About Amerisurv| Contact    
Magazine | Newsletter    
Flickr Photos | Advertise    
HomeNewsNewsletterAmerisurv DirectoryJobsStoreAuthorsHistoryArchivesBlogVideosEvents

Sponsored By

Software Reviews
Continuing Series
An RTN expert provides everything you need to know about network-corrected real-time GNSS observations.
Click Here to begin the series,
or view the Article PDF's Here
76-PageFlip Compilation
of the entire series
Test Yourself

Got Answers?
Test your knowledge with NCEES-level questions.
  Start HERE
Meet the Authors
Check out our fine lineup of writers. Each an expert in his or her field.
Wow Factor
Sponsored By

Product Reviews
Partner Sites







Spatial Media LLC properties




Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Reconnaissance: The Surveyor's Roles & Responsibilities—Ensuring the American Dream, Part 1 Print E-mail
Written by Gary Kent, PS   
Friday, 02 May 2014

A 70Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

A few weeks ago, I appeared on NSPS Executive Director Curt Sumner's radio show (broadcast weekly on AmericasWebRadio.com) along with well-known author and speaker Jeff Lucas and noted New Jersey surveyor Bruce Blair. The theme of the program was to encourage professional surveyors to broaden their view and understanding of the role they can, and arguably should, play in helping resolve boundary and title problems between property owners.

In order to begin a conversation on this topic, we have to acknowledge two key points. First, is that there are only two persons who can truly resolve a disputed boundary or title problem. Those persons do not include attorneys, title companies or surveyors. And, in a sense, they do not even include judges and juries--at least not of their own volition.

No, the only persons who can resolve such conflicts are the two owners involved. And they can do it one of two ways: the painless, low-cost way--by agreement--or by the expensive, painful litigation path--which is when judges and juries get involved.

The second key point--one that I believe is completely indisputable and critically important that surveyors recognize--is that the average land owner believes what a surveyor does is "tell me what I own." Of course, surveyors know that in the United States, they do not have the legal authority to determine ownership; but there is a distinct and serious disconnection when property owners think they do.

So if surveyors cannot determine ownership or resolve boundary and title problems, why promote the idea that they should take a more active role in doing just that? Michigan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cooley in his seminal 1881 treatise entitled The Judicial Functions of Surveyors addressed this issue head-on by stating:

It is always possible ... that the surveyor may usefully act as a mediator between parties, and assist in preventing legal controversies by settling doubtful lines.

It is a well-known fact that surveyors, in the process of conducting boundary surveys, very frequently encounter and identify potential boundary and/or title conflicts. Such problems most frequently manifest themselves as deed overlaps, ambiguous descriptions, potential claims of unwritten rights (typically adverse possession, acquiescence and parol agreements, but also including estoppel), and simple boundary disputes.

When faced with these problems, many surveyors go ahead and--based on the best available evidence--set corners representing their interpretation of where the record title lines and corners belong. The impetus for setting those corners, in many cases, may have been a state's regulatory standards, although doing so is also an expression of the surveyor's historical role. But, most often, setting those corners also results in lines that are contrary to what the owners--before the surveyor showed up--had believed to be their boundaries, and had acquiesced to.

In any event, the result is that one owner is inevitably left happier (and likely confused) and the other is left upset and confused. Why? Because the two owners believe the surveyor has just told them that one "owns" to the line marked--which, as often as not, is 5 feet over the fence and includes half of the neighbor's driveway. One or both owners are now poised to spend tens of thousands of dollars litigating something that--until the surveyor showed up--was a boundary that had been mutually acquiesced in. And perhaps worst of all is that the surveyor's guidance is often limited to the rather cavalier "You need to contact an attorney."

So, how do surveyors balance their responsibility to survey lines of written title, with the reality that in doing so they are often condemning owners to a litigation hell and neighborhood despair; all while keeping in mind that they themselves cannot determine ownership or resolve disputes? Join me next time when we will delve further into what Justice Cooley said, and explore how surveyors might apply `early intervention.'

Gary Kent is Director, Integrated Services at The Schneider Corporation in Indianapolis. He is past-president of ACSM and chairs the ALTA/ACSM Committee for NSPS and the Liaison Committee for ALTA. He is on the Indiana Board of Registration and lectures both locally and nationally.

A 70Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

< Prev   Next >

 American Surveyor Recent Articles
Thought Leader: Land is Too Important to Be Left to Land Specialists
A while back I was searching the Internet for an old treatise on land titles. A Google query yielded a book published in 1914. The author was Charles Claudius Kagey and the book was titled "Land Survey and Land Titles, a book for boys and girls, a reference volume for property owners, a text ....
Read the Article
Jason E. Foose, PS 
Decided Guidance: Wacker vs. Price - Irony in Sevenfold
This month's case takes us to Phoenix, Arizona in 1950. The Arizona Supreme Court went all guns-a-blazin' in Wacker vs. Price (216 P.2d 707 (Ariz. 1950)). Maybe it's just me, but I'm sensing plenty of irony and have taken license to point it out along the way. I like what the Court did with this case ....
Read the Article
Allen E. Cheves 
Around the Bend - A Visit to Carlson Software
The Ohio River is one of America's greatest, running near 1,000 miles between Pittsburgh and the Mighty Mississippi. Much of the coal and other products that fueled our nation's industrial expansion flowed between the shores of this maritime ....
Read the Article
Lee Lovell, PS 
Surveying & Mapping Economics Part 3 - Customers & Services
This article continues an inquiry into the economic conditions of the Surveying and Mapping industry (NAICS 541370) using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This time we will look at customers and services. The data comes from the Economic Census conducted every 5 years on American ....
Read the Article
Jerry Penry, PS 
True Elevation: Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak, located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, is the state's highest natural point. It is frequently referred to as the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Two other peaks, Guadalupe Peak in Texas and ....
Read the Article
Larry Trojak 
Bringing The Goods - Mobile Scanning an Integral Component
When Jim Smith, Jerrad Burns and Charlie Patton left the Memphis division of a major construction company in 2015, they took with them the knowledge of how to get even the most complex jobs done and what equipment could best serve them in making that happen. So when they joined West ....
Read the Article
Lee Lovell, PS 
Test Yourself 41: Integers, Integers, and Integers
ABF is a 5:12:13 triangle, ACF is a 48:55:73 triangle, ADF is a 3:4:5 triangle, and AEF is a 7:24:25 triangle, all with integer sides and inscribed in a semi-circle. What are the lengths of BC, CD, and DE? ....
Read the Article
Wendy Lathrop, PS, CFM 
Vantage Point: Sunset or Sunrise?
While we often think of legislated government programs as static, they do change over time. Such evolution and opportunity for transformation are part of the dialogue in reauthorizing these programs. Every so many years there is a sunset on each government program, and this September is the ....
Read the Article


Amerisurv Exclusive Online-only Article ticker
Featured Amerisurv Events
List Your Event Here
contact Amerisurv


JAVAD Intros
Spoofer Buster

press [at] amerisurv.com
Online Internet Content


News Feeds

Subscribe to Amerisurv news & updates via RSS or get our Feedburn
xml feed

Need Help? See this RSS Tutorial

Historic Maps

post a job
Reach our audience of Professional land surveyors and Geo-Technology professionals with your GeoJobs career ad. Feel free to contact us if you need additional information.


Social Bookmarks

Amerisurv on Facebook 

Amerisurv LinkedIn Group 

Amerisurv Flickr Photos 

Amerisurv videos on YouTube 



The American Surveyor © All rights reserved / Privacy Statement
Spatial Media LLC
905 W 7th St #331
Frederick MD 21701
301-695-1538 - fax