Posted by GL(ON) on July 02, 2002 at 19:27:27:
You do not say where you are, and different places have different rules, so I can only tell you my experience.
All properties are registered by legal description not street address. If you have the street address you can find out the legal description by phoning the tax office. The legal description will be something like Lot 37 Block 29 Jones Plan.
With that, you can ask to see the records. They will give you a big book with all the instruments recorded for that area. You will have to go back through and find the ones that apply to your property.
These will refer to the instruments themselves by number. You can go and get them from a big filing cabinet. You can look up every deed, every mortgage, lein, easement, etc all the way back to the first settlement if you want to.
Sometimes you find some amazing things. The deed may refer to a survey which is on file. Have a look and find out how big the lot really is and where it lies. This is not necessarily what the owner says.
I have also found properties being sold as one lot that were in fact 2 or more separate lots. This is a bonanza, at least around here, because you can sell them off separately without applying for a severance. Dividing lots is an expensive and time consuming business.
It is pretty confusing at first but if there are professional searchers in the room they will probably help you if they have the time. You only need to ask if you have a question.
The clerks will also help you but their time is somewhat limited in a busy office.
It’s best to go in the middle of the month, a lot of transactions go through on the first and they tend to be busiest then.
More modern places are putting their records on computer, which you can access over the internet.