Title companies insure ownership and other encumbrances recorded on a lot. They do not make a binding determination as to whether a lot was legally created. Only the County can make this determination. A title company may ask the County for verification that a title transfer created a legal lot, but this does not always happen.
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A lot is a unit of land, which has an identifiable area and boundary description.
Lots are created by division of an existing lot into two or more lots, in a process commonly called a subdivision. A division may occur upon recording a map approved by the County or by transfer of a portion of a lot for sale, financing, lease or gift.
For example, if the owner of an existing lot sold half of it and retained the other half, the sale would create two new lots, but not necessarily legal lots if not done pursuant to an approved map.
A lot is a legal lot when created in compliance with the State Subdivision Map Act and the Nevada County Subdivision Ordinance. In general, a legal lot is either a lot whose creation was reviewed and approved by Nevada County under the regulations in effect at the time of its creation or a lot which was created through separate conveyance before such a division was regulated, into four or fewer new lots before March 4, 1972. Lots that are shown on a recorded final map, parcel map, or official map are generally considered legal lots.
In general, an illegal lot is one that was created without having been formally reviewed and approved by the appropriate County agencies when required.
State law requires that the County take steps to notify the public when it learns of illegal lots. Following proper notice and hearing respecting an illegal lot, the County must record a Notice of Violation with the Office of the Nevada County Recorder. The County may enforce various other provisions of law respecting the creation, use, development and conveyance of illegal lots.
The use, development and conveyance of illegal lots are subject to numerous restrictions. For example:
State law requires that the County regulate and control the subdivision of land so that lot size, streets, water supply, drainage, sewage disposal, fire access and other factors associated with good subdivision planning can be provided and public health and safety assured. These factors are not usually provided when land is illegally divided.
The Assessor identifies parcels and assigns them a number for appraisal and tax purposes only.
An Assessor's Parcel is not necessarily a legal lot. A single legal lot may be assigned several Assessor Parcel numbers. The Office of the County Assessor is not required to follow legal lot boundaries and is not directly involved in the process of approving subdivisions.
Illegal lots are generally created because County approval was not sought in advance. Thus, the County usually finds out about illegal lots at a later date when the owner wants to do something on or to the lot that requires existence of a legal lot, to obtain a building permit, for example. One illegal lot in any given area can, upon investigation, lead to a "chain-reaction" involving discovery of other lots that were illegally created in that area.
There are several remedies in addition to recording a Notice of Violation that are available to the County when it becomes aware of an illegal lot. They include a suit for declaratory relief or to enjoin the violation and the County can request that a criminal compliant be filed. However, the most practical and useful tool is to withhold permits and approvals and to process a Notice of Violation, which will usually compel correction of the violation.
Rest assured that Nevada County tries to help citizens. There are many innocent purchasers of illegally created lots. The County's primary objective is to assure an orderly development of these lots.
In some cases it may be possible to void the sale and recover costs and damages; this is a complicated legal matter about which you may want to seek advice from an attorney experienced in land division law. People who engage in illegal subdivision activity may also be subject to prosecution.
You can apply to the Planning Department for a Conditional Certificate of Compliance (CCofC). Issuance and recordation of a CCofC can legalize a lot for purposes of sale, lease or financing. The CCofC identifies the conditions and improvements required before any development is permitted on the property. These conditions may include all the improvements (e.g., roads, water) that would have been required on the date the innocent purchaser acquired interest in the property; and in most cases, the lot must meet current standards, including lot size. ALL conditions must be met before any development can occur on the property.
A CCofC generally imposes the same requirements for development that would have been imposed if the property had been properly subdivided and the cost and timing are similar. The CCofC identifies the conditions and improvements required before any development can occur on the property.
No. If you do not have current plans to build or sell, you may wish to wait until a later date to "legalize" your lot. Any delay may cause additional conditions to be imposed and may affect marketability. Most owners, however, want to resolve the matter at the earliest possible time.
Buyers can ask the sellers to provide a recent Certificate of Compliance or Conditional Certificate of Compliance prior to purchase if the lot is not shown on a County approved and recorded map.
Contact Nevada County Planning Department staff for information on legal lot status by calling 530-265-1222, or writing the Planning Department of the Community Development Agency at:950 Maidu AvenueSuite 170Nevada City, CA 95959