A lot number is a number which is assigned to a lot of land within the context of a subdivision. Lot numbers are part of the so-called "lot and block" survey system, which is used to identify land which has been broken up into a number of smaller units. Lot numbers and assessor's parcel numbers (APNs) are both used to refer to lots of land, but the numbers used for the same piece of land will be different because different recordkeeping systems are involved.
When land is subdivided, it is broken into blocks, divided by streets and other thoroughfares, and each block is divided further into lots. The lots may be identified with numbers or letters. The lot number allows someone to identify a lot of land within a subdivision.
It is necessary to have a map of the subdivision to find the lot a specific number is referring to. The lot number does not convey additional information like the size of the lot, the zoning, and so forth; this information must be gleaned from the documentation for the individual lot. Maps of subdivisions show the outlines of the lots, with each being assigned a number. This allows people to identify lots quickly and easily — someone can say "Lot 25" instead of "the lot two houses down from the corner of Spruce and Waybrook Streets," for example. In formal documentation related to the lot, the lot number may be used as an identifier.
While land is in development, it is not uncommon to use lot numbers to refer to individual lots. Once structures are built and addresses are assigned, people may prefer to use addresses, rather than lot numbers, to refer to their property. In written descriptions of the property, the address and the lot number will both be included, along with other data to ensure that the lot is described fully and completely and to eliminate any confusion about boundaries, the precise location, and other information.
Assessor's parcel numbers also refer to lots, except that they do not use the lot number as an identifier. Instead, the APN is a code which reveals where information about that lot is recorded. Every assessor's office works differently, but the APN usually consists of a string of letters and sometimes numbers which tells people which record book the entry can be found in, and which entry is being referred to.
When and How To Find Lot Number of a Property
Although a lot number alone does not reveal the most essential information about a piece of property, homeowners may need to know their lot number to access detailed property information. Owners commonly need such information if they are planning to expand the building that sits on a piece of property, construct boundaries along property lines or make similar structural changes. Once a structure on a property has been constructed, it is assigned a street address and will no longer be commonly referred to by its lot number, so it may take some research to find this information.
Check the Property Deed
The simplest way to find a property lot number is to check the deed. A property deed usually consists of two parts: a portion that confers ownership of the property and a section that lists detailed information about the property's tax status, size of the lot, official measurements and landmark descriptions. A deed will also list a property's lot and block number.
When a property is fully paid for, the owners are given an official copy of the deed for record-keeping purposes and will have easy access to all the information contained in the documentation. However, when a property has a lien on it, the lien-holder keeps the deed until the debt is paid. Property owners may find themselves in a catch-22 in which they need their deed to discover their lot number, but may well need their lot or parcel number to get access to their deed. In these situations, it may be necessary to pursue an alternative course of action.
Visit the County Assessor Website
Property information, deeds, tax information and other details are often maintained on a county level rather than a city level. The best place to start researching a property lot number is to navigate to the county assessor's website. Frequently, the county has online forms and tools to guide visitors to the details they need, often with as little information as the property address. Depending on the county in which a person resides and the regulations in place, this process can be as simple as filling out an online form or it can require a more strenuous approval process that requires the seeker to provide more detailed information.
Contact Officials in Person
Smaller counties may not have a robust site that offers the convenience of online search tools. In this instance, property owners need to contact the assessor's office by phone or in person to find out what processes it has in place to obtain a lot number. In some cases, it is the city that handles these records rather than the county, and a good first contact is to reach out to city hall to begin the search.
Can Property Owners Subdivide Their Own Lots?
This seems like a simple question, but the answer is complex. The determination of lots within a lock and block system is a multistep legal process. Individual owners may be able to replicate that process on a smaller scale, but they need to do a fair amount of research on restrictions to be certain.
Not investigating deed restrictions is a common mistake made by individuals and investors. Simply purchasing a property does not mean that owners can then do with that property whatever they wish. Most deeds have some restrictions written into them. There may be restrictions on several elements of a property, including:
- Size and extent of building expansions or additions
- Limitations on physical structures such as fencing
- Addition or removal of landscaping or trees
- Guidelines on aesthetic choices such as exterior paint colors
- Rezoning restrictions
- Ability to subdivide the property
Deed restrictions can be challenged, but the process can be lengthy and expensive. All potential property owners should be proactive in researching any restrictions written into the deeds of property they intend to buy, especially on older properties and structures when the restrictions may be unknown even to the seller.
State and Local Restrictions
If a property is free of any deed restrictions that inhibit subdivision, an owner then needs to investigate whether any state, county or city regulations will inhibit the process. It is advisable to retain the services of a professional well-versed in local real estate law to help at this point. Legal professionals have a base of knowledge that an owner lacks. Additionally, should everything work out in an owner's favor, he or she will need professional guidance in moving forward with the subdivision of property. This is a lengthy process that includes receiving government approval and generating new lot assignments and deeds for each separate parcel of land.