Metes and bounds

Metes and bounds is a system or method of describing land, real property (in contrast to personal property) or real estate.[1] The system has been used in England for many centuries and is still used there in the definition of general boundaries. The system is also used in the Canadian province of Ontario,[2] and throughout Canada for the description of electoral districts. By custom, it was applied in the original Thirteen Colonies that became the United States and in many other land jurisdictions based on English common law, including Zimbabwe, South Africa, India and Bangladesh.[3] While still in hand-me-down use, this system has been largely overtaken in the past few centuries by newer systems such as rectangular (government survey) and lot and block (recorded plat).

Typically the system uses physical features of the local geography, along with directions and distances, to define and describe the boundaries of a parcel of land. The boundaries are described in a running prose style, working around the parcel in sequence, from a point of beginning, returning to the same point; compare with the oral ritual of beating the bounds. It may include references to other adjoining parcels (and their owners), and it, in turn, could also be referred to in later surveys. At the time the description is compiled, it may have been marked on the ground with permanent monuments placed where there were no suitable natural monuments.

  • Metes refers to a boundary defined by the measurement of each straight run, specified by a distance between the terminal points, and an orientation or direction. A direction may be a simple compass bearing or a precise orientation determined by accurate survey methods.
  • Bounds (Abuttals and boundaries) refer to a more general boundary description, such as along a certain watercourse, a stone wall, an adjoining public road way, or an existing building. The system is often used to define larger pieces of property (e.g. farms) and political subdivisions (e.g. town boundaries) where precise definition is not required or would be far too expensive, or previously designated boundaries can be incorporated into the description.

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