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Beware of Outdated Surveys

June 1, 2000
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Real estate licensees in Tennessee who pass out old surveys to potential buyers were warned of the possibility of providing misinformation. The notice, published in a recent newsletter of the Tennessee Real Estate Commission (TREC), the state’s Board of Registration, warned licensees that surveys obtained without the permission of the surveyor could further that possibility by violating copyright law, which requires the permission of the surveyor before redistribution of the survey. Thus, the unauthorized distribution of maps, surveys or loan inspections can constitute copyright infringement.

According to Reid Brogden of the TREC General Counsel, home buyers and owners with no title insurance to back them, and who are damaged by old surveys, often look to real estate licensees for damages. “If there turns out to be an encroachment that wasn’t indicated on the survey, the home buyer usually brings it to our attention,” Brogden said. The underlying message of the notice was that licensees need to cooperate with surveyors and lenders to make sure their clients are provided with the most reliable and accurate information possible.

TREC reminded licensees that by state law, surveys are reliable only for a specific date, and there are frequent circumstances that affect property, including changes in easements, flood areas, drainage and encroachments that did not exist at the time of the survey. If the surveys given to prospects are not accurate, a court could hold licensees liable for providing a party with misinformation.

Brogden said the TREC notice was not an indication that any licensees had been brought before the state for survey violation. “The article was written in response to a request from the survey association (the Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors or TAPS) to give notice to licensees,” Brogden said.

Backed by evidence of a recent gathering of both organizations, Brogden added that he perceives the relationship between the state’s surveyors and real estate licensees to be cooperative regarding the issue. “I believe [surveyors] want to help real estate licensees understand what the drawbacks are with the surveys,” Brogden said. Future plans to promote the proper use of surveys include a statewide seminar tour.

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