When a homeowner wishes to develop their property – whether an addition or new construction – they must start collecting information on ‘existing conditions’ – or the state of the property prior to any intervention. Of the required information to document existing conditions, the legal survey is the most important.
For a residential legal survey, the information required to be shown can be minimal. However; if requisitioning a survey it is better to ask for more information rather than less as it costs more money to have a surveyor revisit your home if additional information/locates are required at a later date. At a minimum, the required information includes all property lines, right of ways and their setbacks, easements, and caveats registered on property, utilities as well as locations of all existing buildings and structures (e.g. garages and sheds) and major vegetation (e.g. trees).
The homeowner must obtain the survey themselves. Unlike a structural engineer or HVAC designer, an architect cannot engage a surveyor on behalf of an owner. As the legal survey is considered an ‘existing condition’ the architect does not have any control over the existing conditions of a site and therefore cannot take any responsibility for what precedes their work. The architect can assist the owner with finding a reputable land surveyor and make recommendations as to what kind of information should be shown on the survey in order to help with the permitting process. However, the owner must pay for and schedule this work independently of the architect.
If you are not working with an architect to assist you with this process, here are ten (10) simple steps for requisitioning a survey as a home owner:
- Find a reputable land surveyor. Talk to friends, search the web, review HomeStars. Make sure they are a member in good standing of the provincial governing body for land surveyors. In Ontario, this is AOLS – the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors.
- Get at least three (3) written quotations based on the same requisition list of information to be shown on the survey. Also, make sure they provide you with a time frame from when they will show up on site to when you will have the survey in your hands.
- Once you have chosen the company, hold them to their schedule and their quotation.
- Approximately one week before the surveying is to start, call your local utility company(s) to have them locate and mark the underground utilities on your property. This is a free service. In Ontario, this is coordinated through Ontario One Call. They will locate gas, water, underground electricity, sewer, telephone and any other utilities that are buried beneath the surface of your property. They will use spray paint to identify these locations on your property (it will wear off in a couple of months).
- Ensure that this utility locate information is requested on your survey. This information is invaluable to an architect – or even a fence builder – so that development and construction can avoid hitting any underground services.
- Once the utility locates have been done, call the land surveyor to confirm that the utility locates have been completed and they can now come to the property to survey.
- Ask that the surveyor mark/identify all corners of your property. The surveyor will look for known land marks or the ‘iron bar’ that identifies the property extents. The surveyor will then mark the extents of the property on the sidewalk using a chisel or flag locates for the corners. In older areas of cities identifying these lines and locating the iron bar can be a challenge as they are often buried or moved by unknowing individuals.
- After the surveyor has left, ensure that you know the promised time for turnaround for the survey. Is it 1, 2 or 3 weeks? Depending on the size of the property and the amount of detail requested the turnaround time will vary.
- Ask for a PDF or draft of the survey for your review prior to payment. Review the document to ensure all requested information is present. Use the requisition list as a checklist to ensure all items asked for are present. Make sure items are not missing – walk around your property and look at the drawing – does it accurately represent your house? If you have hired an architect, the architect may assist with this review.
- Once the review is complete have the surveyor send the final PDF and a CAD version electronically, along with three (3) paper copies signed and stamped by the surveyor – one for your records, one for your designer and one for permit. The surveyor should be able to provide additional printed and stamped copies upon request for a nominal fee.
The legal survey of your property is the first step towards collecting existing information about your property. Some surveyors provide additional services that can be very helpful; some offer drafting services and can prepare existing drawings of your home including elevations (the front, backs and sides of the house in 2D) and floor plans. This can be a more cost effective way of obtaining existing drawings than hiring an architect to prepare them. If thinking of a renovation to your home, this information will be required.
If you are interested in learning more about the process of obtaining a legal survey, what additional information an architect requests on a survey, or have any questions, feel free to drop us a note.