Property “Encroachment” and Similar Terms Used by Surveyors

property encroachment terms surveyors

In many cases, property and boundary surveys are performed to help those who own property in a given area precisely define where their boundaries end and those of another property owner begin. Land surveys are commonly used to handle property disputes and similar issues, allowing for precise measurements and detailed reports that carry legal weight.

At Diamond Land Surveying, we’re proud to provide a variety of both commercial and residential surveyor services, from basic boundary surveys to construction staking, lot consolidation plats and many other areas. One term that you may hear some use within the world of properties and boundaries is “encroachment” – but you won’t hear it from our surveyors. Here are some basics on what this term means, why surveyors don’t use it, and the legal interplay at work here.

property encroachment terms surveyors

Encroachment Definition

For starters, let’s take a moment and briefly define what is meant when the term encroachment is used within the realm of property surveys or boundary markers. Generally speaking, it refers to any case where someone trespasses upon property, domain or real estate rights of another. And while “trespassing” in this case can refer to simply walking on a property, it may also refer to areas like extended properties, fences or other markers that “encroach” onto someone else’s property.

Surveyors, Not Lawyers

Now, as we noted above, you will not generally hear our property surveyors use the term encroachment on a regular basis. Why? The answer gets into some of the gaps between the physical collection of boundary data and the legal application of such data.

Property surveyors are here to perform the former service: Collect the data. We perform a physical inspection and identify all items or notable property factors, plus help you define specific boundary lines. Essentially, we help you understand all legal descriptions and conditions of the land.

We do not, however, get into determining the legal ownership of a given property or area. This is something that’s handled by attorneys, who get their raw information from us and then use it to make their arguments. While it’s common to hear an attorney use the term encroachment, then, it is not the place of a surveyor to make that sort of a judgement.

Terms Surveyors Use

Instead of encroachment, you’ll hear different terms from surveyors that might qualify – but again, this will be for an attorney to decide. Such terms include:

  • Overlap: When properties or items extend over or cover part of another property.
  • Hiatus: The area between two surveys whose deeds call out a common property line – but whose survey monuments do not support a shared line.
  • Gore: A strangely-shaped area of land, often a triangle, left between two tracks because of inaccuracies in a previous boundary survey.

For more on property encroachment and similar terms, or to learn about any of our property or land surveying services, speak to the staff at Diamond Land Surveying today.

How Written Legal Descriptions Complement Boundary Surveys

written legal descriptions boundary surveys

When it comes to accurately surveying and assessing a given tract of land, such as a subdivision, there are multiple formats that will generally be used all within the same assessment. Those you’re likely familiar with are areas like residential land surveying, which involve visual diagrams that depict the precise qualities of the property, from boundary lines to elevations and numerous other areas.

At Diamond Land Surveying, we provide a variety of such services, including our residential subdivision surveys and many others, and we’re here to tell you that these visual diagrams – while extremely important and often the foundation of any such survey – are not necessarily the only parts involved. In particular, there’s another element known as a “legal description” – what is this, and how do certain written elements of the survey play an important role? Let’s take a look at some of the basics here.

written legal descriptions boundary surveys

Legal Description Basics

Also known as a property description or a boundary description, a legal description is a written element of the survey that describes the tract of land. It offers basic qualities of the land that will help a surveyor identify a given area, helping convey the property’s location with specific details.

In many cases, legal descriptions are used to help transfer land from one party to another during a sale. Information provided by the legal description should not be considered legal advice, which must come from an attorney, but it can help inform such legal advice in many cases.

Types of Legal Descriptions

Legal descriptions can be written in a couple different ways to help identify property characteristics, including:

  • Recorded subdivision lot: This is a description type common in urban areas, with a reference to the basic lot number, block number, subdivision name plus recording information for the subdivision plat (this is at the Recorder of Deeds). This information makes it easier for surveyors to conduct their work, with adjoining properties displayed on the same plat in an easy-to-read format.
  • Metes and bounds: This description type is less common, but is used in some rural areas to describe strangely shaped land tracts. It uses terms like quarter, section, township and range along with directional markers to help identify properties.

Owner’s Dedication

In addition to the legal description, many subdivision surveys will also include what’s known as an owner’s dedication. This is a section where the undersigned owners of a given property within the survey certify their desire to split the property into lots, streets, parks and other public purposes, allowing for public use of the area.

For more on legal descriptions and how they complement visual boundary surveys, or to learn about any of our property survey services, speak to the staff at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Understanding Property Benchmarks in Topographic Surveys

property benchmarks topographic surveys

At Diamond Land Surveying, we’re proud to offer land surveying and related services to a wide range of clients, from homeowners to commercial building owners and even industry professionals like architects and engineers. We offer several specific solutions for this latter group, who often require precise measurements in numerous areas to complete their projects – one such solution is known as a topography survey, also called a topographic survey in many cases.

These surveys cover a few important points, and can be utilized by everyone from homeowners to contractors, landscapers and engineers to identify areas like property slope and contours on the property. Let’s go over their basic purposes, plus one area of measurement where you’ll have a choice between two metrics that are related but different in their final purposes.

property benchmarks topographic surveys

Topographic Surveys and Contour Lines

As we noted above, one of the primary purposes of a topographic survey is to show the contour lines of a given property. Contour lines refer to any areas where the land on the property slopes or otherwise changes elevation, vital information for several potential professionals or even for homeowners in many cases.

Generally speaking, the elevations that are shown in a topographic survey are given in relationship to a property benchmark. This benchmark is a base elevation level that has already been established on the property, serving as a basic foundation for any contours that show up in contrast to it.

Our upcoming sections will go over the types of reported elevation measures and which you should prioritize depending on your needs.

Assigned Elevation vs. Actual Elevation

When a topographic survey is being conducted, it can report the elevation of various contours on a property based on two similar but slightly different metrics:

  • Assigned elevations: In these situations, the surveyor themselves will establish the property benchmark elevation. A common choice here is 100 feet above sea level, though this obviously will vary in places like Utah with much higher elevations. In these cases, the elevations shown on a report are in relationship to the benchmark set by the surveyor.
  • Actual elevation: In other cases, GPS, state plane coordinates or even FEMA benchmarks will be used to set the property benchmark rather than the surveyor’s own choice. In these situations, the report will feature elevations that are the true number of feet above sea level based on the location of the benchmark.

Choosing Between Elevation Measures

It’s important to note that both those elevation metrics are accurate, and showcase any contours or changes in elevation properly. The decision on which to utilize is generally based on what it’s being used for, whether it’s personal use versus specific projects with a utility company or another government office. In the latter case, you generally want to go for actual elevation metrics where possible.

For more on topographic surveys and benchmark elevations, or to learn about any of our property survey services, speak to the staff at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Basics on Property Lot Split Plat Surveys and Creation

property lot split plat surveys

If you’re experienced with land surveying and various property-related elements, chances are you’ve heard of a lot consolidation plat, which helps combine multiple lots into a single parcel for a variety of potential reasons. Did you know, though, that the opposite type of service is also available for many property types?

At Diamond Land Surveying, we offer lot consolidation plats as part of our broad land surveying services. Our pros will explain all of the details involved here to you, including how these services differ and compare to their inverse, the lot split plat. What is the purpose and process for this latter pursuit, and how long might it take if you’re considering attempting it? Here are some basics on the lot split plat for you to be aware of.

property lot split plat surveys

Property Types for Splitting

For starters, know that pretty much any major property type can be split if the conditions are right. This includes residential, commercial and even industrial properties. It also includes property that’s part of an existing recorded subdivision or a tract of land.

General Steps

Here are the basic steps that will be followed if you plan on beginning a lot split plat:

  • Boundary survey pros will perform a basic survey on the property. This survey will be based on the legal description provided by the client in question, most commonly a current property deed.
  • The property owner will use the survey information to identify the location of a new line that will split the lot into two or more separate properties. New lots must meet all zoning and planning requirements in the area in terms of both lot size and frontage.
  • From here, lot split plans will be sent to the municipality or county in question for approval. After this, the surveyor will create an initial lot split plat. Only once property owners, lien holders, and all planning and zoning groups agree on the split will the final version of the split plat be created.
  • The surveyor will set new survey monuments that signal the new property lines. Owners, lien holders and the right representatives from the municipality will have to sign the final plat.
  • Once signed, the plat will be recorded officially. From here, new property descriptions will be given to the property owner.
  • Property owners can contact an attorney or title company to file new deeds for the separate properties.

Timeline for Lot Splits

Generally speaking, a lot split can take between a few weeks and a few months to complete in full. Preparation usually takes a week or two depending on the lot specifics. A big factor here is whether you have to attend a specific meeting to present your request – if you do, the process could take longer due to scheduling requirements.

For more on creating a lot split plat, or to learn about lot consolidation or any of our other property surveying services, speak to the staff at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Issues With Property Owners “Claiming” Boundary Lines

property owners claiming boundary lines

Both within residential and commercial areas, debates or issues regarding the true boundaries of a given property are common. There are many reasons why it might be important to properly define where your property ends and where another begins, and it’s especially important to have this done by an objective third party with the expertise to give precise measurements and results.

At Diamond Land Surveying, that’s exactly what you get. Our commercial and residential land surveying services have helped solve numerous debates regarding boundaries and other related questions, all performed quickly and affordably so you can move on with your life or your next project.

One common issue we see regularly, particularly within residential boundary disputes: Land owners attempting to “claim” some part of a property by placing certain items on a given disputed area. We’re here to tell you that this is not how it works, and simply having some of your property present in a given area does not make that area yours by default. Here are a few common structures or items property owners may try to use here, plus why they aren’t legitimate indicators of property ownership.

property owners claiming boundary lines


While many property owners use fences to help mark and maintain their property lines, it’s vital to understand that they do not create property lines on their own. Simply having a fence in a given spot on your property does not mean you own everything within it – this would be a Wild West situation that would make very little sense.

It’s also important to note that many fences are not built directly on a given property line. Many were erected in previous generations before property lines changed hands or were purchased by another owner. A fence can be helpful in many ways for property owners, but not for defining the property itself.

Retaining Walls

The same goes for retaining walls, which can be even more complex when there’s a height difference near a property line. In these situations, there’s often one property owner maintaining what’s on top of the wall, with another maintaining what’s at the bottom of it.

Regardless of which side you’re on here, the same theme is present for retaining walls as fences: Location does not signal ownership. Only a professional boundary survey can properly define where a given property ends or begins.

Trees, Bushes or Other Vegetation

Finally, while some may think they’re making an impact on property ownership by growing trees, bushes or shrubs on a given line, anyone can plant a tree. Once again, this is not a signal of ownership – and if you’re considering planting new trees anywhere near what you think is your property boundary, you should be sure you’re planting within your own area before getting started.

For more on why certain items in the space do not signal property ownership, or to learn about our legitimate property survey services, speak to the staff at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Property Owner Compliance With “Common Ground” Boundaries

property compliance common ground boundaries

While our land surveying services are used for many purposes at Diamond Land Surveying, one of the most common and well-known needs is for property boundary surveys that solve basic marking or land disputes. Defining and fully understanding precise property lines may not be as straightforward as you assumed, but our team of professionals knows every in and out of this process and will help you determine the precise dimensions of your property and how this compares to others connected to it.

There are several industry terms you might run across during this process, and one such term is “common ground.” This is a term that sometimes creates red flags for our boundary survey experts, as it is often misinterpreted by property owners on one end or the other of a basic property dispute. Let’s go over what common ground means, plus some off-limits areas that are sometimes still broached within common ground spaces.

property compliance common ground boundaries

Common Ground Basics

In most cases, common ground in a property area is meant to provide additional space and potentially other benefits. It’s usually deeded to subdivision associates and their trustees, meant to be used by everyone on that subdivision – sometimes for recreation, sometimes for other purposes.

However, we’ve seen many cases where property owners adjacent to the common ground space are unaware of the rules surrounding it – or simply chose not to follow them. From here, we’ll look at a few examples of breaking the rules of common ground, the better to help you avoid these issues and any legal ramifications that may take place as a result.

Permanent Structures

In nearly every case, permanent structures like sheds, gazebos, retaining walls and even playsets are strictly prohibited from being placed on the common ground by an individual property owner nearby. The only exception here would be if the subdivision and its trustees vote and decide to place such items in the common area for communal enjoyment.

This theme extends to permanent areas like driveways or pathways, as well. No part of such a path should infringe upon the common ground space, even just for a few feet.

Landscaping Items

Another off-limits area for common ground spots is various items of landscaping. This could include vegetation like trees, shrubs and others, but also may include hardscape elements, pathways, rocks and several other landscaping formats.


Finally, even if you’re just trying to separate it from your own property markings, common ground areas cannot have independent fences or blockers build onto them. If you want a fence separating your property from a common ground area, you have to ensure that it’s built completely within your own property line.

For more on staying compliant with common ground areas in your neighborhood, or to learn about any of our residential land surveyor services, speak to the staff at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Real Estate Issues Solved by Boundary Surveys

real estate issues boundary surveys

At Diamond Land Surveying, we’re proud to offer our various land surveying options to a wide variety of potential customers. One group that regularly utilizes our services to great value: Real estate agents and others in similar positions in this industry, many of whom often have a need for precise boundary information or other data our residential land surveyors can provide.

If you’re among this group, welcome and thank you for your interest! One scenario many such real estate agents and other professionals have experienced in the past, but would love to avoid ever going through again: Issues with large back yards that appear to all be part of the same property, but may not actually be included in reality. Let’s go over how this common situation tends to play out, plus some ways you can solve these issues and never deal with them again through a partnership with a land surveying company like ours.

real estate issues boundary surveys

A Common Scenario

When you’re taking buyers on home tours, you may come upon several properties that have huge back yard spaces. Many of these are properties set in areas where there’s no specific property on the back end, often leaving a huge field or woods that may feel as though they all belong to whoever buys this property. Buyers naturally get excited, especially those who have children or pets, or those who want to do major gardening or even food harvesting.

Those who have been in this position before know what’s coming next: You often have to smash these buyers’ dreams right into the ground by informing them that, unfortunately, you’re not quite sure how much of this open space is actually part of the property. This is because a boundary survey has not yet been done – even if land looks like it absolutely belongs on the property, it’s possible it actually doesn’t. How can you prevent this from happening?

Boundary Surveys and Possible Solutions

Now, we know it’s not always realistic for you to have accurate boundary readouts on-hand for every single property you visit with potential buyers. For this reason, here are some general tips we can offer in this area:

  • Don’t make any promises about the lot size or property boundaries based on incomplete information. If you haven’t seen boundary information yet, be honest with the buyers and tell them as much. Inform them that even fences or other markers on the property are not surefire determinants of the boundary line, and professional surveys will need to be done.
  • If possible, ask the seller of this property if they have an existing survey you can reference.
  • If there is no previous boundary survey, recommend the potential buyers order one and offer them the contact information for a reputable surveyor like ours.

For more on the issues boundary surveys can help solve for real estate pros, or to learn about any of our land surveying services, speak to the staff at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Reading and Interpreting Elevation Certificates, Part 2

reading elevation certificates

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some of the primary sections that will be present on an Elevation Certificate, abbreviated EC. This certificate contains a great amount of data, including information on property elevation and flood risks that are very important for many reasons.

At Diamond Land Surveying, the Elevation Certificate is just one of many reports we can include in your residential land surveying services. The certificate is a fairly long and detailed one, with several important bits of information that you’ll have to know how to interpret if you ever receive one. Here are some basics on sections D through G of the Elevation Certificate, plus information on photos and where they go if needed.

reading elevation certificates

Section D

Section D of the EC is meant for the land surveyor or the engineer involved in your project, and it’s a place where they can put their basic information and verification. The most important piece of information that goes here is their seal, which is given to all accredited surveyors or engineers who are licensed to carry out these evaluations – without a seal and a signature from this professional, the Elevation Certificate is not considered complete or actionable.

Section E

Like a few other sections on this form, Section E won’t necessarily always be filled out on your report – in fact in many scenarios, this is more likely. But in cases where your property is located in Zone AO or Zone A (without a BFE, which we discussed in part one of this blog), Section E will indeed need to be filled out by your surveyor.

It will be submitted to FEMA, who will then investigate further and may require some future considerations. Our pros can tell you more about the purposes of this section if needed.

Section F

Section F is another that’s meant for basic information, only this time it’s for the homeowner themselves, not the surveyor or anyone else. This section is only required if the homeowner is personally responsible for filling out information in Sections A, B or C – in this case, they will have to offer basic contact information and a signature in Section F for the form to be complete.

Section G

Another section that may or may not be used is Section G, which is reserved for the Flood Plain Administrator to use. They may post basic permit information here, or they could list info from previous ECs or the contact information of the previous surveyors and engineers who completed those reports.


Finally, there will be at least one or two extra pages set aside for photos, both of the front and rear of the property. At least one picture of each of these areas will be required on all Elevation Certificates.

For more on the Elevation Certificate, or to learn about any of our property survey services, speak to the pros at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Reading and Interpreting Elevation Certificates, Part 1

elevation certificates

At Diamond Land Surveying, you can count on our professionals to provide you with a wide variety of property information for your residential area. Our residential land surveyors cover numerous basic needs when it comes to legal property boundaries, qualities and characteristics, which can help with everything from defining your property to helping you make your desired upgrades.

One of the pieces of documentation you might receive during a property inspection is known as an Elevation Certificate, or EC. It’s a form provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and is meant to help determine the risk of flooding on any property. In this two-part blog, we’ll go over all the basic sections of the EC form (not including the photos section) and what you need to know about interpreting the data being given to you.

elevation certificates

Section A

The first section in your EC form will go over all the basics of the property and its information. It will provide the address for starters, as well as a basic legal description of the property type.

From here, Section A will also contain other information like the latitude and longitude of the property, plus the kind of structure present on the property. For buildings that contain them, areas like basements, crawl spaces, on slabs and attached garages will all be noted. This information can be important for level needs later on.

Section B

For all your important FIRM data, Section B is the place to look. It identifies the community, county and state in which the property is located, plus provides the FIRM number with the original map date, revised map date, flood zone, and base flood elevation.

This final number, abbreviated BFE, is perhaps the single most important figure on this entire report. It refers to the baseline number above or below which risk is assessed. Essentially, if the structure is above the magic number, it is above the flood plain – this means flood insurance might not be needed for this structure (though this can vary in some cases).

Section C

Section C is dedicated for the land surveyor or engineer to provide their overall results. Once again, the BFE will be used here – the numbers listed in Section C will be compared to it to see if they’re above or below. In general, the largest areas of concern here are the lowest points of the structure, the elevation of the ground around it, and the elevation of attached objects (like decks or garages). If all these numbers are higher than the BFE from Section B, you’re likely in good shape. And even if not, there are still options available to you.

For more on reading your Elevation Certificate, or to learn about any of our commercial or residential surveying services, speak to the pros at Diamond Land Surveying today.

Basics and Uses for Subdivision Plats

subdivision plats

When you deal with residential or commercial land surveying, you’re almost certain to be exposed to the term “plats” or “subdivision plats.” Meant to combine the words land and plot subdivision plats refer to maps of a given city, town or any smaller portion of land that’s been divided into the various property lots for that area.

At Diamond Land Surveying, we deal with subdivision plats regularly when it comes to our property and boundary surveying services. They’re some of the most basic guides available for simple information regarding basic properties, including the data we need to accurately survey your plot of land. Let’s go over the various elements that will be included on a subdivision plat, and why each piece is important.

subdivision plats


The first and simplest thing a subdivision plat will list is the basic dimensions of the lots in the area that’s being covered. This area will usually be a village or smaller town size, though this can vary depending on several factors. Each lot will be labeled with specific bearings and distances for measurement – these allow our surveyors to get the basic outline of the lot and define its size and specific location in the area.

Building Lines

Subdivision plats don’t only include the land itself – they also include basic building line setbacks and side yards as part of their standard information. These are both written and visualized in most cases, and are determined in advance by planning and zoning groups.


In addition, subdivision plats will contain information on easements. They will list all of the utility companies present for this area, even if they’re only involved in one small portion of the designated mapped space or even just a single property. From here, plats will also list rights of easement use on any lots located even partially within the subdivision or town.

On top of this, subdivision plats state the width and location of the easements on each lot. In some cases, these will be previously existing easements already in place from previous planning and zoning. In most, though, they will have been newly set by planning and zoning.

Street Info and Right of Way

And finally, subdivision plats will contain all the information we might need on surrounding streets and locations for the area. They will state legal street names as defined by the city or municipality, plus things like street width and location. This will make referencing larger areas within the plat much simpler.

In most cases, record plats for a subdivision are the baseline for surveying. They can be obtained through any local Recorder of Deeds office at your county courthouse – we’re happy to go through yours with you and explain what it tells you about your property and surrounding properties alike.

For more on subdivision plats, or to learn about any of our land surveying services, speak to the pros at Diamond Land Surveying today.