Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Virginia

Legal Definition of Term

In the State of Virginia, is there a numeric definition of the term ''more or less'' when describing the amount of acreage of unimproved land? That is, if land is advertised as ''20 acres more or less,'' is there a legal limit (a specific + or -, or even a stated percentage) to avoid a claim of misreprentation? In the example cited, would 1% be an acceptable variation from the declared 50 acres; would 3% be OK? Etc.

Asked on 7/23/01, 2:11 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Glenn R. Tankersley Regency Legal Clinic

Re: Legal Definition of Term

Fascinating question!

The term "more or less" is, forgive the pun, more or less meant to protect the surveyor who drew the plat from being held accountable for slight differences in acreage.

Having lived and practiced law in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, I can illustrate the point perfectly.

An acre on perfectly flat land is 208 and a fraction feet times 208 and a fraction feet or something just over 43000 square feet.

An acre on slanted land is, more or less (forgive the pun), exactly the same. But, when you are measuring that acre by certain specific points, an oak tree, an iron rod, a large stone, or the like. If the land shifts, I mean by, for instance, filling in part of a hollow with dirt and rocks taken from a strip mine on the side of a nearby mountain, then the iron pin, large stone or oak tree are still in the same place for the surveyor but the amount of acreage has shifted. Uh, more or less.

Get the idea?

Which proves that surveyors are practical people who realize that nothing in life is absolutely certain, least of all the measurement of acreage in the mountains. They take the sort of approach the great Scottish philosopher David Hume propounded: All we know is from the use of our five senses and the information they feed our brains is, shall we say, incomplete. Therefore, we can never "know" the absolute truth because our senses are limited in scope and ability. So, we have to approach life with a, more or less, flexible attitude.

See, we mountain people are philosophers as well as pragmatists. More or less, that is.

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Answered on 7/23/01, 5:15 pm

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