A plat map is usually drawn to scale and is an official record of how a tract of land is divided. A plat map typically describes a piece of land by its lot, street and block numbers. It typically shows the size of the land, its boundaries, flood zones, nearby streets, alleys, easements and the rights of use over nearby lands.
Plats are typically created by registered surveyors or civil engineers after which they are filed with the appropriate local authorities. In most cases, the local planning department is in charge of receiving plat applications, which are then reviewed by the planning and zoning commission before being approved.
Uses of a Plat Map
You typically receive a plat map as part of the paperwork included when buying a home, a piece of land, or any type of property as it is one of the documents generated by a title search. You should always conduct a title search whenever you are buying land or property in order to verify whether the seller has a legal right to convey the property.
You also need a plat map for the legal subdivision of a tract of land into lots for building homes, or for other purposes. A plat will also reveal the exact size of the lot you are buying, which in some cases might be different from what the seller has described.
Don’t Confuse a Plat with a Plot
Although the terms plat and plot both refer to pieces of land and sound very similar, they are not substitutes. This is because a plat is a map that describes a large area such as a neighborhood, while a plot basically describes a piece of land that is used for a single purpose such as a home. Simply put, a plat describes a neighborhood that is composed of many plots.
Types of Plats
Each local authority might require different types of plats according to the local government codes and subdivision ordinances, but the three most common types of plats are:
Administrative and Final Plats: these types of plats are typically required for tracts of land that have never ben platted. Administrative plats are minor plats that can be approved through administrative actions without involving the planning and zoning commission. However, final plats must be approved by the appropriate governing authority.
Replats: these are needed whenever you want to alter lot lines, remove easements, or to change platted building lines on a piece of land that is already platted. A replat is needed in situations where you want to construct a building that crosses a lot line. In such cases, you need to apply for a replat that combines the two lots into one. The zoning department is required to approve replats.
Preliminary Plats: these are required whenever you want to subdivide land into 5 or more subdivisions. These plats allow the staff at the zoning authority to assess the layout of the lots and the street patterns to ensure that they comply with all the applicable local regulations.
NB: This is not a comprehensive list of all the different types of plats as there are many more, wich differ based on the regulations set by the local planning and zoning authorities.
Information Contained In a Plat Map
The plat map that you get when you purchase a home typically includes information such as the street number for the lot, the parcel number, which is usually in the middle of the lot, and the builder’s lot number. The lot dimensions are usually written along the property boundaries.
The Importance of Reading a Plat Map
Firstly, the plat map gives an accurate picture of the lot you are buying and this can help you when planning how to utilize the property.
Plat maps usually include the directional orientation of a lot in terms of the compass directions such as East, West, North and South. Such directions are vital if you want to erect a building that faces a particular direction for benefits such as morning sunshine and solar power generation.
The maps typically indicate whether there are any easements on a particular lot, which could save you from buying a lot with a portion that is earmarked for future roads of public spaces.
Why You Should Hire a Surveyor
You should always hire a professional surveyor to establish the actual size and boundaries of a lot that you intend to buy despite having obtained a plat map of the area. This is important because in many cases improvements could have been made to an area, which might not be reflected on the plat map depending on when it was created and approved.
A professional survey will help you determine whether the lot you want to buy is the size described in the plat map and more importantly to confirm whether the property you want to build is legally allowed to be on the lot.
Most local authorities only issue building permits for lots that have been platted. This means that you might not get a permit to build on land that is described using metes and bounds, otherwise known as geographical references.