At a recent state convention I learned a new surveying term: "Breaking the Record." This refers to publishing boundary dimensions that differ from the record dimensions of the parcel. Many surveyors in that region apparently "break the record" only after clear and convincing evidence forces them to do so. The premise seems to be that publishing results that differ from the deed geometry creates "problems" that must be resolved by others involved with the property; therefore, unless compelling evidence argues otherwise, surveyors should sidestep the field measurements and note the record measurements as the dimensions resulting from the survey. I have since learned that the custom is widespread in some other parts of the country as well. Marc Cheves, Editor of The American Surveyor, tells me that when he moved from one state to another, one of the title companies in the new locale mentioned him in its in-house newsletter because he insisted on showing his measurements instead of the record dimensions, contrary to the insistence of local title attorneys in the area. Apparently non-surveyors in some areas rely heavily on record dimensions.
I have run across many surveyors who, because of ignorance of The Rule or because of a misunderstanding of its application, routinely honor courses and distances over monuments and even above senior rights in retracement. In contrast, surveyors who are concerned with "breaking the record" understand and adhere to The Rule in their boundary analyses. They will honor two called-for pipes as being the corners of the lot and will note them as such in their writings. The issue arises when, even though their work indicates a distance of 100.04 feet between the pipes, they report the distance as 100.00 feet because the record documents call that distance. The survey, then, reflects no change in the boundary.
Every Little Difference?
Do we have an obligation to publish every little difference in measurements derived from our fieldwork? A valid argument against doing so is that because all measurements contain error, we have no reason to believe that our measurements are automatically more precise than those reflected in the record. After all, we can point to differences in our own successive measurements. Despite this fact, most would agree that, on average, older measurements are less certain than those taken today. Even so, that misses the point.
The Point of Boundary Surveying
We are retained partly to opine on the location of the perimeter (an intellectual pursuit) and partly to place monuments to mark the locations on the ground (a mechanical pursuit). There would be no foul, I suppose, in retracing a parcel and not publishing any courses and distances along the outlines of the property. For instance, we could walk the perimeter with the client and point out the bounds. We could also render a sketch with no numbers along the perimeter. But when we report geometric data as part of our opinion, others have a right to expect our writings to reflect our findings, not simply a parroting of the record data. Would there be any point in clients retaining us if our custom were merely to return the deed geometry to them in the form of a drawing? Could they not gain the same benefit by plotting the deed themselves?
I am not sure who the practice benefits, but surely it is not future surveyors. Footsteps are hard enough to follow without the former surveyor intentionally misstating his results. Beyond that, the practice creates dilemmas. How much of a difference is necessary before rejecting the record data in favor of the actual field results? Proponents of positional tolerance statements on boundary positions should be especially offended by the custom. Such a statement expands the possible true location of the point under consideration from the location specified by the geometry. No other scheme is practicable. Hence, if 0.04 feet were a tolerance attached to the distance above, retracement surveyors would deem the true value to lie between 99.96 and 100.04 feet, when in reality the range should be between 100.00 and 100.08 feet. Any possible use for such a statement is thus sharply diminished.
Why Not Break the Record?
Copyright © 1998 By Joel M. Leininger, LS