File:Entering Heinola, Minnesota.jpg, Sign at Heinola, Minnesota, Heinola, an unincorporated community in Otter Tail County, Minnesota An unincorporated area is a region not governed by a local municipal corporation. Similarly, an unincorporated community is a Human settlement, settlement not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but is administered as part of larger administrative divisions, such as a township, Parish (administrative division), parish, borough, county, city, Canton (country subdivision), canton, Federated state, state, province, or country. Occasionally, municipalities Dissolution (law), dissolve or disincorporate, which may happen if they become fiscally Insolvency, insolvent, and services become the responsibility of a higher administration. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Canada. Most other countries of the world have either no unincorporated areas at all, or these are very rare; typically remote, outlying, sparsely populated, or List of uninhabited regions, uninhabited areas.

By country


In Argentina, the provinces of Chubut Province, Chubut, Córdoba Province (Argentina), Córdoba, Entre Ríos Province, Entre Ríos, Formosa Province, Formosa, Neuquén Province, Neuquén, Río Negro Province, Río Negro, San Luis Province, San Luis, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, Santa Cruz, Santiago del Estero Province, Santiago del Estero, Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina, Tierra del Fuego, and Tucumán Province, Tucumán have areas that are outside any municipality or commune.


Unlike many other countries, Australia has only local government in Australia, one level of local government immediately beneath states and territories of Australia, state and territorial governments. A local government area (LGA) often contains several towns and even entire cities. Thus, aside from very sparsely populated areas and a few other special cases, almost all of Australia is part of an LGA. Unincorporated areas are often in remote locations, cover vast areas, or have very small populations. Postal addresses in unincorporated areas, as in other parts of Australia, normally use the Suburbs and localities (Australia), suburb or locality names gazetted by the relevant state or territorial government. Thus, any ambiguity regarding addresses rarely exists in unincorporated areas. Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia are entirely partitioned into LGAs and have no unincorporated areas.

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has no municipalities. The Government of the Australian Capital Territory, territorial government is directly responsible for matters normally carried out by a local government. In some countries, this arrangement would be referred to as a unitary authority, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics refers to the whole of the ACT as an unincorporated area.

New South Wales

The far west and north of New South Wales constitutes the Unincorporated Far West Region, which is sparsely populated and barely warrants an elected council. A civil servant in the state capital manages such matters as are necessary. The second unincorporated area of this state is Lord Howe Island.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, 1.45% of the total area and 4.0% of the population are in unincorporated areas, including the Unincorporated Top End Region (the largest), Northern Territory Rates Act Area, areas covered by the ''Northern Territory Rates Act'', Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory, Nhulunbuy, the community of Alyangula, Northern Territory, Alyangula on Groote Eylandt in the northern region, and Yulara, Northern Territory, Yulara in the southern region.

South Australia

In South Australia, 60% of the area is unincorporated and communities located within can receive municipal services provided by a state agency, the Outback Communities Authority.


Victoria (Australia), Victoria has 10 small Local government in Victoria#Unincorporated areas, unincorporated areas, which are either small islands directly administered by the state or ski resorts administered by state-appointed management boards.


In Canada, depending on the province, an unincorporated settlement is one that does not have a municipal council that governs solely over the settlement. It is usually, but not always, part of a larger municipal government. This can range from being a small Hamlet (place), hamlet to being a large urbanized area that is similar in size to a town or city. For example, were they incorporated, the urban service areas of Fort McMurray in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Sherwood Park in Strathcona County would be the List of cities in Alberta#List of cities, fifth- and sixth-largest cities in Alberta. In British Columbia, unincorporated settlements lie outside municipal boundaries entirely, and are administered directly by regional/county-level governments similar to the American system. Unincorporated settlements with a population between 100 and 1,000 residents may have the status of designated place in Canadian census data.More information on Designated place
Statistics Canada. 2009.
In some provinces, large tracts of undeveloped wilderness or rural country are Unorganized area (Canada), unorganized areas that fall directly under the provincial jurisdiction. Some unincorporated settlements in such unorganized areas may have some types of municipal services provided to them by a quasigovernmental agency such as a local services board (Ontario), local services board in Ontario. In New Brunswick, where a significant population lives in a Local service district (New Brunswick), local service district, taxation and services may come directly from the province.

Czech Republic

The entire area of the Czech Republic is divided into municipalities (Obec, ''obce'', sg. ''obec''), with the only exception being four Proving ground, military areas. These are parts of the Regions of the Czech Republic, regions and do not form self-governing municipalities, but are rather governed by military offices (''újezdní úřad''), which are subordinate to the Ministry of Defence (Czech Republic), Ministry of Defence. :† Brdy Military Area was abandoned by the Czech Army, army in 2015 and converted into Landscape park (protected area), Landscape park, with its area being incorporated either into existing municipalities or municipalities newly established from the existing settlements. The other four Military Areas were reduced in size in 2015 too. The decisions on whether the settlements join existing municipalities or form new ones are decided in plebiscites.


Since Germany has no administrative level comparable to the townships of other countries, the vast majority of the country, close to 99%, is organized in Gemeinde (Germany), municipalities (German: ''Gemeinde'', plural ''Gemeinden''), often consisting of multiple settlements that are not considered to be unincorporated. Because these settlements lack a council of their own, usually an ''Ortsvorsteher'' or ''Ortsvorsteherin'' (village chairman / chairwoman) is appointed by the municipal council, except in the very smallest villages. In 2000, the number of unincorporated areas in Germany, called ''gemeindefreie Gebiete'' (municipality-free areas) or singular ''gemeindefreies Gebiet'', was 295 with a total area of 4,890.33 km2 and around 1.4% of its territory. However, these are mostly unpopulated areas such as forests, lakes and their surroundings, military training areas, and the like. , Germany had 248 uninhabited unincorporated areas (of which 214 are located in Bavaria), not belonging to any municipality, consisting mostly of forested areas, lakes, and larger rivers. Also, three inhabited unincorporated areas existed, all of which served as military training areas: Osterheide and Lohheide in Lower Saxony, and Gutsbezirk Münsingen in Baden-Württemberg. They had fewer than 2,000 inhabitants in total. After losing its inhabited parts to adjacent municipalities on 1 January 2011, Gutsbezirk Münsingen is now uninhabited.


The following shows the largest unincorporated areas in Germany (including all inhabited areas, but excluding lakes) with an area of more than 50 km2: † No inhabitants since 1 January 2011 as a result of reduction in area. In Bavaria, there are other contiguous unincorporated areas covering more than 50 km2; these are however composed of several adjacent unincorporated areas combined, each of which is however under 50 km2 in area.


The Netherlands has had regular periods with unincorporated land when newly reclaimed land polders fall dry. Unincorporated land is since medieval times administered by an appointed officer with the name ''Landdrost'' or ''Drossaart''. Also, Elten and Selfkant#Tüddern, Tudderen, both annexed from Germany after World War II, were governed by a ''Landdrost ''until they were ceded to Germany in 1963. The most recent period with unincorporated land started in 1967, when the dyke around Flevoland, Southern Flevoland was closed, but several years are required before the polder is genuinely accessible for cultivation, and construction of roads and homes can start, as in the first years, the soil is equivalent to quicksand. During the initial period of inhabitation, a special, government-appointed officer was installed, the ''Landdrost''. During the administrative office of a'' Landdrost'', no municipal council forms. In 1975, the first homes in what is now the city of Almere were built, and from 1976 to 1984, the area was governed by the ''Landdrost'' as the executive of the ''Openbaar Lichaam Zuidelijke IJsselmeerpolders'' (Southern IJsselmeerpolders Public Body). In 1984, the ''Landdrost'' became the first mayor of the new city Almere. Since that date, the Netherlands does not have any unincorporated land areas. The ''Openbaar Lichaam'' remained, however, only governing the water body of the Markermeer. After the municipal division of the Wadden Sea (1985), the territorial waters in the North Sea (1991) and the IJsselmeer (1994), all water bodies are now also part of a municipality and no unincorporated areas exist in the Netherlands anymore. The ''Openbaar Lichaam Zuidelijke IJsselmeerpolders'' was dissolved in 1996.


In Norway, Bouvet Island, Jan Mayen, and Svalbard are outside of any of the country's counties of Norway, counties and list of municipalities of Norway, municipalities. They are ruled directly by national authorities without any local democracy. An exception is the Longyearbyen Community Council, which since 2004 in reality acts partly like a Norwegian municipality. Svalbard has a Governor of Svalbard, governor appointed by the government of Norway, ruling the area. Jan Mayen has no population, only radio and weather stations with staff, whose manager has the responsibility for the activities. Bouvet Island has only occasional visitors.

United States

In local government in the United States, an unincorporated area generally refers to the part of a County (United States), county that is outside any municipality. An unincorporated community is one general term for a geographic area having a common social identity without municipal organization or official political designation (i.e., incorporation as a city or town). The two main types of unincorporated communities are: * a neighborhood or other community existing within one or across multiple existing incorporated areas (i.e., cities or towns). In this sense, a community is part of a municipal government, but not ''separately'' incorporated from it. For example, Hyannis, Massachusetts, is an unincorporated village within the town of Barnstable, Massachusetts, Barnstable, and Intervale, New Hampshire, is an unincorporated community on the border of the towns of Bartlett, New Hampshire, Bartlett and Conway, New Hampshire, Conway. * a neighborhood or other community existing outside an incorporated municipal government. In this sense, the community is outside any municipal government, and entirely unincorporated. Examples include Hovland, Minnesota; Nutbush, Tennessee; and Yucca, Arizona; all are small rural settlements of low population. Most states have granted some form of Home rule in the United States, home rule, so that county commissions (or Board of Supervisors, boards or councils) have the same powers in these areas as city councils or town councils have in their respective incorporated areas. Some states, instead, put these powers in the hands of townships, which are minor civil divisions of each county, and are called "towns" in some states. Due to differences in state laws regarding the incorporation of communities, a great variation exists in the distribution and nature of unincorporated areas. Unincorporated regions are essentially nonexistent in eight of the northeastern states. All of the land in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York (state), New York, and Rhode Island, and nearly all of the land in New Hampshire, Local government in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, and Vermont municipality, Vermont, is part of an incorporated area of some type. In these areas, types (and official names) of local government entities can vary. In New England (which includes five of those eight states, plus the less fully incorporated state of Maine), local municipalities are known as New England town, towns or cities, and most towns are administered by a form of direct democracy, such as the open town meeting or representative town meeting. Larger towns in New England may be incorporated as cities, with some form of mayor-council government. In New Jersey, multiple types exist, as well, such as City (New Jersey), city, Township (New Jersey), township, Town (New Jersey), town, Borough (New Jersey), borough, or Village (New Jersey), village, but these differences are in the structure of the legislative branches, not in the powers or functions of the entities themselves. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Virginia "strong county" model. Virginia and other states with this model, such as Alabama, Maryland, and Tennessee, set strict requirements on incorporation or grant counties broad powers that in other states are carried out by cities, creating a disincentive to incorporate, and thus have large, urbanized areas which have no municipal government below the county level. Meanwhile, in other mid-Atlantic states, such as New York (state), New York and Pennsylvania, a hybrid model that tries to balance the two approaches is prevalent, with differing allocations of power between municipalities and counties existing. Throughout the U.S., some large cities have annexed all surrounding unincorporated areas within their counties, creating what are known as consolidated city–county forms of government (e.g., Jacksonville, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee). In these cases, unincorporated areas continue to exist in other counties of their respective metropolitan areas. Conversely, there are a number of "county islands" that exist, where an unincorporated area is surrounded on most or all sides by municipalities. In areas of sparse population the majority of the land in any given state may be unincorporated. Some states, including North Carolina, grant extraterritorial jurisdiction to cities and towns (but rarely villages), so that they may control zoning for a limited distance into adjacent unincorporated areas, often as a precursor (and sometimes as a legal requirement) to later Municipal annexation, annexation of those areas. This is especially useful in rural counties that have no zoning at all, or only spot zoning for unincorporated communities. In California, all counties except the City and County of San Francisco have unincorporated areas. Even in highly populated counties, the unincorporated portions may contain a large number of inhabitants. In Los Angeles County, California, Los Angeles County, the county government estimates the population of its unincorporated areas to exceed one million people. Despite having 88 incorporated cities and towns, including the state's most populous, 65% of the land in Los Angeles County is unincorporated, this mostly consisting of Angeles National Forest and sparsely populated regions to its north. California law makes no distinction between "city" and "town", and municipalities may use either term in their official names.California Government Code Sections 34502 and 56722. An unincorporated community may be part of a census-designated place (CDP). A CDP is an area defined by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes only. It is a populated area that generally includes one officially designated, but currently unincorporated community, for which the CDP is named, plus surrounding inhabited countryside of varying dimensions, and occasionally, other, smaller unincorporated communities, as well. Otherwise, it has no legal status. In the context of the insular areas of the United States, the word "Unincorporated territories of the United States, unincorporated" means that the territory has not been formally and irrevocably incorporated into the United States. (''See: United States territory.'') Unincorporated insular areas are, therefore, potentially subject to being sold or otherwise transferred to another power, or, conversely, being granted independence. Currently, the five major unincorporated U.S. insular areas are American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

USGS definition of "populated place"

Unincorporated areas with permanent populations in the United States are defined by the US government scientific agency United States Geological Survey (USGS) as "populated places", a "place or area with clustered or scattered buildings, and a permanent human population (city, settlement, town, village)." No legal boundaries exist, although a corresponding "civil" record may occur, the boundaries of which may or may not match the perceived populated place.

U.S. mail delivery

Many unincorporated communities are also recognized as acceptable place names for use in mailing addresses by the United States Postal Service (USPS) (indeed, some have their own post offices), and the United States Census Bureau uses the names of some widely recognized unincorporated communities for its CDPs for which it tabulates census data. In some instances, unincorporated areas have a mailing address indicating the name of an incorporated city, as well as those where residents of one incorporated city have mailing addresses indicating another incorporated city. Mailing addresses do not necessarily change whether an area becomes a part of an incorporated place, changes to another incorporated place, or disincorporates. For example, places in Kingwood, Houston, Kingwood, Texas, previously unincorporated, retained "Kingwood, TX" mailing addresses after the 1996 annexation of Kingwood into the City of Houston. The Houston city government stated on its website, "The U.S. Postal Service establishes ZIP codes and mailing addresses to maximize the efficiency of their system, not to recognize jurisdictional boundaries." The USPS is very conservative about recognizing new place names for use in mailing addresses and typically only does so when a place incorporates. The original place name associated with a ZIP Code is still maintained as the default place name, even though the name of the newly incorporated place is more accurate. As an example, Sandy Springs, Georgia, Sandy Springs is one of the most populated places in Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia, but is served by a branch of the Atlanta post office. Only after the city was incorporated in 2005 has "Sandy Springs" been approved by the USPS for use in mailing addresses, though "Atlanta" remains the default name. Accordingly, "Atlanta" is the only accepted place name for mailing addresses in the nearby unincorporated town of Vinings, Georgia, Vinings, also served by a branch of the Atlanta post office, even though Vinings is in Cobb County, Georgia, Cobb County and Atlanta is in Fulton County, Georgia, Fulton and DeKalb County, Georgia, DeKalb counties. In contrast, neighboring Mableton, Georgia, Mableton has not been incorporated in nearly a century, but has its own post office and thus "Mableton" is the only acceptable place name for mailing addresses in the town. The areas of Dulah, California, Dulah and Faria, California, Faria, California, which are unincorporated areas in Ventura County, California, Ventura County between Ventura, California, Ventura and Carpinteria, California, Carpinteria, have the ZIP Code of 93001, which is assigned to the post office at 675 E. Santa Clara St. in Ventura; thus, all mail to those two areas is addressed to Ventura. If an unincorporated area becomes incorporated, it may be split among ZIP codes, and its new name may be recognized as acceptable for use with some or all of them in mailing addresses, as has been the case in Johns Creek, Georgia, Johns Creek and Milton, Georgia. If an incorporated area disincorporates, though, this has no effect on whether a place name is "acceptable" in a mailing address or not, as is the case with Lithia Springs, Georgia. ZIP code boundaries often ignore political boundaries, so the appearance of a place name in a mailing address alone does not indicate whether the place is incorporated or unincorporated.

Other nations

Some nations have some exceptional unincorporated areas: * The Danish Realm, Kingdom of Denmark has three unincorporated areas: ** In Denmark, Denmark proper, the former naval fortress Ertholmene east of Bornholm with less than 100 inhabitants is still governed directly by the Ministry of Defence. ** In Greenland, all land is incorporated except for the Northeast Greenland National Park and the Thule Air Base. * France (exceptions are some small overseas possessions) * Hong Kong (except for the Lok Ma Chau Loop) is divided into districts of Hong Kong, districts. * Pakistan administrative territory Azad Kashmir hasn't official status in the Constitution or Parliament. * In Israel, all land, except military areas, is subdivided into 393 municipalities which are further classified, normally by population, as list of cities in Israel, City, Local council (Israel), Local Council, or Regional council (Israel), Regional Council. All three types of municipality provide services including zoning and planning. * Slovakia is divided into municipality, municipalities. There are two types of municipalities: towns (''mesto'', pl. ''mestá'') and villages (''obec'', pl. ''obce''), with minor differences between them. Additionally, there are several Proving ground, military areas which are not part of any municipality. Each military area is a municipality of its own right. However, the military areas hold no elections and have no mayors or other elected representatives. Instead, they are administered directly by the Slovak Ministry of Defence. * Switzerland also has a few exceptions: 22 lakes and a forest, as described by the Swiss federal statistical office (See: :de:Gemeindefreies Gebiet#Schweiz, Gemeindefreie Gebiete ). *In Ukraine, all land is divided into Amalgamated hromada, hromadas except for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The latter contains parts of Kyiv Oblast and Zhytomyr Oblast and is directly administered by a designated government agency.

Countries without unincorporated areas

Many countries, especially those with many centuries of history using multiple tiers of local government, do not use the concept of an unincorporated area. * The whole of the territories of Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, and Sweden are divided into municipalities. * In Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, all land must belong to a municipality. Even large uninhabited areas, such as forests or grasslands, are, by law, part of the nearest "city". This is because in Latin America, a "municipality" is the equivalent of what in the United States and Canada is called a "county". * In Mainland China, every piece of land belongs to a administrative divisions of China, county-level (third level) administrative division (equivalent to a municipality), either a district (China), district (区 qū) in an urban area, or a county-level city, county-level city (县级市 xiànjíshì), counties of China, county (县 xiàn) or banners of Inner Mongolia, banner (旗 qí). There is also a township-level (fourth level) administrative division, which may be a subdistricts of China, subdistrict (街道 jiēdào), towns of China, town (镇 zhèn), townships of China, township (乡 xiāng), or sum (country subdivision), sumu (苏木 sūmù). * In Croatia, every piece of land belongs either to a city (''grad'') or to a municipality (''općina''). * In Estonia, the entire territory is divided into 79 Municipalities of Estonia, municipalities, of which 14 are municipal towns and 65 are parishes. * In France, the territory is subdivided into 36,685 ''Communes of France, communes'' (municipalities). An elected council and a mayor form the governing body of a municipality. * In Indonesia, every piece of land belongs to a City status in Indonesia, municipality (''kotamadya'') or a Regency (Indonesia), regency (''kabupaten''). * In Japan, every piece of land belongs to a Municipalities of Japan, municipality, of which there are four types: Cities of Japan, cities (市 ''shi''); Special wards of Tokyo, the special wards (特別区 ''tokubetsu-ku'') of Tokyo; List of towns in Japan, towns (町 ''chō'' or ''machi''); List of villages in Japan, villages (村 ''mura'' or ''son''). * In Peru, the whole territory is divided into districts ("distritos"), which form provinces ("provincias"), which form regions ("regiones"). Some districts, especially in the Amazon rainforest, Amazon, are vast portions of territory, but they're governed from a district capital (which can be anywhere from a city to a small village). * In the Philippines, all land belongs either to a Cities of the Philippines, city, ''cíudad'', or ''lungsód'' or to a Municipalities of the Philippines, municipality, ''municipío'', or ''bayan''. * In Portugal, the constitution defines territorial divisions as parishes, municipalities, and administrative regions. It has no official definition of city limits, so a city may include several parishes, or a parish may cover several villages or townships, but a municipality is usually administered from the city or town that bears its name. * In South Africa, the constitution gives every place in the country democratically elected third-tier government. * In South Korea, every piece of land belongs to a Administrative divisions of South Korea, municipality, either a List of districts in South Korea, district (구/區 gu) in a List of cities in South Korea, city (시/市 shi) or a Eup (administrative division), town (읍/邑 eub) or Myeon (administrative division), township (면/面 myeon) in a List of counties in South Korea, county (군/郡 gun). * In Spain, the Constitution of Spain, Spanish Constitution of 1978 says that the land is divided into Autonomous communities of Spain, Autonomous Communities, Provinces of Spain, provinces and Municipalities of Spain, municipalities. Each of these have certain powers determined by law. Autonomous Communities and municipalities are enabled to appeal to the Constitutional Court of Spain, Constitutional Court any public decision that violates their autonomy by other entities (State or Autonomous Community power). Nevertheless, some regions, like Navarre, have some unincorporated areas. The largest of these, the Bardenas Reales has a surface of 418 km2 and is governed by a board of representatives of 20 bordering municipalities, a valley in the Pyrenees, and a monastery, all of which have rights to use the area. The plazas de soberanía also functions as a ''de facto'' unincorporated area under the administration of the Ministry of Defence (Spain), Spanish Ministry of Defence. * In Sweden, all territory is divided into municipalities. Sweden has post-glacial rebound, meaning the land is rising by up to a meter (3 ft) per century compared to sea level. But municipal borders extend into sea, giving such new areas a defined municipal belonging. * In the free area of the Republic of China (Taiwan Island, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and some minor islands), every piece of land belongs to either a Township (Taiwan), township or a county-administered city in County (Taiwan), county, or District (Taiwan), district in Provincial city (Taiwan), provincial city. There are, in total, 368 townships, county-administered cities and districts in Taiwan. See also: administrative divisions of Taiwan. * In the United Kingdom: ** In England, all land is within a ceremonial counties of England, county or local government district, both of which exercise power over their jurisdictions. ** In Northern Ireland, all land is within one of 11 districts. ** In Scotland, all land is within one of 32 unitary authority, unitary authorities designated as councils. ** In Wales, all land is within one of 22 unitary authority, single-tier principal areas.Local Government (Wales) Act 1994

See also

* County island * Main road town * Unorganized area * Unorganized territory * Unparished area


{{DEFAULTSORT:Unincorporated Area Unincorporated areas Unincorporated communities in the United States, Urban studies and planning terminology