Records of Survey

In the American free enterprise system, the private sector, represented by licensed land surveyors and many civil engineers, has the responsibility for locating, describing and measuring parcels of private land. The government’s role in this process is limited as far as private lands are concerned. The private sector prepares changes in assessor parcel configurations such as subdivision maps, parcel maps, lot line adjustments, etc. which are then submitted to local agencies for approval.  Once approved, the public agency has no further role in the process.

The government’s primary role is in the ownership and management of publicly owned lands such as National Forests, State Parks, and county, municipal and district properties. Other than ownership and management of those lands, at the federal level, the United States Geological Survey maintains the digital geospatial foundation for the nation which is used by the private sector in describing property. In California, the state government’s role is primarily restricted to the description of lands adjoining waterways and bodies of water such as swamp and overflow lands. 

One method of locating, describing and measuring private parcels is the record of survey. A licensed land surveyor or civil engineer prepares a record of survey by using the most current technology and supplemented by research of records on prior surveys and property transfers. Under the Professional Land Surveyors Act (California Business and Professions Code 8700 et seq), the County Surveyor reviews the survey. That review is limited in its scope and covers the mathematical accuracy and technical sufficiency of the submitted record of survey. Completing the review does not express the concurrence of the County Surveyor in the determinations made in the survey. If the County Surveyor chooses, they may attach notes expressing the County Surveyor’s opinions regarding the record of survey, or the methods or procedures utilized or employed in the performance of the survey. The private map preparer and the County Surveyor usually work out their differences prior to recordation removing the need for notes.  

A Record of Survey is one professional’s opinion of the boundaries and size of a specific private parcel of land. Filing the record of survey with the County Recorder does not mean that the information contained in the survey is definitive. Disputes over parcel location, description and size are resolved in the one branch of government where private issues are settled, courts of law. A person wearing a black robe makes the final determination of the characteristics of any given parcel of real property including boundary disputes and easement questions unless the parties involved can agree in writing. 

More Information

Should you have any questions please contact Napa County Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk, John Tuteur at (707) 253-4459 or [email protected]. More articles can be found here.