Surveying without a...
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Surveying without a license?

FNG Member

Hi everyone,

I've followed this forum off and on for years and thought this would be a good place to pose a general hypothetical question.

Let's say somebody worked in an engineering department of a municipality and was asked to do some survey work. What if there was a project where said municipality is looking to install a fence or some barriers along the edge of city property adjacent to a state highway ROW.  They want to locate the boundary between the state highway and the city property so that they do not encroach onto the state highway, but to be as close as possible to the line.  The employees would not be licensed land surveyors.  Also, this is an old, complex area where the exact boundary will probably be difficult to determine. Not a situation where the public sidewalk clearly defines the boundary with a bunch of existing irons or chiseled "x"s to shoot.   Would it be appropriate for these employees to attempt to do this work or not?  It would probably just be used to create a plan sheet used by a contractor that the municipality hires to do the work.  No plat of survey would be created.  I know topo surveys are done all the time by unlicensed people for construction plans, but the significance of the ROW boundary in this situation makes me wonder about this one.

Topic starter Posted : May 14, 2022 12:20 pm
holy cow
10,000+ posts Member

The factual answer is that a licensed land surveyor SHOULD BE CALLED IN to sort through the mess and arrive at a defendable solution.  The problem is:  Government entities are involved so forget any application of good old common sense.

On the other hand, I have a current project for a city which intends to build a new complex on a former car dealership site to update the primary police and fire department facilities from those used for the past 100 or more years.  One border is an active railroad and a few side tracks.  Another side is a major street that was constructed 50 years ago by the DOT but is now a city street.  The other sides are part of a commercial development.  They had the good sense to bring in a professional surveyor.

Posted : May 15, 2022 9:22 am
500+ posts Member

Gambling is legal in many states.  If the value of the improvement is less than the cost to get it surveyed, maybe it's a good gamble?  My question, as the hypothetical engineer would be, "Why would I want to assume the liability of both surveying without a license and being the one who installed a barrier within a right of way?"  

The engineer is thinking like an engineer and viewing surveying as a function of math and mapping.  An attorney would recognize the liability risk of putting something into a public right of way (accident or no) and realize the function of a surveyor in this case is more of a liability protection.  Seems like a foolish way to "save" money to me.

Posted : May 16, 2022 3:12 am
FL/GA and RADAR liked

Peter Lothian
500+ posts Member

The purpose of professional licensing, is to protect the public from fraud. The fraud being an incompetent person selling services for which he/she is not qualified. In the hypothetical you posed, is anyone selling surveying services? It does not sound like it. It sounds like the work being done would be by the agency, for the agency. So it would be technically legal. It would also be unwise to delegate the work within the agency to people who are possibly not qualified.

Posted : May 16, 2022 8:46 am
FL/GA liked
1,000+ posts Supporter
Posted by: @jimmycrackcorn

engineering department of a municipality...No plat of survey would be created. 

RCW 58.09.090
When record of survey not required.
(1) A record of survey is not required of any survey:
(a) When it has been made by a public officer in his or her official capacity and a reproducible copy thereof has been filed with the county engineer of the county in which the land is located. A map so filed shall be indexed and kept available for public inspection. A record of survey shall not be required of a survey made by the United States bureau of land management. A state agency conducting surveys to carry out the program of the agency shall not be required to use a land surveyor as defined by this chapter;


If in WA, a record needs to be created.

Posted : May 16, 2022 1:02 pm
RADAR liked