect legal descriptions of the property. Understanding the potential risks can help individuals avoid costly mistakes and ensure a smooth and efficient transfer of property ownership.

Boundary Disputes

Boundary disputes are a common issue in the realm of property ownership. These disputes typically arise when there is disagreement between neighboring property owners on the exact location of their property lines. This can lead to conflicts over the use of land as well as legal issues with transferring ownership or obtaining financing.

It is important to note that boundary disputes can arise for a variety of reasons, including inaccurate legal descriptions of the property, surveying errors, and disagreements over historical property use.

In order to resolve these disputes, property owners may need to hire legal representation or seek out alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration. It is also important for property owners to conduct their due diligence before purchasing or developing a property to ensure all legal descriptions and boundaries are accurate and up to date.

Zoning and Land Use Issues

Zoning and land use issues are crucial considerations when assessing the legal description of a property. Municipalities establish zoning laws to regulate land use and development so as to maintain the safety, health, and welfare of the community and protect the environment. Adherence to zoning regulations is essential when purchasing or selling a property to ensure compliance and avoid disputes and penalties.

Failing to comply with zoning laws can result in the inability to obtain proper permits, unfavorable rulings and injunctions, and even legal action. Zoning enforcement officials can issue citations, levy fines, or even require demolition or modifications to a property that does not adhere to regulations, leading to considerable financial losses for the property owners.

Additionally, zoning issues can affect the value and marketability of the property, as limitations on the use and development can reduce its appeal to potential buyers or investors. It is critical to consult with legal counsel and zoning experts to ensure that a property follows local regulations before transferring ownership or obtaining financing.

Taxation Issues

One of the most significant issues concerning property ownership is taxation. It can be a nightmare for owners, especially when there are mistakes in property tax assessments. Mistakes in assessments can occur when there are errors in the legal description of the property. In such instances, the assessor might calculate the wrong amount for taxes, which would undoubtedly be an unfair burden on the property owner.

Incorrect legal descriptions can arise due to typographical errors and even due to insufficient research on the property. Some properties have complex legal descriptions that make them challenging to assess, which might result in mistakes in the final tax assessment. These issues can lead to disputes between the property owner and the assessor, which might eventually lead to legal action if not resolved.

Prevention and Remedies for Incorrect Legal Descriptions

Title Insurance

In the real estate industry, a Title Insurance policy is a crucial component of any property transaction. It is designed to offer protection against losses incurred from issues that arise from incorrectly described legal descriptions of the property. These can include errors in deeds, omissions in surveys, encroachments, and other matters that could impact the property’s marketability and owner’s possession rights.

To mitigate these risks, title insurance policies offer indemnification to the policyholder up to the policy amount, which is typically equal to the purchase price of the property. The policyholders are required to pay a onetime premium, which covers them for the duration of their ownership or as long as the lender’s mortgage remains active. Title insurance policies are a one-time purchase and do not require renewal.

Boundary Surveys

Boundary Surveys are crucial in accurately determining property boundaries because a legal description error can lead to conflicts with neighbors, city officials, or even the government. Boundary Surveys are professional surveys conducted by licensed surveyors, and they use the legal description of the property to create a precise plot plan that shows the exact boundaries of the property.

A Boundary Survey is essential in preventing disputes that can arise due to incorrect legal descriptions, and it helps to resolve them in case they arise. Additionally, it can also reveal encroachments from neighboring properties, which can be a problem if not dealt with appropriately. A Boundary Survey can provide the peace of mind that the property boundaries are accurate and in accordance with the legal description.

Legal Action

Legal Action is a legal remedy that can be pursued when there is an issue with the legal description of a property. When a property owner discovers that there is an incorrect legal description of their property, they may be entitled to sue for damages. Legal action can also be pursued by other interested parties, such as neighbors or potential buyers who have been affected by the incorrect legal description.

The legal action process can be complex, and it is important to consult with an experienced attorney who has expertise in property law and litigation. In order to prevail in a legal action, the property owner must be able to demonstrate that they have suffered harm as a result of the incorrect legal description.

In some cases, legal action may result in a court ordering a correction to the legal description. This can involve amending the deed or other recorded documents related to the property. However, even if the court orders a correction, it is important to obtain title insurance to protect against future losses.

In addition to lawsuits, there are alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation and arbitration, which can be more effective and less expensive than litigation. Property owners should consider all available options and consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action.

Amendments and Corrections

The subsection of Amendments and Corrections is an essential legal process that updates and corrects recorded documents, including the incorrect legal description of the property. Property owners or lenders may require amendments and corrections to rectify any errors in the legal document to ensure their property rights or to resolve legal disputes. The process requires legal paperwork and must be executed and recorded according to state and local laws.

The corrected documents will then be updated in the local records office, ensuring the new legal description is accurate and legally binding. The legal description of the property is vital because it clarifies the specific location and boundaries of the property, and any errors may lead to an erroneous or adverse claim by another party. Hence, property owners must regularly check their legal documents and seek legal advice if any discrepancies arise to avoid any legal or financial losses.

Incorrect Legal Descriptions FAQs

1. What are incorrect legal descriptions of the property?

Incorrect legal descriptions of the property refer to the inaccurate or incomplete description of a property on legal documents, which may result in legal disputes and confusion over property ownership or boundaries.

2. Why are accurate legal descriptions important for property owners?

Accurate legal descriptions are essential for property owners because they determine the boundaries of their property, their rights as owners, and their liabilities. Inaccurate descriptions can lead to problems in selling, developing or using the property.

3. What are the consequences of incorrect legal descriptions of the property?

The consequences of incorrect legal descriptions of a property range from simple inconvenience to severe legal entanglement. Property ownership disputes as well as inability to finance, develop, or sell the property can result from inaccurate descriptrions.

4. Who is responsible for correcting incorrect legal descriptions of the property?

The person responsible for correcting incorrect legal descriptions of the property is usually the property owner or the party committing the error. In some cases, a surveyor or an attorney may need to correct the mistake with professional advice.

5. Can incorrect legal descriptions of the property be corrected?

Yes, incorrect legal descriptions of the property can be corrected. Corrective actions may include hiring a surveyor or attorney to fix the mistake, filing a correction deed, or petitioning a court to revise the description.

6. What should property owners do if they suspect incorrect legal descriptions of their property?

When a property owner suspects incorrect legal descriptions of their property, they should verify the description through a surveyor or title company. If an error occurs, the owner should take steps to correct the description to avoid any legal or financial problem that may result.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

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