A legal description often is contained in documents of title, such as deeds, describing a property by landmarks or in reference to plats on file at a recorder's office. It's often possible to get a street address from a legal description by checking the map reference against plans held at the tax assessor's office, county planning department or local deeds registry. The street address description usually offers a more useful way of locating a property.
Identify the Property's Legal Description
A property’s “legal description” is a set of data that identifies the location and boundaries of a property. It includes the name of the county in which the property is located and a description of the property in metes and bounds, by subdivision lot, or by reference to surveying lines known as fractional designation. The first step is to identify and isolate the legal description on the document of title that you are using. For example, it may refer to quarters and sections such as "N 1/4 SE 1/2, SW 1/2, S18, T24N, R20E," which references the plat maps where the property can be found. These numbers refer to the Public Land Survey System, which is the mapping system used to record property all across the United States.
Read More: How to Find a Legal Property Description
Visit the Tax Assessor's Office
Bring the address legal description to the local tax assessor's office to find out if they can give you the street address for the property. Particularly if you own the property, this option may be successful. Depending on your locality, the assessor's office may have a database which is cross-referenced by legal description and address. In some of the more technologically advanced areas such as Clark County, Nevada, the assessor's office will have an online website where you can very easily use such information as parcel numbers and subdivision names to look up a property and see the address. You can find your tax assessor by performing an Internet search with the term "tax assessor's office" and the name of your county.
Visit the County Planning and Zoning Department
Take the legal description to the planning and zoning department or the map division of the county recorder's office and ask if they can pull the plat map based on your legal description. The plat map is public record and, depending on the mapping technique used, it may give you the address of the property. At the very least, it should give you the street name for the property based on the legal description.
Search at the County Recorder's Office
Bring the legal description and the document of title from which you got the description to the county recorder's office. Ask for assistance in doing a title search so that you can pull old deeds on the property. Sometimes former deeds for a property will have a street address even when more recent ones have only a legal description.
To figure out an address using the property's legal description, head to the tax assessor, county planner or local register of deeds to look at the plans and maps.
- This article is meant as general information only and is in no way a substitute for advice by qualified counsel.
Kimberly Best has been writing on law, art, and travel for 16 years. She has worked with a variety of professional platforms including the Art Newspaper and the New York Public Radio.