Newsletter: Land Surveys (MI, April 2019)

Land Surveys – Law Change Requires Survey Recording 

Did you know that Michigan surveyors are now required to record surveys completed for the purpose of a sale or land transfer?

PA 132, often referred to as the “Survey Act,” changed significantly in 2018. While the act had previously stated that a survey “may” be recorded, the law now states that the surveyor “shall” record a survey under specified conditions.

“I think that it is a great idea that has been a long time coming,” said Joyce Foondle, Bedford Charter Township’s assessor. “I have always thought that it would be good to require surveys to be recorded.”

For communities that approve land divisions, this change has many benefits. It can reduce zoning compliance issues and improve the accuracy of descriptions used for assessment. It also serves to reduce boundary issues that stem from a surveyor’s inability to retrace the original parcel lines because the original survey information was not available.

By requiring having a survey done in order to prepare new parcel descriptions, administrators can better enforce setback and coverage ordinances because they will have actual measurements. This follows through to field verification. With the property lines established and marked, proper setbacks can be more readily verified.

Assessors, Planning Commissions, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and local governments in general will benefit from the new requirement. It enables:
A parcel to be drawn in a GIS correctly both in terms of its geometry and location, as it will be tied to public land corners or a recorded plat
More accurate assessing as the size of a parcel will not be easily disputed

Requiring surveys to be recorded helps provide accurate retracement of property lines by making the survey that created them available to all. In the past, if a firm was sold or a surveyor passed away or retired, those records were often lost.
The current law states that surveys shall be recorded at the local Register of Deeds office when:

Land platted under Public Act 132, or land previously surveyed and recorded and for which no change in the boundary is made from a previously recorded survey, does not need to be recorded.

Land Division Policies May Need Modifying
An unintended consequence of the change may occur when a certified survey is required in a land division application and then the application is not approved. The landowner who hired a surveyor to do the initial survey – preparing the description and marking the corners – would have to have the survey redone.

Some government entities already have precautionary steps in place. Others may need to modify their land division policy. For example, in Bedford Charter Township, conceptual drawings are requested before applying for a land division.

“The land division process is not consistent from one county to another,” Foondle said. “Prior to going any further, I tell an applicant to bring in a conceptual drawing for us to look at because I don’t want a surveyor to come up with a great idea that looks pretty but doesn’t fit our zoning.

“I look at it from the land division point of view and the law itself and then the zoning administrator looks at it for zoning compliance.”

F&V can help you with a survey and answer questions about the new survey requirements. Contact Max George at 616.977.1000.

Download and print the PDF version here.