Land Survey Monuments: Preservation of Property Lines

nail monument

Photo credit: California Land Surveyors Association


Ever notice round, metal discs or nails set into the surface of a sidewalk or street?

Those are land survey monuments that mark major land survey points.

According to the California Land Surveyors Association (CLSA), the markers, or survey monuments, are a means of visualizing the corners of parcels or rights-of-way. The survey monuments indicate property lines among adjoining properties, neighborhoods, subdivisions, roads, highways, cities, counties, states, and even countries. There are a variety of different types of land survey monuments, including a chiseled cross in a sidewalk, a nail and brass tag, iron pipes of any diameter driven into the ground, wood stakes or posts with or without identifying tags, old nails or “X” scribed in concrete, and rebar, with or without identifying caps.

Survey markers protect property owners’ rights since they identify original survey points. But during construction and land development, the survey markers are sometimes inadvertently destroyed.

“The destruction of survey monuments has occurred for quite some time and has increased over the last 10–12 years, initially due to rapidly spreading development across the State and more recently due to the increase of road maintenance activities by public agencies,” said Ric Moore, Executive Officer of the California Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists.

A professional land surveyor must re-establish the monument, but it’s not always easy to do. And that can mean unanticipated costs, both in terms of money and relationships between property owners.

“When survey monuments are no longer available, the land surveyor is forced to extend the survey a much farther distance from the property, which often can result in an unforeseen increase in costs to the individual property owner,” said Moore. “The land surveyor is not always able to re-create exactly the same location, and that can lead to disputes between property owners over the location of their shared property lines.”

State law recognizes the importance of preserving survey monuments, and requires them to be sufficient in both number and durability so that survey points and lines are precisely known are can be recreated.

“Legislators have long recognized that the location of survey monuments, and thus property boundaries, represents a ‘physical property line infrastructure’ that private property owners and the general public should be able to adequately rely on for their use,” said Moore. “Destroying survey monuments cost private property owners many thousands of unnecessary dollars every year.”



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