The term "inside city limits" is not an unfamiliar one, but nailing down its definition can be kind of tricky. City limits are boundaries that define where a city ends. These boundaries are often marked with signs ("You are now entering St. Louis," for example), but these are not always easy to find. If the city (or town) is incorporated, it is also referred to as a municipality. This means that it has a charter from its state as well as elected officials. Unincorporated communities do not have municipal governments but are most often within the administrative and political jurisdiction of counties and states.
Inside City Limits vs. Outside City Limits
All cities have official boundaries for certain purposes, including taxation, and areas that are outside of a city's limits are generally considered to be unincorporated. This makes them fall under their county's jurisdiction when it comes to taxes and laws unless there is another type of local government in place. Unincorporated communities can include obsolete towns that have become part of larger towns, distinct neighborhoods and communities outside of municipalities, such as rural communities.
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Even if a mailing address has the actual name of a city in it, this does not always mean that the property sits inside city limits. It could actually be outside of the boundary but still have that address. This might mean that the property owner may not have access to the same kinds of services that city residents are given. There are easy ways to find out if you live inside city limits or outside of the boundaries.
Using the Internet to Search
One way to see if you live inside city limits is to go to your city's website and to search for "city limits" or "boundary maps." Sites like HomeTownLocator.com also have tools that will bring up boundary maps and demographic data. Simply enter the street address, city and state. You can also Google your city and town, followed by the words "boundary map."
If you can't find the information you need, call your city's zoning, taxation or building inspections department and ask or search for the city tax assessor's website. There may be city boundary maps and other helpful information in your quest. This is the best way to find out whether you live within the city limits, as your local government authorities will have the most up-to-date and accurate information on land ownership.
Living Outside City Limits
Just like anything else, living in an unincorporated area has its good and bad sides. It may provide more opportunity to mow a lawn at 7 a.m. or have a wild party that lasts until the same time if there are no county laws that prohibit either. Living here could also mean less paperwork for home projects and, best of all, lower taxes. Additional perks could include less complicated permitting procedures, less stringent zoning requirements and the freedom to do whatever you want on and to your property – just be sure not to break any state or federal laws!
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On the downside, unincorporated communities may have a lack of infrastructure, especially in more out-of-the-way rural areas. They may also have fewer local government services, like marriage licensing and post offices. That last one can also lead to mail delivery problems as well. Finally, people living in unincorporated communities will not have as much control over certain laws that apply to them, since they follow county and state regulations.
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