Right of Entry: Important rules for land surveyors and property owners

No trespassing sign

Often misunderstood and frequently frustrating is the land surveyor’s Right of Entry. Access to private property is an inherent part of the survey process, but when landowners are uninformed or misinformed, land surveyors can suffer consequences ranging from work delay to injury.

To complete surveys, field crews require access to privately owned property. In an urban area, that might mean conducting work on the other side of a fence on an adjoining parcel. In rural areas, agricultural landowners often manage a heightened sensitivity to unidentified visitors with the presence of guard dogs. Having a thorough understanding of everyone’s rights and being able to communicate clearly is key to any situation.

In California, Surveyors Right of Entry is covered in both civil and penal codes. For the professional assigned to the job, knowledge of the applicable codes is important.

Right of Entry, Defined by Code

California Civil Code §846.5 establishes that property owners must “provide reasonable access without undue delay” to legally authorized land surveyors. California Penal Code §602.8, which covers trespassing violations, includes a subdivision that exempts “any person licensed pursuant to” California’s Business and Professions Code, which includes licensed surveying professionals.

Right of Entry doesn’t require advance notice to property owners but alerting a tenant or owner prior to the project is suggested “when practicable.” The only exception, applied to monuments within a freeway right-of-way, requires advance notice in writing to the appropriate agency. Survey crews often make efforts to provide notice, knocking on doors and explaining the process before beginning work. If a tenant or owner is unavailable, surveyors leave a notice explaining what they will be doing and when.

The California Land Surveyors Association (CLSA) has developed an education campaign that provides information for property owners. Suggestions include alerting survey crews of any potential hazards, including the presence of animals that may require restraint, and of any physical obstructions. Owners are entitled to know who is working on their land and what activities to expect. Resulting issues, if unresolved by mutual compliance, can be directed to the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists. Law enforcement personnel are also addressed in the information-sharing process, with specifics on surveyors’ rights and helpful reminders that can be drawn upon if a conflict arises.

LACO Associates is eager to learn about your land surveying needs and assist with your project. For more information on our land surveying services in Mendocino, Sonoma, or Butte Counties please visit the LACO website Land Surveying page or contact Vice President of Land Surveying, Brad Thomas, at [email protected].

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