June 6, 2023


When purchasing a piece of land or real estate property, it’s essential to understand every little detail that comes with it. One aspect that requires a thorough examination is the property survey and encroachments.

A property survey is an in-depth analysis of a piece of land or a real estate property that determines its legal boundaries, while encroachments refer to intrusion by any neighboring structures or land outside the boundaries. Understanding these aspects of buying a property is highly crucial, as it helps avoid future legal disputes and financial inconveniences.

Introduction to Examining Property Surveys and Encroachments

Definition of Examining Property Surveys and Encroachments

The examination of property surveys and encroachments refers to the process of assessing land boundaries, property lines, and structures located on the land in question. A property survey determines the exact location and dimensions of a property, including any structures or encroachments.

An encroachment, on the other hand, occurs when a structure or physical feature on a property extends beyond the property line and onto neighboring land. Property surveys and encroachments are essential because they provide crucial information about a property’s boundaries, which is crucial for property owners, prospective buyers, or sellers and real estate agents.

There are several reasons why examining property surveys and encroachments is important. Firstly, it helps to ensure that the property owner understands the parameters of their land and the limitations of what can be done. This knowledge could prevent unintentional encroachments or limit disputes that may arise from a misunderstanding of property boundaries. Secondly, property surveys and encroachments assist in identifying any unrecorded easements, covenants or restrictions that may hinder the use of the property.

Understanding encumbrances is necessary for prospective buyers or sellers to make informed property transactions. Lastly, property surveys and encroachments help to minimize unforeseen legal disputes. Researching the status of a property before purchase, renovation or construction is essential to avoid legal complications that may arise from encroaching on a neighbor’s property.

When examining property surveys and encroachments, it is vital to understand how they can affect the legal ownership and property rights of the land. Property surveys and encroachments provide a detailed description of the land’s parameters, which is essential in defining property boundaries accurately. Encroachments can adversely affect the value of neighboring property, affect property lines or even lead to legal action by a homeowner.

Understanding the implications of property surveys and encroachments on legal ownership and property rights is crucial to safeguard investment. Without such assessments, property owners are at risk of unexpected expenses resulting from lawsuits or damages caused by encroachments.


Understanding the purpose of examining property surveys and encroachments is vital for any individual or entity involved in property transactions or development. Property surveys are administrative or legal documents that provide definitive diagrams and information about the boundaries of a property. In contrast, encroachments refer to an intrusion or infringement of a person’s property rights by another person or entity. Both of these components can have significant legal implications and impact ownership and property rights.

Examining property surveys is essential in verifying the accuracy of property boundaries, which helps prevent boundary disputes with neighboring property owners. Additionally, it guarantees the protection and preservation of land rights. The legal implications of an incorrect survey can be a costly litigation process. While encroachments, on the other hand, can present conflicts relating to easements, adverse possession, and zoning. They can also indicate issues such as improper permits or illegal construction, leading to the added costs of removing or mitigating the encroachment and associated legal actions.

Consequently, it is important to examine property surveys and encroachments to ensure accurate land records and to verify the legal and physical limits of an individual’s or entity’s property. This examination is particularly critical for developers and builders to avoid lawsuits, construction delays, and unforeseen costs. Further, governmental policymakers rely on surveys and encroachments to make informed decisions regarding land use, zoning changes, and infrastructure development.

Legal Implications

The legal implications of examining property surveys and encroachments are significant in determining ownership and property rights. In legal terms, an encroachment refers to a physical intrusion onto someone else’s property. Property surveys are conducted to accurately define property boundaries, identify existing encroachments, and resolve any discrepancies.

If an encroachment is discovered through a survey, legal action may be required to resolve the issue. Encroachments can affect property value, limit the use and enjoyment of the property, and even lead to litigation. In some cases, the discovery of an encroachment may result in the need to modify a property sale or purchase agreement.

Examining property surveys is vital to ensure that ownership boundaries are clear and undisputed. Any encroachments can be addressed and resolved before there is a legal dispute. Furthermore, conducting a property survey and identifying encroachments can prevent costly litigation and disputes in the future. It is essential to understand the legal implications of property surveys and encroachments when buying or selling property or making significant changes to a property. By understanding the boundaries of a property and identifying encroachments, property owners can protect their investments and avoid potential legal conflicts.

Types of Property Surveys

Boundary Surveys

Boundary Surveys are an essential tool in real property transactions. The boundaries of a parcel of land are often based on descriptions that may have been created decades or centuries earlier. The accuracy of these descriptions may be in dispute, causing the potential for boundary disagreements. A boundary survey determines property lines and identifies any encroachments upon the property or easements through it.

The survey documents physical evidence on the property, including but not limited to, fences, roads, trails, buildings, utility poles, and other evidence of improvements that encroach on the property or that benefit it by way of easements. The surveyor then uses the physical evidence to calculate the property’s boundary lines.

Topographic Surveys

Topographic surveys are an essential component of land surveying because they provide a detailed picture of the land’s surface, including its natural and man-made features. These surveys offer critical information such as elevation and topography, which assists engineers and architects in designing buildings and infrastructure. A topographic survey may also help in the decision-making process for developing a property, particularly when encountering potential hazards.

This type of survey may detect issues such as low-lying areas in need of drainage or steep slopes that may demand a retaining wall. Hence, topographic surveys are beneficial in enabling architects, developers, and policymakers to establish guidelines for land use while staying in compliance with zoning and building codes.


ALTA/NSPS Surveys are specialized property surveys used to examine topographic and boundary features of a property. These surveys are conducted when there is a need for comprehensive information about a property that goes beyond a basic boundary survey. These surveys are regulated by the American Land Title Association/National Society of Professional Surveyors and are conducted by licensed surveyors who are familiar with the unique requirements of these surveys.

The purpose of an ALTA/NSPS survey is to provide detailed information about a property, such as the location and dimensions of property lines, easements, rights-of-way, and other encumbrances. These surveys also detail improvements to the property and their relationship to the boundaries, as well as topographical features such as elevation, contours, and drainage patterns. ALTA/NSPS Surveys are typically required when a property is being purchased, leased, or financed, especially when multiple parties are involved.

These surveys provide assurance that the land is free of encroachments, and that the legal descriptions and other documents related to the property accurately represent its physical boundaries. Additionally, ALTA/NSPS Surveys are used to identify any potential conflicts or errors that may arise with the property’s title. This information can be critical for lenders, title companies, and other parties involved in the transaction, and can help to avoid costly legal disputes in the future.

Overall, the use of ALTA/NSPS Surveys ensures that all parties involved in a property transaction have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the physical features and boundaries of a property, which can be critical in making informed decisions and minimizing risks.



An encroachment refers to a situation where a property owner or builder violates the property lines of a neighboring individual’s land. This refers to the illegal extension of a building, fence, or structure beyond the boundaries of one’s lot and onto another’s. Encroachments aren’t always evident since they can sneak up on you from various places, including excavating, installation of a drainage system, planting a tree, or constructing a boundary wall. As a result, a comprehensive survey is required to assist in determining where the property line is situated and whether there are any potential encroachments.

Encroachments can cause property ownership issues for the owner of the encroached-upon land, including the inability to use their property fully, such as the utilization of a portion of a backyard. Moreover, it can lead to legal disputes and may decrease the overall value of the property, making it challenging to transfer ownership to a new owner. Therefore, it is crucial to conduct a thorough examination of property surveys to assist in identifying these encroachments and eliminating disputes between neighboring proprietors.

Types of Encroachments

Encroachments can take many different forms and can significantly impact property ownership. The two main categories of encroachments are structural and non-structural. Structural encroachments occur when a neighbor’s structure, such as a fence or building, crosses property lines onto the subject property. These types of encroachments can be the most disruptive and may require legal action to resolve.

Non-structural encroachments can take many different forms such as trees or bushes that overhang property lines, underground utilities, or temporary encroachments such as construction equipment being parked on a neighboring property. While non-structural encroachments may be less disruptive, they can still impact property value and require attention from property owners.

Identifying Encroachments

When examining property surveys, it is crucial to identify any potential encroachments on the property. Encroachments occur when an adjoining property owner builds a structure that extends beyond their property line onto the surveyed property. These encroachments can have a significant impact on property ownership, as they can limit the use and enjoyment of the property. Encroachments can also impact property value by making it less desirable to potential buyers.

To identify encroachments, it is essential to review the property surveys and compare them to the physical boundaries of the property. This process requires a detailed examination of the surveys, including their legal descriptions, boundary and setback lines, and any easements.

It is also important to conduct a physical inspection of the property to identify any structures, fences, or other improvements that may have crossed the property line. Once an encroachment is identified, it is important to address it with the adjoining property owner. This can be done through legal means such as a cease-and-desist letter, or by negotiating a solution such as a boundary line agreement or easement. Identifying and addressing encroachments is essential for protecting property rights and maintaining property value.

Steps to Examining Property Surveys

Reviewing Survey Documents

When reviewing survey documents, it is essential to understand the purpose of the various elements contained in them. A property survey typically includes a legal description of the property, a depiction of the property’s boundaries, and any physical features that could impact the use or ownership of the land. It is important to examine the survey’s legal description carefully to ensure it matches the property boundaries and description of the property identified in other documents, such as title reports and deeds.

Reviewing the depiction of the property boundaries in relation to surrounding land is crucial to identifying any potential encroachments or discrepancies. If the survey shows physical features, such as easements, it is also important to understand their purpose and potential impact on the property’s use.

When identifying discrepancies, the survey is the primary source of information. It is important to review the description of the property boundary and ensure it matches the physical depiction of the boundary on the survey. Any discrepancies between the survey and other documents, such as deeds or title reports, must be investigated, and the reason for the discrepancies must be identified. Similarly, if the survey shows evidence of encroachments, it is crucial to examine the survey and other documents carefully to determine the legality of the encroachment and whether any steps must be taken to remedy the situation.

If discrepancies or encroachments are identified, it is important to take steps to resolve them to avoid potential legal implications. Typically, this involves contacting the surveyor and requesting a correction or amendment to the survey. In some cases, the issue may need to be addressed in court, with the property owner and the encroaching party hashing out an agreement or petitioning a judge to resolve the matter.

Failing to address discrepancies or encroachments can lead to legal disputes or make it challenging to sell or use the property effectively. Therefore, when reviewing survey documents, it is essential to take the time needed to examine them thoroughly and address any issues identified promptly.

Identifying Discrepancies

Identifying discrepancies in survey documents is an essential step in the process of examining property surveys. One must compare the survey documents with the actual property boundaries to ensure that all information is accurate and correct. Some of the most common discrepancies that may arise include differences in property lines and incorrect measurements.

If these discrepancies go unnoticed, they may lead to legal issues for property owners. This is why identifying them early and taking appropriate action is crucial. To identify discrepancies, one should begin by carefully reviewing the survey documents and comparing them to legal property boundaries.

It is critical to look for any mistakes or inconsistencies. One should also conduct a physical examination of the property to compare boundaries in the survey and to determine if there are any encroachments from neighboring properties. If one finds any discrepancies, a professional should be consulted to help resolve the issue. Furthermore, it is important to document and retain all survey documents and reports to support any actions taken in the future. By identifying discrepancies and taking action to resolve them, property owners can ensure the accuracy and integrity of their property boundaries, thus avoiding legal problems down the road.

Resolving Discrepancies

Resolving discrepancies between survey documents and property boundaries is often a complex and time-consuming process. When a survey document presents inconsistencies or disagreements with the actual property boundaries, it is crucial to determine the reason for the discrepancy and take appropriate action to address the issue.

Initially, reviewing the survey documents to ensure that they are accurate is vital. Common reasons for a discrepancy may include incomplete or inaccurate surveys, missing or outdated property records, or human error during the survey process. Once the nature of the dispute has been established, it is important to work with a professional surveyor to resolve the issue. They can examine the property boundaries, conduct a new survey, or make corrections to the existing survey documents.

Parties involved in resolving a survey dispute need to understand the potential legal implications of the situation. If the discrepancy cannot be resolved through negotiation or legal action, it could lead to significant property disputes that may result in litigation. Survey disputes can also impact property values, financing opportunities, and potential property sales. Therefore, it is imperative to work diligently to reach a resolution before the situation gets out of hand.

In summary, resolving discrepancies between survey documents and property boundaries requires a thorough review of the survey documents, understanding the nature of the discrepancy, and seeking professional help to address the dispute. Being aware of the potential legal implications of the situation is also crucial. With focused effort and attention to detail, property disputes can be resolved, ensuring that all parties involved can move forward with peace of mind and a clear understanding of the true property boundaries.

Ways to Prevent Encroachments

Boundary Markers

Boundary markers are instrumental in determining the exact boundaries of your property. They are physical objects or markers that define the limit of a property line. A surveyor usually installs these markers to indicate the boundary lines of a property. Boundary markers are crucial in preventing disputes with your neighbor or encroachment onto your property. They are necessary when planning to build a new structure, putting up a fence, or selling a property.

It is a good idea to ensure that boundary markers are intact and visible, as they are the only tangible evidence that proves the extent and limit of your property. In the absence of boundary markers, determining the exact boundary can be a time-consuming and expensive process that requires legal intervention and surveying. Therefore, it is wise to keep the boundary markers in good condition and to check them periodically.


Easements, in the context of property boundaries, refer to the legal right of a non-owner to use a specific portion of someone else’s property for a specific purpose. An easement agreement is accomplished through a legal document and creates a legally binding obligation. Examples of easements include utility and driveway easements.

Utility easements grant utility companies the right to access a specific area of someone’s property to install and maintain utility lines, while driveway easements give the homeowner the right to use a specific section of the neighbor’s property to access their own property. It is important to understand the purpose of easements and how they impact property boundaries as it can significantly affect property value and use.

While some easements are beneficial and allow property owners to fully use their property, others can be a hindrance and limit the use and value of the property, particularly when it comes to future development. For example, if a utility company has a utility easement on someone’s property, they can prevent any permanent structures from being built on that land, which can significantly decrease the property’s value. It is essential that homeowners thoroughly understand any existing easements on their property before making any changes or improvements to their property.

Moreover, it is also important to note that easements can be transferred with the property and may also be subject to changes. For example, if a property owner changes the type of use of their property, it may affect the easement rights granted to the other party. As such, it is necessary that property owners stay updated with their easement agreements and consult with an attorney before making any significant changes or improvements to their property. Failure to do so may result in legal disputes, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Understanding the definition and purpose of easements is essential for property owners, as they significantly impact the value and use of the property. Ensuring that all easement agreements are up-to-date and legally binding can prevent any legal disputes in the future. Property owners must consult with an attorney before making any significant improvements or changes to their property that may affect an existing easement agreement. Overall, property owners must be responsible for maintaining these agreements while also staying up-to-date with any changes or updates to ensure the best use and value of their property.

Neighborly Communication

Neighborly Communication is an essential aspect of property ownership. Communicating with your neighbors can help prevent encroachments and boundary disputes. Before buying a property, it is necessary to examine property surveys to determine the exact boundaries of your property. While some property owners may rely on their intuition to mark their boundaries, it is important to communicate with your neighbors to establish an agreement. Communication can prevent future disputes that may occur due to unclear or mistaken boundaries. It is common for neighbors to make assumptions about their property lines or engage in casual boundary agreements without formal documents.

It is advisable to have clear and documented boundary agreements with neighbors to avoid potential conflicts. Communication is not only crucial before a dispute arises but also during a disagreement. In many cases, a simple discussion with a neighbor can clear up any discrepancies and resolve the issue informally. It is important to note that communication with your neighbor on boundary issues, even if it does not result in an official agreement, can strengthen relationships between neighbors.

Summary of Examining Property Surveys and Encroachments

The importance of examining property surveys and encroachments cannot be overstated, as it directly affects the ownership and value of a property. A property survey provides a detailed outline of the boundaries and features of a property, which is essential for legal and financial purposes.

It can determine the exact location of buildings, fences, and other structures, as well as any easements or right-of-ways that may affect the property. By examining property surveys, potential buyers or owners can verify the accuracy of property descriptions, avoid boundary disputes, and ensure compliance with zoning and building regulations.

Examining property encroachments is equally critical, as it involves any unauthorized intrusion of a structure or use on a property by a neighbor or a third party. Encroachments can range from minor violations, such as a fence that slightly crosses the property line, to major issues, such as a building or a swimming pool that obstructs a significant portion of the property. By identifying and addressing encroachments, property owners can protect their rights, resolve conflicts, and prevent legal and financial liabilities.

In summary, examining property surveys and encroachments is an integral part of property management and ownership. It helps to ensure the accuracy of property boundaries and descriptions, avoid legal disputes, comply with regulations, and protect the value and use of the property. Therefore, property buyers and owners should always obtain a professional survey and conduct due diligence to identify any encroachments that may affect the property.

Future Implications of Not Examining Property Surveys and Encroachments

The potential future implications of not examining property surveys and encroachments can be significant. Without examining these documents, property owners and potential buyers may be unaware of any legal disputes or boundary issues that may arise in the future. Failure to address encroachments or boundary disagreements can lead to costly legal battles, not to mention the loss of valuable land or property.

In addition, failing to examine property surveys and encroachments can delay or prevent property transactions from being finalized. Lenders require these documents for mortgage approvals, and without them, buyers may not be able to secure the necessary financing for a purchase. This can result in lost opportunities or even financial hardship for property owners trying to sell or transfer ownership of their land or buildings.

Ignoring the importance of property surveys and encroachments can also lead to liability issues. If an individual builds a structure or makes improvements on property that they do not legally own, they can be held liable for any damages or issues that arise. This can include forced removal of the structure, payment of damages to the rightful property owner, or even legal action taken against the individual.

Overall, the potential future implications of not examining property surveys and encroachments are significant. Failing to address boundary issues or encroachments can result in costly legal battles, delayed or cancelled transactions, financial hardship, and liability issues. It is important for property owners and potential buyers to take the time to examine these documents thoroughly to avoid these potential consequences.

Property Surveys and Encroachments FAQs

What is the purpose of examining property surveys?

Property surveys are conducted to determine the boundaries, dimensions and location of a property. They also provide information on encroachments, easements, and other factors that may affect the property’s value and potential uses.

Why is it important to understand encroachments on a property survey?

Encroachments can affect the use, value, and ownership of a property. Understanding encroachments is essential to ensure that the property boundaries are accurate and that there are no legal issues that can influence the sale or use of the property.

What types of encroachments could appear on a property survey?

Encroachments can be both physical and legal. Physical encroachments include structures, fences, or landscaping that cross over the property’s boundary. Legal encroachments include easements, right-of-way, and setback requirements that limit the use of the property.

Is it necessary to hire a professional surveyor to conduct a property survey?

A professional surveyor can provide a highly accurate report on the property’s boundaries, legal encroachments, and other factors that can impact the property’s value and use. It is advisable to hire a certified surveyor to ensure an accurate and comprehensive survey report.

How can a property survey help in the decision-making process for a real estate purchase?

A property survey provides crucial information on the property’s boundaries, easements, and possible encroachments. The survey can also reveal potential issues that may affect the value or use of the property, helping the buyer make an informed decision.

What are some common issues that can arise from not examining a property survey and encroachments?

If a professional survey is not conducted before purchasing a property, the buyer may face costly legal issues later. Encroachments can cause boundary disputes and even result in third-party legal action. Not understanding the significance of a property survey can lead to unexpected expenses, legal battles and loss of property rights.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}