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How Property Owners Can Face and Resolve Legal Description Issues

Owning and selling property can be rewarding, but sometimes there are challenges that come along with it. Property owners in rural residential areas can face legal description issues when property is sold, purchased, or subdivided. To simplify, a legal description defines the property’s boundaries on the ground.

One common problem we see with a legal description is over time, as owners subdivide their property, the legal descriptions for each conveyance may become inconsistent. The legal descriptions could inadvertently create a gap between the properties or an overlap of the properties, which usually evolves into title problems affecting both properties (see below).

Another common problem we face within a legal description is a conflicting call that prevents land surveyors from determining a precise location on the ground. A good example of this is when the point of beginning of a legal description is at the intersection of a section line and the shoreline of a lake. The point will continuously move with every wave from the body of water. As the water level rises and falls, the entire boundary of the property location shifts. Other common issues include no basis for the bearings, typographical errors, vague descriptions, and descriptions that fail to close. Owners become frustrated by these issues because it means one of their most valuable assets, their property, is not clearly defined. This could delay the ability to buy, sell, or mortgage property, along with increasing the possibility of boundary disputes with neighbors.

Widseth frequently helps property owners in rural residential areas deal with these issues and resolve them. We start by gathering research for the property from the city, township, county, title company, or any other related sources. Then, we conduct a field survey of the property to find evidence of the research records on the ground. After that, we prepare a Certificate of Survey to show the facts found in the field and how they correspond with the record research. Lastly, we offer a solution and work with landowners or a real estate attorney to resolve problems identified on the survey, which may include proposing a new legal description.

If you are thinking about selling property, a Certificate of Survey will uncover troublesome details you may want to resolve prior to a closing. If you are buying, a Certificate of Survey will provide you comfort in knowing exactly what you are purchasing along with exposing any issues that need to be resolved before or at closing. One of Widseth’s professional land surveyors can review your existing legal description and provide an estimate of what it would cost to provide our services. You’ll be confident in knowing the exact locations of your property lines.

If you’re looking to buy, sell, or subdivide your property, contact land surveyor Bryan Balcome, PLS. He’ll review your legal description and help you mend any issues with your property. Bryan recently co-authored the chapter “Legal Description Considerations” in the Minnesota State Bar Association Continuing Legal Education reference book. This chapter offers ways to deal with issues that come up from both a land surveyor and attorney perspective. The book is used by real estate attorneys throughout Minnesota as a go-to reference guide for land issues in Minnesota.