Browse Proptionary encyclopedia

Build your real estate vocabulary to be able to communicate and invest more effectively and professionally.

Common Law Dedication



Property owner’s can dedicate land or a portion of it to the public for a specific purpose through a process known as common law dedication. This may occur in two instances — when a landowner wants to subdivided land and is required to do so as a condition of the subdivision, or when the landowner wishes to grant property for the public to use.

The most common reason a party may grant land for a common law dedication is to fulfill the government’s land dedication requirement for a subdivision. When subdividing land, portions of the land may need to be dedicated to meet the demands for the changes of the proposed subdivision such as the need for an alley, new sidewalk, and others. The developer will be responsible to pay for these costs, even if it beneficial to the state. After the land is dedicated, the city will approve the subdivider’s request to subdivide land into various tracts. The subdivider will not be required to maintain the newly granted land. Government’s impose taxes and use taxpayer money to manage the newly dedicated land.

Example of Common Law Dedication

Ed is a real estate developer and owns a large tract of land that he wishes to subdivide. The government requires Ed to dedicate a portion of the land to the public. Because Ed’s subdivision proposal is to divide the land into four individual parcels of land, the need for an alley behind the land is imperative to dispose of trash and to give each parcel the ability to park their cars in a garage behind the property. Ed agrees to dedicate land to the city, however he is surprised that he is responsible to pay for all the costs associated with dedicating the alley. The alley costs $14,000 to pave and subdivide, a cost Ed was not ready to pay. Furthermore, the government also requires Ed to donate land for new sidewalks and sewer systems to accommodate the increased need for sewage. These costs surpass $25,000.

As can be seen above, the cost to subdivide land can be costly, however it is oftentimes a requirement of a subdivision. While the costs might be expensive, Ed will benefit greatly from the subdivision as it will grant him the right to sell multiple parcels of land or develop multiple houses or buildings. Clearly, the chance to subdivide land into multiple parcels far outweigh the cost of the required land dedication. In a common law dedication, the developer is required to both dedicate land and pay for its development.

Why Land is Required to be Dedicated in Order to Get Subdivision Approval

When a developer wants to construct property on land, the government will verify that the conditions of the city do not change as a result and if they do, the developer will be required to pay for them. The government has police power. Police power gives the local planning office the ability to tax or fee developers into dedicating portions of a land to public use to accommodate the developer’s proposed plans of development. For example, when one property is converted into multiple, the need for vital city services such as sewage, waste disposal, and running water and gas increase. As a prerequisite for the proposed development, the government will require the developer to pay the government for the costs of expenses incurred.