Why do I need a survey? What good is it? What’s it for?
The fundamental purpose of all surveys is to provide property owners with an accurate determination of the size and shape (dimensions) of their property, setting property markers on the corners and reporting on the position of improvements (buildings, etc.) made to the property – particularly with respect to improvements such as fences near the property boundaries. Under the laws of Ontario, only a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor may provide you with this information. A survey is often required by property owners who wish to make changes to their property (add a building, build a fence, etc.) or simply wish to have knowledge of the conditions of their property.
Some other circumstances where surveys may be required are:
Buying or selling a property or part of a property; Mortgaging a property; Property redevelopment such as a subdivision, condominium, etc.; Construction of new buildings, fences, hedges, etc.; Boundary disputes.
How much does a survey cost?
The cost of a survey varies greatly with individual circumstances. The type of survey, size and complexity of the property, location, terrain, etc. are all factors. An Ontario Land Surveyor is the only person who can help you determine the appropriate survey for your needs and provide an estimate of its cost.
I’m selling/buying a house, and the purchaser/mortgage lender says I need survey. How do I go about that?
An Ontario Land Surveyor is the best person to help you determine the appropriate survey for your needs. We will be happy to assist you with meeting your institutions requirements.
My neighbours survey shows our fence as being well within my neighbour’s property by a couple of feet. The neighbour has only lived there for 2 years, and I’ve lived here for 30. When the old neighbour and I put up the fence, we put it right where the old one was, so altogether, the fence has been there for over 25 years. Don’t I have squatter’s rights to those 2 feet?
The legal question of “adverse possession” or “squatter’s rights” is a fairly complex legal issue that, among other issues will depend on where the property is located. In some parts of Ontario, adverse possession no longer applies due to provincial legislation. Your legal rights with respect to adverse possession can best be addressed by your solicitor. Your solicitor may wish to engage a surveyor to accurately determine the location of the property boundary with respect to the fence or other improvements to the property so that you and your solicitor are aware of the extent of the problem.
How can two surveyors disagree on where a boundary is?
It is necessary to employ a surveyor to research the issues and prepare the appropriate survey and report. The legal rights and interests in property are sometimes complex and span the expertise of both surveyor and solicitor. In these instances, it will be necessary for the surveyor to work together with the client’s solicitor, and as a team, they can best advise the client.
The science of measurement and data analysis is one of the important tools used by surveyors to express an opinion as to the location of property boundaries. When all the original deed dimensions are correct and all the property markers are in their correct location, then measurements and mathematics may be the most important tools in determining property boundaries. However, the major land settlement in Ontario took place over 200 years ago, some with the benefit of survey, some without. Errors occasionally creep into deeds, documents are lost, original boundary markers are lost through reconstruction and in rare cases, unscrupulous individuals may move property markers or fences or alter documents to deliberately gain advantage. Surveyors must carefully research the history of the property and the physical evidence (property markers, fences, etc.) found in the field and resolve any conflicting information before expressing an opinion as to the location of a boundary. By relying on different evidence, surveyors may arrive at differing opinions as to the location of a boundary.
When differing surveys become known, the surveyors can often resolve the matter and issue new plans and reports. Where surveyors cannot resolve the issues, only a Court or a Boundaries Act tribunal can make a final determination as the true location of a boundary.
I have a copy of my survey, but it’s been copied so many times, I can’t read it very well.
There are many reasons why you may be refused a copy of a survey plan. Survey plans are not a ‘product’ bought and sold by surveyors. Survey plans are a communication tool used by the surveyor to express their professional opinion as to the location of property boundaries or other aspects of a property.
The information on the plan is specific to a certain time and for the specific purpose of the surveyor’s client. The information on the plan may be ‘out of date’ or may not be sufficient for current needs. For instance, a one-year-old survey for new construction is usually completed before the building is completed or the site graded. As such, it may not illustrate many important aspects of the improvements to the property such as building overhangs, fences, driveways, overhead utility lines, etc. These features can be critical to the current needs of the property owner.
Plans may also contain information that is confidential to the surveyor’s original client. By providing new copies of plans, the surveyor may be accepting additional liability for his / her professional opinions and is entitled to reimbursement for that new risk.
I just caught some surveyors snooping around my backyard. When I confronted them, they said they had a right to be there.
Section 6 of the Surveys Act does allow a surveyor, or a person in the surveyor’s employ to enter and pass over the land of any person at any time, or to enter into a building, at a time suitable to the occupant. However, the surveyor is responsible for any damage resulting from his or her actions.
We will usually attempt to contact the owner or occupant before entering a property. This is not always possible or practical, and the surveyor may have to complete the work without advising the owner. Surveyors or their employees are expected to identify themselves or provide contact information for the surveyor if requested to do so.
I just had a survey done, and it's wrong. The surveyor says he/she won't fix it and I'm not paying until it's right!
It is necessary to employ a surveyor to research the issues and prepare the appropriate survey and report. As with any profession, if a property owner believes that the opinion of a particular professional is in error, they are fully entitled to obtain a second opinion.
Where there is disagreement between a surveyor and client as to the cost of a survey and both parties agree, the AOLS can, through its Fees Mediation Service, offer some dispute resolution. However, where the client disputes the results of the survey and consequently does not wish to pay for the survey, this dispute must be resolved between surveyor and client, the courts.
Measurement is not always the most important tool in determining property boundaries. The major land settlement in Ontario took place over 200 years ago, some with the benefit of survey, and some without. Errors occasionally creep into deeds, documents are lost, original boundary markers are lost through reconstruction and in rare cases, unscrupulous individuals may move property markers or fences or alter documents to deliberately gain advantage. Surveyors must carefully research the history of the property and the physical evidence (property markers, fences, etc.) found in the field and resolve any conflicting information prior to expressing an opinion as to the location of a boundary.
I want to build a fence. How can I find the bars on my property?
Property boundaries may only be established by a licenced Ontario Land Surveyor. Survey monuments are not always set directly on property corners, and may be displaced by construction activities or even by unscrupulous neighbours. If you rely on your own location, or that of an unlicenced surveyor, you are assuming all of the risk. An accurate location of your boundaries may avoid a potentially costly dispute resulting from the improper location of a fence or other structure. Only licenced Ontario Land Surveyors are required to carry professional liability insurance to protect the public if an error should occur. Having an Ontario Land Surveyor locate your boundaries is a worthwhile expense when compared to the cost of moving a fence, or having a neighbour take you to court.