Land plats are maps that show how a piece of land is divided into separate lots. If you want to see how your land fits into the surrounding area, you could check out a land plat map. You may receive a copy of this map in the paperwork you get when you buy a house, or you can probably find a copy of the land plat map at your county courthouse.
What Is a Land Plat?
A land plat is a map that engineers, planning departments, and zoning boards use for planning purposes. The land plat map system dates back to early American land ownership; however, most 18th century county maps didn't show land ownership. Published county land ownership maps were introduced in the early 19th century, and county map publishing really began to grow in the 1850s.
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Plat maps are drawn to scale and show how land parcels are separated and divided. Hard copies that you might find at your town/city hall may cover an entire table. Municipal engineers are also likely to use the geographic information system (GIS) that has digital plats in addition to other maps for pinpointing infrastructure and zoning designations. Many plat maps are available to the public online.
Plat maps are popular with genealogists and those doing research on historic sites or environmental impacts. Detailed local and state maps are archived by federal offices.
Researching a Land Plat
Visit the websites for your town and county and search the records or maps section for plats. Plat maps may be incorporated into the assessment listings. Check out a variety of websites that sell plat maps online. Make sure the maps are detailed and have markings for town boundaries and bodies of water.
Town hall, city hall, or county office buildings are the best places to start to see the plat map for the area in which you are interested. Not only should there be large hard copies available but many plats are now on digitized maps. If the locality has a GIS system, an employee can home in on the specific information for which you are looking, ranging from shapes of lots in a subdivision to the actual locations of manholes.
For example, if you want to see a land plat in Maryland, you can go to a website set up by the Maryland state archives. You will be prompted to set up a user name and password, and then you will have access to verified land records in Maryland. The service is free.
More on Plats
A land plat will show you the subdivision of a property in relation to the properties around it, but it's not an official property survey. A plat may help you see your property lines in relation to properties around you. The plat shows the land coordinates, setback lines, and any easements that may be on a piece of land.
To get a survey, you'll need to use a land surveyor who is usually licensed by a state or locality. A plat map can help you in case a neighbor tries to sell off a piece of your property as their own. It will also list your property's dimensions.
Plat maps are public records, so viewing them shouldn't cost anything. If you obtain the plat map for an area containing your property, you can typically find your property using the parcel number, which you should find on your deed.