S t r i p p e r : C o n f e s s i o n s o f a L a n d S u r v e y o r
B y P e a n C h e n e y i n g P L S
(Originally published in Gulf Coast Surveyor, September 2011 under the column "Chain!")
I received a phone call from Joanne who said she was purchasing a home on a lot in a block of a recorded subdivision. She said she needed a Land Title Survey. I pulled the current tax report on the property, the current tax mosaic showing the property and sent her these along with a proposal for the service and product. This particular Land Survey did not seem to be much of a challenge. The current tax mosaic showed the property in question was only the recorded lot. The current tax report indicated the owner had been paying taxes on an area the size of the lot for a number of years.
Joanne called back and explained to me that she had read some positive reports about our firm on the Web and this is why she had contacted us. She expressed some apprehension about hiring us because the price we charged was 25% more than another
Land Surveying firm that was recommended by her Title Insurance Company. She said the Title Insurance Company had insisted they would order the survey for her from their “preferred Land Surveyor” and that she would not have to pay anything for it as the lender would roll it into the closing fees. She also mentioned that her Realtor had told her that our fees were too high, that we might delay the closing and advised her to let the Title Insurance Company take care of it.
I pointed out that our time frame was the same as the other Land Surveyor, that you get what you pay for as far as the fee and that we were independent Land Surveyors who had no vested interest in her purchasing the property in question. I told her the arrangement with the other Land Surveyor would only mean that the fee for the Land Survey would be rolled into her loan on the property. Over the time period of the loan terms she would end up paying far more for the other Land Survey later.
She seemed surprised at my statements and stated that she had no idea how transactions worked. She said she would look into it and call me back. A couple of days later she sent the signed proposal back with a copy of the Title Insurance Commitment. We started work on her project.
Our initial visit to the site turned up nothing unusual other than the fence and a portion of the driveway seemed to extend beyond the south boundary of the recorded lot by as much as 3 feet. The Title Insurance Commitment was only for the recorded lot. The tax records for this lot and the adjoining lots only showed the owners paying taxes on the area of their respective lots. The tax mosaic only showed the recorded lot. The vesting Deed of the seller dating to 1978 was pulled for the property and it was only for the recorded lot.
Something seemed wrong and the vesting Deeds for the adjoining properties were pulled. Again there was nothing unusual in the transactions and all of them were for the full lots only. Finally a search was made for transactions between the owner of the subject tract and other entities. This is when a transaction from 1979 between the current owner and the adjoiner for a 3’ strip southerly of and adjoining the south boundary of the subject lot was discovered. It appeared that although the transaction had been recorded at the County Clerk’s office it was never reported to the Tax Assessor Collectors Office and thus the adjoiner who conveyed the 3’ strip had continued to pay taxes on it.
A Land Survey was prepared showing the lot as tract 1 and the 3’ strip as tract 2 along with an attached Surveyor’s report explaining the situation with a stipulation that the survey was based on the presumption that the seller intended to convey all the land they owned. When the Land Survey was delivered to Joanna I made a point of calling her and going over the problem we had uncovered. She seemed to understand the situation and said she would contact the seller.
Almost immediately after we released the Land Survey we received a phone call from a representative at the Title Insurance Company stating it was wrong and that we needed to correct it right away to show only the lot and not the 3’ strip. The representative said if we did not get the revised Land Survey to them in the next hour our actions would delay the closing. I refused to revise the Land Survey and I explained to the representative the problems I had found and emailed a copy of the Deed to the 3’ strip to them.
Very shortly thereafter I received another phone call from Joanna saying that the Realtor had contacted her to say that our Land Survey was wrong and that we had delayed her closing. She told us that she had been in contact with the seller and that the seller had told her that they forgotten about the transaction for the 3’ strip in 1979 and that they intended to convey it to her with the lot. I explained to her that what we had found potentially saved her thousands of dollars of legal fees and headaches in the future. I told her to sit tight and let the various parties involved work it out.
A few days later the closing occurred on both the lot and the 3’ strip with no modifications to the Land Survey originally provided by us. Joanna called to tell us how happy she was with our service and how lucky she felt that she had the good sense to hire us.
PART 2 "STRIP NAKED" to come....
This Content Originally Published by a land surveyor to Land Surveyors United Network