Many people are confused about the definition of a subdivision. They envision large developments with rows upon rows of tightly packed houses. That is the common conception of a “subdivision” but the actual legal definition of a subdivision in the state of Tennessee is much broader than that:
(B) “Subdivision” means…the division of a tract or parcel of land into two (2) or more lots, sites, or other divisions requiring new street or utility construction, or any division of less than five (5) acres for the purpose, whether immediate or future, of sale or building development, and includes resubdivision and, when appropriate to the context, relates to the process of resubdividing or to the land or area subdivided.
This is true for all but two Tennessee counties (it’s a long story).
In plain English, an owner dividing a tract of land so that a parcel of less than 5 acres results is creating a subdivision. Furthermore, dividing a tract of land so that new road or utility construction is required creates a subdivision.
Why is this important? The law states that anyone creating a “subdivision” is required to record a plat showing the division of land in the office of the County Register in the county where the tract is located.
If someone with 10 acres decides to cut out an acre tract for one of their children, a plat of subdivision must be recorded with the County Register. Failure to do so will result in being unable to get the required permits to build on the land later. Mortgage companies may also refuse to lend money on the tract until it is brought into compliance with the law. Lastly, failure to record a subdivision plat is a misdemeanor offense.
The only way to avoid having to do this is to keep the tract(s) conveyed or created 5 acres or greater in size.
I have often received last minute phone calls from those who ordered a mobile home to be set up on their property after they have been served with a stop work order from the county. The approval process to record the subdivision plat usually takes a minimum of 30 days. It is better to plan ahead.