Have you ever had a neighbor come knocking on your door, claiming the recent survey showing the property line between your lots is wrong?
As unpleasant as it sounds, boundary disputes between neighbors do happen. And determining exactly where your property ends is not always straightforward.
How do you verify a property line when your neighbor claims the survey is wrong? Here are a few methods to consider:
|Review Property Deed
|Metes & Bounds Survey
|Physical Boundary Markers
|Online Mapping Tools
Before you get pulled into a nasty feud with your neighbor over a few feet of land, verifying the property line independently is important.
Don’t just take their word for it. And don’t assume your neighbor is right or wrong – get the facts and sort it out properly.
Having clearly defined property boundaries that you and your neighbor agree on will keep the peace and avoid headaches.
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the steps for verifying your property lines when a neighbor disputes a survey. I’ll cover:
- If it’s illegal to remove survey stakes
- How to check your property deed and map
- Determining the accuracy of land surveys
- What to do when you disagree with a survey
- Your rights regarding surveying without permission
Let’s dive in!
Is it illegal to remove survey stakes?
I will be straight with you – removing or messing with survey markers is a big no-no.
Those metal stakes, concrete posts, and other permanent survey monuments on your property line are legally protected. You can face fines, jail time, or other penalties for removing them without authorization.
Generally, only licensed surveyors or government officials carrying out an approved land survey have the OK to remove survey monuments. And they rarely do – it’s considered unethical among surveyors.
The markers are there for a reason – to clearly define legal property boundaries. Removing or altering them can call into question where your land ends and your neighbor’s begins.
So resist the urge to pull up that survey stake or spray paint over the markings. Don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, follow the proper steps to verify your property line if you think the survey is inaccurate.
How to verify your property line
Don’t panic if your neighbor says the survey is wrong. There are several ways you can verify exactly where your property lines are:
1. Check your deed
Your property deed is your best friend here.
It should contain a legal description of your land’s boundaries with precise measurements. Review it closely and ensure the description matches where the survey stakes are placed.
2. Look up the metes and bounds survey
Fancy term, I know!
This detailed survey lays out your property’s shape and size using physical features like trees, fences, and rocks as boundary markers. It’s often included with your deed.
3. Consult the plat map
Head down to your local government office and ask for the plat map (a property line map). This bird’s-eye view shows property lines and any easements or rights-of-way.
4. Locate physical boundary markers
Keep an eye out for metal stakes, rebar, pipes, or concrete posts around the property that may mark boundary lines. They may be overgrown but can provide clues.
5. Use online mapping tools
6. Take physical measurements
Grab a tape measure and start from a known landmark on the deed. Measure out the distance to the property edge and place a marker. Verify it lines up with the deed.
7. Call in the pros
When it comes down to it, the only way to get definitive property boundaries that’ll hold up legally is to hire a licensed surveyor. Worth the investment before you build that fence!
How to know if a land survey is accurate
With property lines, you gotta be sure the survey is on the up and up. Here’s how to determine if a survey is the real deal:
- Check credentials: Ensure the surveyor is licensed and experienced in your area. Look for membership in professional associations like the American Association for Geodetic Surveying.
- Read the title: The title of the survey report should clearly state its purpose and scope. “Boundary Survey” is what you want to see.
- Verify precision and accuracy: Accuracy means how close measurements are to the true value. Precision refers to the surveyor’s level of detail and consistency. A reputable surveyor prioritizes both.
- Inspect the site yourself: Head to the property and look for discrepancies between the survey markers/monuments and the survey map. They should match up.
- Look for modern technology: Laser scanning, drones, and GPS produce way more accurate surveys than old-school methods. Make sure they’re using the latest tech.
- Check boundary markers: Any physical monuments or markers the surveyor sets should align with what’s indicated on the survey paperwork.
- Compare previous surveys: See if there are any older surveys of the property for reference. Results should be similar if done properly.
- Get a second opinion: If anything seems off, chat with another surveyor and get their take. A fresh set of eyes may catch issues.
How accurate is GPS surveying?
Nowadays, most surveyors use fancy GPS equipment to map out the land. But how spot-on are those high-tech satellite readings in reducing survey error or inaccuracy? Let’s look at the factors:
- GPS is crazy precise: When done correctly, GPS surveying achieves much higher accuracy than old methods. We’re talking measurements within a couple of inches if conditions are ideal.
- Survey grade is best: “Survey grade” GPS tools designed specifically for land surveying can get down to 1-2 centimeter accuracy due to their sensitivity. Well worth the investment.
- Real-time is more accurate: RTK (real-time kinematic) GPS provides corrections during data collection, so accuracy is higher than post-processed surveys later on.
- Long observations help: Static survey techniques with super-long observations cancel out distortions. That’s how they measure 30 km distances with 30 mm of uncertainty!
- A complete setup gets close: With a full GPS surveying toolkit, experienced surveyors can reliably achieve 1 cm accuracy in ideal conditions. Impressive!
- Situational factors matter: Satellite geometry, weather, obstructions, and duration of observations can affect GPS accuracy. A good surveyor mitigates errors.
- Post-processing refines things: Applying additional corrections to GPS data after the fact can make those measurements even tighter.
- Verify source info: Remember, a survey is only as good as the data it’s based on. Incomplete records can skew boundary lines and lead to incorrect surveys.
GPS isn’t perfect, but for most residential surveys, 1-5 cm accuracy is routine with proper use. Pretty mind-blowing that satellites can pinpoint property lines from space!
What to do if you disagree with a survey
Uh oh. You’ve reviewed the survey and don’t think it’s accurate. Before you roll up with pitchforks, here are some civilized ways to contest a property survey or disputed survey results:
- Involve title insurance: They may cover survey disputes if you purchased title insurance when you bought the property. File a claim if issues arise.
- Get all property titles: Request the official property titles from you and your neighbor. Verify the boundaries match the survey.
- Hire another surveyor: A second professional survey of the boundary lines may reveal discrepancies you can use to appeal or dispute the original survey’s accuracy.
- Attempt a settlement: Set aside egos and discuss a compromise with your neighbor. Put any agreement in writing and get it court-approved.
- Sue as a last resort: Don’t jump straight to suing! Court cases are expensive, tedious, and draining for boundary disputes and survey challenges. But the legal system is there if you exhaust all options.
- Verify source info: Remember, a survey is only as good as the data it’s based on. Incomplete records can skew boundary lines. Provide docs to ensure an accurate re-survey.
Getting a second survey is usually the best route if you suspect the original surveyor screwed up. An objective assessment from a different expert goes a long way.
Can someone survey without my permission?
You’re sitting on the porch sipping some sweet tea and notice a group of folks with tripods and vests traipsing around your property. Do they have a right to be there?
The short answer is – it depends on the situation:
- Eminent domain: If it’s the government acquiring your land for public use, they may survey without permission due to eminent domain laws.
- Court-ordered: If a judge orders a survey for an ongoing court case, the surveyors can legally access your property without consent.
- Neighbor disputes: Your neighbor could invite a surveyor onto their property to look at boundaries. This may involve them crossing onto your land briefly.
- Public projects: For roads, pipelines, or other public works, the authorized agency may be able to survey regardless of permission for planning purposes.
- Varies by state: Laws about surveying private land without an owner’s go-ahead differ across states. It’s a grey area in many places.
- When in doubt, speak up: Don’t be afraid to politely confront surveyors on your property and request they explain their presence. Or follow up with a written cease and desist if issues persist.
At the end of the day, landowners have a reasonable expectation of privacy and the right to control access to their property. Permission should always be sought first before surveying private land.
The final stakes
Boundary disputes with neighbors are never fun. But don’t let emotions get the better of you if a property survey sparks controversy.
Arm yourself with the facts and systematically verify your lines independently. Check official records, hire reputable pros, and lean on accurate technology.
With some level-headed mediation, you and your neighbor can hopefully agree. Getting on the same page avoids headaches today and bad blood down the road.
After all, you have to live next door to them for the foreseeable future! Keeping the peace is well worth the time and money spent confirming those property lines.
Thanks for tuning in! I hope this guide gives you a game plan for dealing with disputed surveys. And as always, feel free to reach out with any questions.