An informal reader poll posted on the POB web site asked how land surveyors handle notification of adjoining property owners when conducting a survey.  Since not everyone takes the step of proactively notifying adjoining property owners when they are working in the area, we also asked how land surveyors responded to questions or hostility.

The issue of statutory access can be clearly stated in regulations, or it may be left to interpretation or even totally absent when it comes to the rights of commercial land surveyors.

This isn’t a new issue for surveyors. Editor's Points: Rights of Access for Surveyors

Sometimes the issue is larger than the survey itself.  In the case of a controversial pipeline, the surveyors became something of a target.  Landowner Rights vs. Surveyor Access

Raymond Page, LS, has been known to have a little fun with informal experiments and observations of human behavior, and his articles in POB have been well received and have drawn comments and compliments.  One of his articles, How Territorial Behavior Causes Boundary Disputes, brought us back to the topic of access.  POB asked in an online poll, How do you deal with access and attitude?  The results, thus far, indicate most surveyors simply address questions as they arise.  But, when the responses for advance notice and notice when the crew arrives are combined, over half of surveyors do make some attempt to inform adjoining proporty owners of their presence and purpose.

  • We proactively notify adjoining property owners before starting a job (door hanger, phone call, or mailing)  (22%)
  • We attempt to notify adjoining property owners when we arrive on the job.  (29%)
  • We address questions or concerns from adjoining property owners when they ask.  (35%)
  • If adjoining property owners are hostile, we back off and call the client. [5 votes] (5%)
  • If adjoining property owners are hostile, we remind them of any statutory rights of access or refer them to the client.  (9%)

The poll is about to close (a new one will be posted on May 1st).  But, beyond the numbers, we’d like to hear some of your stories from the field.  We would welcome the good, the bad, and the funny along with how you dealt with any issues.

We’ll start with a personal experience.

My neighbor at my former property announced one day that he was going to start building a fence so he could let his dogs loose in his back yard.  I pressed him about a survey, and he eventually hired a surveyor. 

I came home one day to find the surveyor in my neighbor’s yard completing his work.  I walked over and introduced myself as the editor of POB.  He told me about how this survey had started for him.

He came to the site and saw that there had been a survey done just down the street – a few houses away.  He set up on that survey and walked back to his client’s house to take his first shot.  When he looked back, his gear was gone.  He walked back to find the tripod and total station folded up and lying next to the curb.  As soon as he picked up his gear, the homeowner came out raging. 

The surveyor tried to explain calmly that he was doing a job down the street and it had nothing to do with his property.  The man continued to rage and dialed the police on his cell phone.  The surveyor could hear him telling the dispatcher “they” were hurting him, “they” were hitting him.  The only thing the surveyor beat was a quick retreat.

I told him that I wished I had been there to help him with the situation because I knew some of the history from police reports.  The man who had been so incensed at the surveyor’s presence had a long history of police visits at his home for various disturbances.  One report indicated that, in a dispute with his neighbor, he allegedly drove his truck into the neighbor’s fence, which he believed was in the wrong place.  That neighbor had hired a surveyor to mark out that property line and, he hoped, put the issue to rest.

My neighbor’s surveyor had walked into that hornet’s nest unsuspectingly and was fortunate to walk away with nothing more than a story to tell at the next PLS meeting.