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Is it unethical and a conflict of interest to perform my own survey?

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tfdoubleyou
(@tfdoubleyou)
Posts: 76
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Topic starter
 

Is it ethical to provide a survey for myself? Not a hypothetical: my adjoining neighbor has agreed to sell us a portion of his parcel. A survey will be needed to layout the new parcel, and a subdivision map will need to be recorded.

I see the obvious conflict of interest, however the neighbor has no issue with me providing this for us to move the transaction forward.

Thoughts?

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 5:15 am
Kevin Hines
(@kevin-hines)
Posts: 722
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Yes, this should be considered unethical, IMHO... One of my oldest mentors hammered this in me at the onset of my surveying career.  His reasoning was, doing your own survey has the possibility of appearing to be self serving, thus is considered to be unethical. Its not really a conflict of interest as it would be serving your interests without being contested.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 5:23 am
NotSoMuch
(@notsomuch)
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More importantly, what does your licensing body think of this scenario?  It may be wise to ask them.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 5:42 am

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FL/GA
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Posted by: @tfdoubleyou

Is it ethical to provide a survey for myself?

It is not ethical or wise and it's a poor business decision. 😎

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 5:54 am
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Bill93
(@bill93)
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If you and the neighbor have agreed on and monumented a physical line, I see no conflict in you measuring and filing the paperwork. If you have agreed on a distance and you are laying it out, it would appear to give you the opportunity to cheat.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 6:25 am
JPH
 JPH
(@jph)
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I see no problem with it.  You're licensed as a surveyor to do surveying. 

Are you really going to pay someone else to do it?

Or worse, are you going to do the whole survey and then have a licensed friend stamp it?

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 7:01 am
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tfdoubleyou
(@tfdoubleyou)
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Surprised to see opinions on both sides. On it's face, I could see the issues, as any semblance of a conflict of interest could be viewed as problematic.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what a malicious actor in this circumstance could even do. My neighbor and I have agreed on a 13 acre sale. He will be left with more than 40. I suppose someone could draw a map that shows 13 acres, but actually monument a 14 acre parcel... but I don't know what good that would do. 

I know that a description is to be interpreted to the favor of the Grantee, perhaps that could come into play if there were an error or ambiguity in my map. That said, there's always a risk that even a uninterested 3rd party surveyor could make a error or blunder to the advantage/disadvantage of one party or another.

So long as the Grantor takes no issue, and perhaps puts that intent in writing, I don't see any legal question or risk in providing the survey. That said.. legal does not equal ethical.

 

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 7:17 am
not my real name
(@not-my-real-name)
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Can a carpenter build himself a house?

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 7:20 am
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Rover83
(@rover83)
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Nope. Would never do it. This is a basic problem from Professional Ethics 101.

One of the basic tenets of ethics is that the real possibility of self-serving bias affecting judgment on a particular job requires the professional to step back from the work.

It's not just about whether we think/know we can do the work impartially - it's about upholding strict standards and demonstrating that to the public. Professionals rely upon public trust to do their jobs, and this sort of thing can and will erode that trust.

Doesn't matter if you're the most honest, least self-serving surveyor out there. It's still unethical.

 

Edit to add - one of the nice things about needing work done in your area of practice is that it's easy to find someone in your area of practice to do it.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 7:22 am
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JPH
 JPH
(@jph)
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@tfdoubleyou 

Would you survey it if you weren't buying it, but your neighbor just wanted a 13 acre parcel cut out of his 53 acre lot?

Do that, wait a month after it's recorded, and then buy it

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 7:23 am
Williwaw
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I knew a prominent long time local surveyor/engineer that later transitioned to developer and surveyed and platted numerous subdivisions that he owned. I built my home in one of them. Unless there is a specific law against it in your state, there is nothing to prevent you doing it. Could the optics cast you in a poor light if something went sideways? I would definitely think so. That much should be obvious.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 8:09 am
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not my real name
(@not-my-real-name)
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The appearance of a conflict of interest is not a conflict of interest.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 8:22 am
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holy cow
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I have surveyed several of my properties.  It is not an ethical issue, as some suggest.  However, if you encounter a situation where you must make some strong judgement calls, then I would advise you to seek assistance from a fellow surveyor and document that assistance.  That will save you in the long run.

I have also paid to have another surveyor make a survey of one tract I purchased.  The neighbor was a (female dog).  I knew that if I did it myself she would never accept the findings.

On a property I purchased back in the early days of my survey career, the seller was also a licensed surveyor.  We had a good friend, who was also a licensed surveyor, sign off on the survey where he was running the gun, the seller was setting the bars to mark the corners and I was running the rod.  We were cutting out 28 acres from a quarter section with only one section line required for control and those monuments were in place.

I have also performed surveys where later I purchased a tract that I surveyed.  More than once.

I have one section corner that does not have a monument that impacts three of my properties.  I have chosen to not set it.  I'm hoping someday a surveyor from Timbuktu Geomaticians will have a need to set it.  I will accept it and move forward.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 8:27 am
Peter Ehlert, BushAxe, Jon Payne and 2 people reacted
RADAR
(@dougie)
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@not-my-real-name 

Can a plumber fix his own plumbing?

It could be different for Professionals:

Can a Doctor perform his own Brain Surgery?

Is a lawyer a fool; as his own client?

Are Architects and Engineers at risk, if they do their own design?

 

You swore an oath to protect the public; you'd be a fool to risk that. As long as the powers that be are okay with it, I see no problem. I say; do your best and don't worry about it. As long as you can defend it in court, you're good.

Dougie

 

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 8:44 am
Rover83
(@rover83)
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Posted by: @not-my-real-name

The appearance of a conflict of interest is not a conflict of interest.

The public, and our clients by extension, don't make that distinction. If it looks bad, it's bad for the profession.

 

All those members of Congress making tons of money on stocks that rose or fell based on decisions they made might be totally squeaky clean and not buying or selling with inside information.

But it's incredibly shady and has the appearance of a conflict of interest. And it's one of the bigger (out of many) reasons why public trust is extremely low.

Can it be done legally? Probably. But there are lots of things that are technically legal but not a good idea.

 

It may be a hard line to take, but it doesn't force a hardship on surveyors. (Unless we're trying to argue that surveyors don't have the resources to pay for their own services.) It's our professional reputations on the line, which are incredibly easy to destroy and damn near impossible to rebuild.

 
Posted : September 14, 2022 8:49 am

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