March 11, 2013

According to Rick Hillmann, CEO and President of Continental Surveying Services LLC, a Registered Land Surveyor, Yes it is necessary, because it is illegal for a Land Surveyor to mark a property corner(s) or a property line(s) and NOT provide a map in the process.

Potential clients wonder why they need a map when all they are looking for is one corner to be marked. Often times clients tell us, “a couple years ago we had a survey done and we didn’t get a map, I just want my corner marked….”

Did you know when a property owner accepts that they are not getting a map or that their surveyor is not providing a map; they are wasting money and placing their property at risk? This may sound extreme, but to understand the need consider what comes with a map and the liabilities associated with a service of not providing a map.

If the surveyor is doing their job correctly, they will obtain copies of real estate documents such as the deed to your property and other real estate documents that impact your property, such as waterways, wetlands, floodplains, adjacent deeds, and other surveys that have been done on the property and/or on surrounding properties, if any. The collection of these documents will likely expose title polices and court decisions regarding your property. The next phase of completing a survey is to gather all of the field data such as your physical and tangible property corners and other evidence the surveyor feels is necessary to prove and establish your property boundary such as fence lines, retaining walls, tree lines, etc… Occasionally surveyors will have an opportunity to talk with long time residents in the area to add to their “basket” of evidence.

When you hire a surveyor to “mark” your corners and you are promised they will arrive tomorrow morning you are likely hiring them for around $200 or so. Generally speaking, some surveyors who perform this type of service are not gathering all of the evidence necessary and are using unconfirmed GIS (Geographic Information System) data from county websites. County GIS sites have disclosures in them stating the user that the information may not be accurate and should be used for information ONLY and that if precise data is required the user should acquire certified survey maps, surveys, and plats. For the $200 that the surveyor is charging you they are spending at the most about an hour on your property plus the drive time making them huge profits off of the uninformed home owner! From a legal sense they are not providing proof of their work nor are they providing you with anything.

Without a map, you don’t have a legal tool to defend your property. With the $200 spent on a Surveyor you could have paid the neighbor down the street, because without a map prepared by a Registered Land Surveyor your hands are tied. When a dispute over property lines occur and an Attorney is involved they will ask, “Do you have a copy of the Survey”? Contemplate how hearsay without evidence (a Map) represents you in court? Tell the judge or an attorney “I hired a Surveyor to mark my corners and he told me where they are located.”

Here’s an example:

You and your neighbor received a survey and both were done within the last few years. Your survey came with a map and your neighbors didn’t. Now there is a property line dispute. Without a map your neighbor does not have any proof of where his surveyor has determined the property line to be, it’s hearsay. To further this point, your property has other surveys on record that have been done 15 and 20 years ago. By an inspection your survey and all previous surveys coincide with each other. Your neighbor is left with “my surveyor says my property line is here”. Your neighbor could call the surveyor who performed the survey to provide a map, but he will charge him for it. Those other surveys done in the past did not accomplish much other than meeting an immediate need until now. Today the survey that was done 15 and 20 years ago is now used as evidence to prove and perpetuate your property lines and ultimately prevent your neighbor from taking more land that is not his.

Let’s ask ourselves few questions:

What if you just moved in and was told by the previous owner, who had a survey done without a map, where the property corners are? What if he was wrong?

What if you were told by your real estate agent where the property corners were to find out years later they were wrong?

How do you know what you are buying?

The proper research as I have mentioned earlier provides a powerful tool for the surveyor. In boundary law, research has different facets in the aide of proving property boundaries:

Written evidence such as title policies, deeds, court decisions, and easements.

Physical evidence that has been documented by a Registered Land Surveyor such as a map, property corners, fence lines, retaining walls, curbs and sidewalks etc.

Parole evidence A.K.A verbal testimony of property owners.

Court decisions regarding property boundaries.

Putting all of this together creates your map, NOT an online GIS application.

This is only a sample of situations that can occur and is impossible to predict every situation. It is the intention of this article to make you aware of the potential liabilities every time a property line(s) is (are) assumed. The ONLY person that can perpetuate and identify your property line(s) is a Registered Land Surveyor.

If a survey is completed every time property is sold it can resolve future potential property disputes. The best way to think of a Land Survey with a map is that it is like an insurance policy costing approximately 25¢ a day.

Can you afford to make this mistake?

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