Property Deeds, Easement Agreements, Street Vacations or Dedications, and Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions
Land development and conveyancing creates a need for legal services. It is especially helpful to have an attorney involved who understands the interplay between a "legal description", the way the size, shape and location of land is placed in writing, and the "form" of a legal instrument memorializing the intent of the parties. Deeds are perhaps the most common form of legal document used to convey an ownership interest in land. Other common forms are used to dedicate an easement to the public or grant or reserve an easement to another private party. And, with historical chains of title come mistakes or ambiguities that need correction. These types of services are generally needed to assist all parties to a transaction and involve no adverse representation and limited scope legal representation. Having an attorney also experienced as a professional land surveyor can streamline these events and prevent unforeseen obstacles from delaying a project at a later date.
Dispute Resolution & Neutral Evaluation
Neighbor Disputes, Title Insurance, Exceptions, Easement Agreements, Overlapping Boundaries, Gaps, Gores and Hiatuses
Attorneys in a neutral capacity may assist parties to a land dispute better understand the nature of their dispute and thereby avoid future litigation. A neutral attorney may also assist the parties by narrowing their attention to the true source of the conflict. e.g. overlapping descriptions of property boundaries. A neutral may also assist the parties resolve disputes through alternative forms of dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration. All of these options may lower the cost and time required to reach a resolution. Alternative dispute resolution has the added benefit of confidentiality. One important caveat however to remember is that an attorney who accepts a role as a neutral cannot later represent either party in an adverse capacity.
Additionally, because of the nature of land related disputes, attorneys may recommend land surveyors to assist parties understand complex problems with land boundaries, easements, claims, rights of way, or title insurance exceptions. In all disputes involving real estate, it is extremely valuable to have a legal expert who understands the technical side of land descriptions, the history of surveying practice, the role of litigation and dispute resolution and the interpretation of written deeds and contracts.
A knowledgeable practitioner can usually assist parties avoid litigation or at least provide an unbiased opinion as to the validity and merits of competing claims to assist parties in understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses of their position.
Boundary Location Surveys
Gunter's Chain and Compass, various historical transits and theodolites, modernly Static GPS and Robotic Total Stations
Modernly, only Professional Land Surveyors perform boundary location surveys. But that was not always true in the past. Old descriptions of land can create many unexpected problems. This is the primary reason surveyors are licensed and why they have a duty to protect the public's reliance on honest, understandable and unbiased boundary location opinions.
Boundary surveys come in two basic categories. Land boundary surveys can establish new boundaries: For instance, to create a new road easement giving someone the right to drive over another's property, or to split a parcel into new building lots.
Or they can be retracements of old boundaries: Sometimes of very old boundary locations that may be hundreds of years old. Because an old boundary contains a lot of history, surveyors need to be good detectives to uncover clues about where and why a boundary was originally established. Modern surveyors also have to understand the ancient equipment and methods used by old-time surveyors (or wanna-be surveyors). Surveyors must "follow in the footsteps" of the surveyors before them if they are to properly find and re-locate old boundary positions. Surveyors are the only professionals legally qualified to make opinions about boundaries and courts hold the opinions of surveyors in high regard.
Unfortunately, surveyors are sometimes negligent or influenced by money (or the lack thereof) and have caused great harm by fraudulently or negligently mis-locating boundary positions. Land owners may have no idea this has happened until decades later! This malpractice results in much mischief between neighbors and may be costly to later correct. Attorneys with experience in boundary locations are invaluable in resolving these types of problems and avoiding pitfalls such as violations of the Subdivision Map Act or inadvertent later exceptions to title insurance that a future lender would find objectionable.
Topographic & Engineering Design Surveys
Drones, Aerial Mapping, RTK GPS and Conventional Angle and Distance Measuring Equipment
There is increasing demand for accurate and up-to-date survey models that show land and existing buildings and other improvements. These may include roads, bridges, utilities, trees, wetlands, and other topography. These maps commonly have accuracies that range from high (errors less than fractions of an inch) to moderate (errors on the order of inches) to low (errors of several feet or more). These maps are generally measured in the field with either conventional survey field crews of 2 or more persons, or with some form of remote sensing to capture digital data en masse. Either way, the measured data is then processed in the Land Surveyor's office using CAD and GIS software to produce three dimensional models of the real world. Engineers then use these models to design new structures with a high degree of confidence that their designs will fit the site when actually constructed. Paul frequently works with other professional land surveyors and engineers to assist clients in their goals for cost effectively improving, conveying or subdividing real estate.
Geodesy, Remote Sensing, Satellite Positioning, Digital Leveling, Data Modeling, Spatial Analysis
There are many other kinds of work that professional surveyors and measurement scientists perform. These include positioning services to assist scientists place seismographs and geophones, locating sub-surface utility conflicts and producing emergency response maps. Another is precise leveling to assist geodesists determining the shape and magnitude of earth's gravitational field. Still another is construction staking to assist contractors building new roads and buildings. Some surveys require high degrees of accuracy while others rely on a large quantities of less accurate measurements to achieve their different purposes. As an attorney, Paul assists clients with both understanding and communicating effectively with these measurement professionals.