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ALTA of apartment complex in 2 weeks?
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12/2/2019 at 5:15:16 PM GMT
Posts: 4
ALTA of apartment complex in 2 weeks?

So I recently wrote a proposal to update an ALTA survey of a 17 acre apartment complex. I got an email back from the client stating that another surveyor was going to be able to turn it around in 2 weeks. For us that would be pushing it, even having all of the information from a survey we did in 2013. I am having a hard time imagining a surveyor being able to do this survey from scratch in 2 weeks. I guess if they got after it immediately and worked 12 hour days, and maybe used drone technology, it might be feasible. But it just gave me a funny feeling.

I have heard of a surveyor (and I am not going to call him/her out by name), that will scan in a copy of a survey done by another company and trace over it, preparing a survey with minimal field work. I have no reason, other than a hunch, to think that this situation is the case here. So if another company is able to do a legitimate survey in this quick time frame, then by all means, more power to them. But what if there is or was a surveyor making these kind of short cuts? How would we ever prove this? And would it even be a clear violation?

12/9/2019 at 12:24:40 AM GMT
Posts: 39

          Probably all of us know licensed “surveyors” who do little or no field work and merely copy plats by others, putting their own seal and signature on the results and representing it to clients as valid surveys.  I encounter instances all along.  Some surveyors who do this put terse, fuzzily-worded disclaimers on their “plats” vaguely stating the information was “taken” from another’s plat and / or that they did limited or no fieldwork.  The disclaimers are worded such that a layperson does not realize the import, but, in the mind of the “surveyor”, allows the “surveyor” to weasel out of liability if their hand is called.  But I would say the majority of “surveyors” who do this kind of work put no disclaimers at all on their “plats.”

          One dead give-away about such work is the bearings and distances on the original plat, and the copied “plat” match exactly.  But then some surveyors who do this alter or “adjust” the bearings and distances so as to cover up the fact that their “plat” was copied.

          It would involve some effort and expense on your part, but if you know the approximate time frame that the other firm would be expected to be on the ground doing the fieldwork, hire a young, reliable person, that you can pay minimum wage, to monitor the premises during that time, to take notes, and to take photographs.

          The apartment complex may have security cameras.  If you have the right connection with the management, you might get them to allow you to review the security videos and determine when the other firm had its personnel on the ground and at what times.

          Interview the full-time maintenance personnel of the complex about whether they noticed when surveyors of the other firm were on the premises.

          If you can get a copy of the other firm’s ALTA plat and you suspect it was copied from your 2013 plat, you might go back on the ground and do some careful spot-checking and see if there are features shown on your plat that no longer exist on the ground or that have been altered since 2013, yet the other firm’s plat shows them just as your 2013 plat shows them.

          For future ALTA surveys, put some stray marks, such as small, innocent-looking squiggly lines and dots, here and there on the plat.  Deliberately slightly misspell a few common words on your plat in such a way that is not very noticeable but that a layperson can readily grasp the meaning if that becomes necessary.  An alternative to misspelling is use British spellings of a few words in cases where the British and American spellings differ.  If the other firm directly reproduces its plat from yours, these stray marks, misspellings, and/or British spellings, will show up. 

          I hesitate to make this suggestion since it borders on nonprofessionalism: On future ALTA plats, draw in some small features, well within the property lines, that do not exist on the ground and for which, as a practical matter, it is harmless as to whether or not they exist.  Examples of fictitious items to draw in are small antennas, guy wires, small concrete heat pump pads, and small concrete stoops or steps on the sides of buildings where there are no doors and therefore no reason for there to be such features at such locations.  If the other firm copies your plat and fails to do some careful checking on the ground, their plat will unwittingly include these non-existent features.  I will welcome any comments by others about the ethical aspects of this, given the circumstances.

          With regard to the question “would it even be a clear violation?,” it MOST DEFINITELY IS A CLEAR VIOLATION for a surveyor to put their seal and signature on a drawing that does not conform to the technical standards (that is, in this case, the surveyor failing to do the fieldwork themself).  All I can suggest about proving such is to consult an attorney about what kinds of evidence is needed to make a case of malpractice, work that up, and present it to the State Board in the form of a complaint, and see what happens.  If the State Board feels the situation has merits, it can compel the other surveyor to testify under oath and he/she might admit the facts.

Farris Cadle

1/25/2020 at 9:07:04 PM GMT
Posts: 5
I think it is probably doable. 4-5 days field work and 7-8 days drafting as long as you have a good crew that you can dedicate one or two crews and one or two drafters to that one job for that many days. With drones and field to finish it may even take less time.

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