In law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not
governed by a local municipal corporation; similarly an unincorporated
community is a region of land that is not governed by its own local
municipal corporation, but rather is administered as part of larger
administrative divisions, such as a township, parish, borough, county,
city, canton, state, province or country. Occasionally, municipalities
dissolve or disincorporate, which may happen if they become fiscally
insolvent, and services become the responsibility of a higher
administration. In some countries, such as in Brazil, Japan, France or
the United Kingdom, all areas of the country are incorporated. In the
United States, the
United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey (USGS) calls
inhabited unincorporated areas "populated places".
1 By country
1.1.1 Australian Capital Territory
1.1.2 New South Wales
1.1.3 Northern Territory
1.1.4 South Australia
1.1.6 Western Australia
1.3 Czech Republic
1.7 United States
1.7.1 USGS definition of populated place
1.7.2 U.S. mail delivery
2 Countries without unincorporated areas
3 See also
Unlike many other countries, Australia has only one level of local
government immediately beneath 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 suburb or locality names gazetted by the
relevant state or territorial government. Thus, there is rarely any
ambiguity regarding addresses in unincorporated areas.
Australian Capital Territory
Australian Capital Territory
Australian Capital Territory has no municipalities and is in some
sense an unincorporated area. The territorial government is directly
responsible for matters normally carried out by local government.
New South Wales
The far west and north of
New South Wales
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.
In the Northern Territory, 1.45% of the total area and 4.0% of the
population are in unincorporated areas, including Unincorporated Top
End Region (Finniss-Mary, the largest), areas covered by the Darwin
Rates Act—Nhulunbuy, Alyangula on
Groote Eylandt in the northern
region, and Yulara in the southern region.
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 has 10 small unincorporated areas, which are either small
islands directly administered by the state or ski resorts administered
by state-appointed management boards.
Western Australia is exceptional in two respects. Firstly, the only
remote area that is unincorporated is the Abrolhos Islands, which is
officially uninhabited and controlled by the WA Department of
Fisheries. Secondly, the other unincorporated areas are A-class
reserves either in, or close to, the
Perth metropolitan area, namely
Rottnest Island (controlled by the
Rottnest Island Authority) and
Kings Park (Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority).
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 small hamlets to large
urbanized areas that are similar in size to towns and cities.
For example, the urban service areas of
Fort McMurray and Sherwood
Park, of the
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Strathcona
County respectively, would be the fifth and sixth largest cities in
Alberta if they were incorporated.
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 of between 100 and 1,000
residents may have the status of designated place in Canadian census
In some provinces, large tracts of undeveloped wilderness or rural
country are 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
quasi-governmental agency such as a local services board in Ontario.
In New Brunswick where a significant population live in a Local
Service District, taxation and services may come directly from the
Sign prohibiting entry to the Military Area Boletice
The entire area of the Czech Republic is divided into municipalities
(Obce), with the only exception being 4 military areas. These are
parts of the regions and do not form self-governing municipalities,
but are rather governed by military offices (újezdní úřad), which
are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense.
No. of settlements
with over 20 inhabitants
Area (km², 2016)
(outside the military area)
Karlovy Vary Region
(outside the military area)
South Bohemian Region
Central Bohemian Region
(outside the military area)
South Moravian Region
(outside the military area)
† Brdy Military Area was abandoned by the Army in 2015 and converted
into 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
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 municipalities (German: Gemeinde, plural Gemeinden),
often consisting of multiple settlements which are not considered to
be unincorporated. Because these settlements lack a council of their
own, there is usually an Ortsvorsteher / Ortsvorsteherin (village
chairman / chairwoman) 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 like forests, lakes and their surroundings, military
training areas and the like.
As of 31 December 2007[update], 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. There were also three inhabited
unincorporated areas, all of which served as military training areas:
Lohheide in Lower Saxony, and
Gutsbezirk Münsingen in
Baden-Württemberg. They had fewer than 2,000 inhabitants in total.
Gutsbezirk Münsingen, after losing its inhabited parts to adjacent
municipalities on 1 January 2011, is uninhabited now.
The following shows the largest unincorporated areas in Germany
(including all inhabited areas, but excluding lakes) with an area of
more than 50 km²:
Area in km²
on 31 December 2010
Harz (Landkreis Goslar)
Harz (Landkreis Osterode)
Osterode am Harz
Solling (Landkreis Northeim)
Gutsbezirk Kaufunger Wald
† No inhabitants since 1 January 2011 as a result of reduction in
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 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 Southern
Flevoland was closed. It however requires
several years 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, known as the Landdrost. During the administrative office of
a Landdrost there is no municipal council.
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 there are no unincorporated areas in the
Netherlands anymore. The Openbaar Lichaam Zuidelijke IJsselmeerpolders
was dissolved in 1996.
In Norway, Jan Mayen,
Bouvet Island are outside the
division into counties and municipalities. They are ruled directly by
national authorities without any local democracy. An exception is the
Longyearbyen Community Council
Longyearbyen Community Council which since 2004 in reality acts partly
like a Norwegian municipality.
Svalbard has a 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
See also: Unincorporated territories of the United States
Nutbush, an unincorporated area in Haywood County, Tennessee
In local government in the United States, an unincorporated area
generally refers to the part of a county which is outside any
Most states have granted some form of home rule, so that county
commissions (or 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.
Some American states have no unincorporated land areas; these include
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island,
although these states all have communities that are not separately
incorporated but are part of a larger 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). There are two main types of unincorporated communities:
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.
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; Ceresco, Michigan; Nutbush, Tennessee; and Yucca,
Arizona; small rural settlements of low population.
Due to differences in state laws regarding the incorporation of
communities, there is a great variation in the distribution and nature
of unincorporated areas. Unincorporated regions are essentially
nonexistent in seven of the northeastern states. All of the land in
New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and nearly
all of the land in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and 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 seven states, plus the less fully incorporated
state of Maine), local municipalities are known as 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, township, town, borough, or village, but these
differences are in the structure of the legislative branches, not in
the powers or functions of the entities themselves.
Rosslyn, one of many highrise neighborhoods in Arlington County,
Virginia. The county has no cities within its borders, and five times
the population density of the state's most populous city, Virginia
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the
Virginia "strong county"
Virginia and other states with this model, such as Alabama,
Maryland, and Tennessee, set strict requirements on incorporation or
grant counties and townships 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 or township
Meanwhile, in other mid-Atlantic states, such as 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, creating what are known as consolidated
city–county forms of government (e.g.,
Jacksonville, Florida and
Nashville, Tennessee). 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 annexation of those areas. This is especially useful in rural
counties which have no zoning at all, or only spot zoning for
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, 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
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.
An unincorporated community may be part of a census-designated place
(CDP). A CDP is an area defined by the
United States Census Bureau
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
In the context of the insular areas of the United States, the word
"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. There are currently five major
unincorporated U.S. insular areas: American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam,
the 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)." There are no legal boundaries,
although there may be a corresponding "civil" record, 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
United States Census Bureau uses the names of some widely recognized
unincorporated communities for its census-designated places (CDPs) for
which it tabulates census data.
However, 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 is one of the most populated
places in Georgia, but is served by a branch of the
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, also served by a branch of the Atlanta
post office, even though Vinings is in Cobb County and
Atlanta is in
Fulton County. In contrast, neighboring 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 and
Faria, California are unincorporated
areas in Ventura County between Ventura and 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 and Milton, Georgia. However, if an incorporated area
disincorporates, 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
Some countries have some exceptional unincorporated areas:
Denmark (the Kingdom of Denmark has three unincorporated areas: the
former naval fortress
Ertholmene east of
Bornholm with less than 100
inhabitants is still governed directly by the Ministry of Defence; the
Northeast Greenland National Park
Northeast Greenland National Park and the
Thule Air Base
Thule Air Base are
unincorporated areas in Greenland.)
France (exceptions are some small overseas possessions)
Hong Kong (except for the Lok Ma Chau Loop) is divided into
In Israel all land, except military areas, is subdivided into 393
municipalities which are further classified, normally by population,
as City, Local Council, or Regional Council. All three types of
municipality provide services including zoning and planning.
Switzerland (Switzerland also has a few exceptions: 22 lakes and a
forest, as described by the Swiss federal statistical office (see
Gemeindefreie Gebiete in here))
Slovakia (except for the military areas, which are administered
directly by state government) is divided into communes.
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
The whole of the territories of Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Croatia, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands,
the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Sweden are
divided into municipalities.
In Brazil, Chile 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 China, every piece of land belongs to a municipality, either a city
(市 shì) in an urban area or a town (镇 zhèn), township (乡
xiāng), or sumu (苏木 sūmù) in a suburban or rural area such as
county (县 xiàn) or banner (旗 qí).
In Croatia, every piece of land belongs either to a city (grad) or to
a municipality (općina).
In the United Kingdom, in England, all land is within a county or
local government district, both of which exercise power over their
jurisdictions. In Scotland, all land is within one of 32 unitary
authorities designated as councils. In Wales, all land is
within one of 22 single-tier principal areas. In Northern Ireland,
all land is within one of 11 districts.
In Estonia, the entire territory is divided into 79 municipalities of
which 14 are municipal towns and 65 are parishes.
In France, the territory is subdivided into 36,685 communes
(municipalities). An elected council and a mayor form the
governing body of a municipality.
In Japan, every piece of land belongs to a municipality, of which
there are four types: cities (市 shi); the special wards (特別区
tokubetsu-ku) of Tokyo; towns (町 chō or machi); villages (村 mura
In the Philippines, every piece of land belongs either to a city or
lungsód or to a municipality or bayan.
In Indonesia, every piece of land belongs to a municipality
(kotamadya) or a regency (kabupaten)
In Portugal, the Portuguese constitution defines territorial divisions
as parishes, municipalities and administrative regions. There is
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
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 municipal either a
district (구/區 gu) in a city (시/市 si) or a town (읍/邑 eup)
or township (면/面 myeon) in a county (군/郡 gun).
In Spain, the
Spanish Constitution of 1978
Spanish Constitution of 1978 says that the land is
divided into Autonomous Communities, provinces and municipalities.
Each of these have certain powers determined by law. Autonomous
Communities and municipalities are enabled to appeal to the
Constitutional Court any public decision that violates their autonomy
by other entities (State or Autonomous Community power). Nevertheless,
some regions, like Navarra, 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.
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 Taiwan, every piece of land belongs to either an Urban/Rural
township (鎮 zhèn/鄉 xiāng) or a
County-controlled city (縣轄市
xiànxiáshì) in Counties (縣 xiàn), or Districts (區 qū) in
cities (市 shì). There are, in total, 368 townships,
County-controlled cities and Districts in Taiwan. See also
Administrative divisions of Taiwan.
^ a b "Local Government Areas and Statistical Local Areas –
Alphabetic". Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC),
Jul 2008. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 26 September 2008.
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^ "Welcome to the Outback Communities Authority". Government of South
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9 September 2015.
^ More information on Designated place. Statistics Canada. 2009.
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^ "A surge toward home rule". History of County Government Part II.
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2011. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
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^ "Estimated Population – Unincorporated Areas" (PDF). County of Los
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^ "Unincorporated Areas". County of Los Angeles. Retrieved 31 January
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^ 675 E Santa Clara St, Ventura, CA
^ "Area by District Council (October 2014)". Lands Department.
Retrieved 20 April 2016.
^ In this context, the phrase is descriptive, not prescriptive;
"unitary authority" does not have the specific legal meaning that it
has in England.
^ s.2 Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994
^ Local Government (Wales) Act 1994
^ "Définition -
Municipality - Insee". Insee.fr. Retrieved 15 October
^ "Carregue aqui para fechar a janela Divisão administrativa".
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