Point of Beginning

Opinion: There's No Such Thing as "the <em>Client's</em>" Line

February 23, 2010

Why might a surveyor be in a quandary when confronted by a potential client? Let's listen in on some of the statements so often heard from likely clients.

I want to know where my property line is.

Just show me where my line is.

Just survey what my deed says I own.

I only want to claim what is mine.

How often, if ever, has a potential client asked a surveyor, “Would you show me, and mark on the ground, where the lines are which separate my property from that of my neighbors’?”

A remarkable difference is noticed. What makes it so? It is the language. It is the choice of words.

Many years ago, while attending college pursuing my engineering degree, I participated in a class in anthropology-that science which is both social as well as physical. During a lecture, the instructor stated, “You cannot think without a language.” The corollary is, “Your language reflects your thinking.” When a client bases his statements on modifiers my and mine and subjects and objects I and me, that language refers to him or her only. The words do not infer or indicate inclusion of anyone else. If the words in surveyor’s response include neighbors and adjoiners, reality and facts are more closely reflected in the language.

It is the question never asked on which the surveyor must focus on and concentrate. There is no such thing as my line. All boundaries separate interests in land, one-from-the-other, at minimum two. As a consequence, how is it possible for a surveyor to determine only his client’s boundaries?

A survey monument placed to mark a property corner, if located correctly, is partly on one side of the line and partly on the other. Again, how is it possible to just mark only the client’s boundaries? To date, I’ve yet to see a half survey monument cap, a half rebar or half pipe-not to mention the fractions, third, quarter, etc. There just isn’t any such thing because there just isn’t only a client’s boundary. It is always a demarcation that designates the extremity of the client’s interest from that of his or her neighbors.

From a legal perspective-actually a societal one because law is the set of rules by which a society regulates itself-laws place a responsibility upon surveyors. In Colorado, it is dictated by:

12-25-201. General provisions.
In order to safeguard life, health, and property and to promote the public welfare, the practice of professional land surveying in Colorado is hereby declared to be subject to regulation…

The important words in this statute are safeguard, property and public. In no case is it stated a surveyor should safeguard only his client’s property. It is stated safeguard property. Because of the lack of any contradicting qualifiers, this would have to be interpreted all property, a client’s as well as his or her neighbor’s. The word public further clarifies the statute’s intention. It is the public’s welfare that is to be promoted, not just a client’s.

A quandary? Yes, if the potential client does not comprehend, or insists because he or she is paying, that the line to be surveyed is not just his or hers. No, if the client is knowledgeable and understands boundaries are those lines where interests in land change to that of his or her neighbors. It is a surveyor’s responsibility to inform his or her client about this and to conduct the survey accordingly.

In Jewish scripture from a long time ago, Deuteronomy 27:17, Moses speaks to the people: “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor’s landmark.” Only the neighbor is mentioned-there is nothing in this statement about I, me, my or mine!


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