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County Surveyor Frequently Asked Questions

What can a surveyor do for me?
A person generally has occasion to employ a Land Surveyor only once or twice in a lifetime. Since such employment is so infrequent, the average person is not always aware of the logical steps to be followed in selecting a land surveyor. To help in making such a selection, the answers to a few common questions are noted below. Surveys are required by law if you plan to partition or subdivide your property or to adjust your property lines. A survey is also desirable and advisable before purchasing real estate, and is frequently recommended by legal counsel or by mortgage loan companies. Remember, using the services of a Land Surveyor now could cost much less in time, worry, and money than the cost of moving a fence, or a building, or defending a lawsuit at a later date. 

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What if I disagree with the surveyor?
Surveyors work with the best information available. They utilize recorded survey and deed data information together with physical evidence found on the ground. From this data, in conjunction with the Oregon Revised Statutes and other laws concerning land surveying, they make their conclusions. Any land survey is only as good as the information from which the conclusions are drawn.

Surveyors put their professional reputation and license on the line every time they determine a boundary location. It is in a surveyor's interest to observe the survey laws and to make the most accurate boundary determination possible. They have no reason to deliberately locate a boundary line incorrectly. Occasionally, however, a surveyor can overlook an important piece of evidence that might change the boundary opinion in question. If you believe this to be the case, then it is your option to discuss the evidence in question directly with the surveyor.

It is insufficient to disagree with a boundary line determined by a licensed surveyor without any legal evidence. You must show legal evidence in order to refute a surveyor's findings.

If after discussing the problem with the surveyor you still feel it has not been resolved to your satisfaction, there are other avenues that may be pursued. You can hire a land surveyor of your own choice to perform a separate boundary survey. The second surveyor may find a sufficiently different result or have a different boundary opinion.

When a situation disclosing a conflict in a property boundary occurs, you must then decide what solution options you are willing to consider. Often, you may have to weigh the value of the land in question or the value of proving a point against the potential cost of what it might take to acquire written title. If you have not already done so at this point, you should contact an attorney for advice.

The first solution if a conflict has occurred is to try to have the surveyors meet and mediate resolution. Other methods for solving a boundary problem also involve the cooperation of both parties in the dispute. A property line agreement or adjustment survey may be performed, with applicable deed recordings and survey map filings. A description may be written on the property or on a portion of the property, and recorded as an easement for a specific purpose to a specific party. Alternatively, you may choose to allow present ownership conditions to continue as is. If you choose to maintain the status quo, you may run the risk of being subjected in the future to acquiescence or adverse possession activity, either in your favor or contrary to your interests.

The last choice for a solution is having the case heard before a court of law. The court process is often the most expensive, but may be the only solution if the problem can't be resolved by other means.

Written title to property acquired by unwritten means (acquiescence or adverse possession) can only be attained through recording a mutually signed document or through court proceedings. For that reason, allowing present ownership conditions to continue as is in the hopes that a problem will resolve itself will not resolve the ownership problem.

An accurate boundary survey, in which boundary lines are identified by a licensed surveyor and are legally defensible (and in which all necessary legal elements have been observed), is usually an effective means by which to resolve common boundary conflicts without burdening the property with additional legal encumbrances.

If the licensed surveyor's ethics or professional conduct are in question, a complaint may be filed with the licensing agency, the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying (OSBEELS), located in Salem. Please note, however, that OSBEELS historically will not deal with contract issues or with business matters.

In Clackamas County for cases involving Public Land Corners such as Section Corner(s), Quarter Section Corner(s) and Donation Land Claim Corner(s) the County Surveyor should be involved. The County Surveyor in most counties have a program called The Public Land Corner Preservation Fund that may be able to find, restore and/or replace corners set by the Government Land Office beginning in the early 1850's.

If you have any questions after reading this please contact the Office of the County Surveyor at (503) 353-4475.

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Will the Surveyor show me what I own?
Surveyors do not prove ownership, but he/she will give you their professional opinion of what the records and facts indicate your ownership to be. This opinion is satisfactory under most normal circumstances. Only a court of law can determine ownership more decisively than a qualified Land Surveyor.

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Can the Surveyor aid in subdividing my land?
A Land Surveyor is the only one qualified to prepare a plat for a proposed division of land. The Land Surveyor may prepare an individual description or, if lots/parcels are being created, the surveyor may prepare a legal plat with lot or parcel numbers for recording. Platting rules differ slightly with each county or city. A qualified surveyor would be familiar with local rules and procedures.

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Can the Surveyor design public improvement systems for my subdivision?
The surveyor will recommend an engineer to design streets, water supply system and sewer systems and to perform other engineering services that might be required. The Professional Land Surveyor will not attempt any aspects of engineering design which he/she is not qualified to perform.

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Can A land Surveyor perform Engineering Surveys?
Land surveyors conduct most engineering surveys. They are knowledgeable and equipped to prepare topographic surveys, to supply control for aerial photography, to layout construction projects, to survey right of way for power lines and roadways, and so forth.

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Can a Surveyor from an adjoining state perform a survey in Oregon?
Not under normal circumstances. The obvious exception is if the surveyor from another state also possesses a license from the State of Oregon.

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Can an engineer do a land survey?
An engineer cannot perform survey work unless he/she is also a licensed Professional Land Surveyor.

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Can a contractor do land survey work?
A contractor cannot perform land survey work unless he/she is also a licensed Professional Land Surveyor. Also, beware of survey technicians who may be skilled in only some aspects of surveying and are not licensed as Land Surveyors.

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Who can legally perform a land survey?
In the State of Oregon only a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) can legally assume the responsibility for a land survey. The Professional Land Surveyor is an individual whose highly specialized background, training and skills have been rigorously examined, and who has been licensed by the State of Oregon to practice land surveying.

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How do I locate a land survey professional?
Most survey work is acquired through the personal recommendations of satisfied clients, or through attorneys, real estate companies, and title companies who frequently handle real estate transactions. If it is difficult to obtain a recommendation, probably the most direct way would be to check the listings under "Surveyors - Land" in the classified section of the telephone directory. According to Oregon law, only licensed practitioners can advertise themselves as Land Surveyors. While the County Surveyor's Office cannot make recommendations, they may be able to provide you with the names of surveyors who have worked in your specific area in the past. Surveyors should be able to provide you with references for their previous work.

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Is a written contract required?
Traditionally, contracts for surveys have been by oral agreement. Many surveys have been requested over the phone. However, in recent years it is becoming more common for the client to visit the Land Surveyor's office, discuss requirements of the survey, and enter into a written contract (which tends to assure a better understanding between the client and the Land Surveyor). A good contract contains a clear understanding of services to be provided, costs, time lines, and extra work contingencies. A good contract protects both the client and the surveyor.

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Can I determine in advance what the charge will be?
In most cases it will not be possible to get more than an estimate, because many of the factors involved in the survey are indeterminable early in the process. Final cost is dependent upon the time required to perform research to obtain the necessary information of record, to perform preliminary fieldwork, to perform the required office computations, and to monument your lines on the ground. Most surveyors will prepare an estimate based on their experience in estimating hours of work (times their hourly fee schedules) which can be used as a basis for a written contract.

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Should I employ a Surveyor on the basis of price?
Not necessarily. Competency, service and responsibility are of first importance. Since low cost and high quality are often inconsistent, and judging the amount of work necessary to produce a quality survey may be difficult before the project begins, it is probably unreasonable to expect your surveyor to "bid" on a project, then stick to the bid price.

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What information should I furnish the Surveyor?
Furnish the Land Surveyor with an explanation of why the survey is desired (if requested, he/she will maintain confidentiality). With the client's purpose in mind, the Professional Land Surveyor can work more efficiently and thus reduce costs. If you have a deed or mortgage description, aerial photograph of the land, or an abstract, give a copy to the Land Surveyor. In addition, if you have knowledge of a stone, wooden stake, iron rod or pipe, etc. which was reported to you as a property corner, pass that information along to the Land Surveyor. He/she will make the professional judgement as to which evidence should be used.

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What will the Land Surveyor furnish me?
The Land Surveyor's final product will vary with each survey (depending upon the reason for the survey), but generally you will be furnished with a copy of a signed and stamped plat or map showing what the Land Surveyor has done, showing the corners monumented or otherwise identified. A narrative on the map will describe why and how the survey was performed. Since 1947, Oregon law has required that all surveys performed by licensed surveyors (in which a property corner is set) be filed with the County Surveyor. Your survey should be on file and copies available to the public if it was performed after 1947.

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What if my survey discloses deed overlaps, encroachments or other problems?
It is not uncommon to discover during the survey process that there are existing fence or building encroachments or other problems. There are many methods of resolving property line disputes, the most expensive of which is resolution before a court of law. More congenial resolutions require the cooperation of both parties; creation of an easement, adjustment of a property line, even maintaining the status quo are among the options to be considered. Your surveyor and your attorney can help you determine the best option for resolving property conflicts.

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Did you know... ?
That to correctly survey a 40 acre tract such as the NW ¼ of the SE ¼ (fig. 1) requires a survey of almost the entire section? Consider the steps that are necessary:

  1. Recover original government corners 1, 2, 4, 6 & 8.
  2. Establish the center of the section (point A) which is the intersection of a straight line between points 4 & 8 and 6 & 2.
  3. Establish 1/16th corners B, C, D & E (point B is exactly midway between points A & 2, etc.).
  4. Establish SE 1/16th corner (point F) which is the intersection of straight lines between points B & D and C & E.
  5. Analyze the above against existing monuments found at or near computed locations.

The above steps are necessary to locate the four corners of (in this case) the NW ¼ of the SE ¼. Since most sections have dimensions such as in figure 2 (exaggerated to show that the lines are not straight or parallel, due to difficulties in the original surveys done in the 1850's) it follows that the distances around a 40 acre tract as shown will not always be 1320' or at right angles to each other.

Idealized one square mile section

Typical one square mile section

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Clackamas County Surveyor
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Oregon City, OR 97045


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