Certification from a surveyor’s point of view

Surveyors are frequently called upon to provide certifications with their work. To most surveyors, their seal and signature are sufficient to indicate that they stand behind their reports and statements. To an increasing number of clients and agencies, however, the certification is necessary as a specific statement of the reliability of the survey document to which it refers.
In large part, the surveyor is a reporter of facts, not a supplier of opinions. The word certify means to “confirm,” “attest to,” “verify,” “affirm,” “substantiate,” “guarantee,” or “warrant.” Black’s Law dictionary says that a certification is “ the formal assertion in writing of some fact.” Clearly, a certification in this context must not involve a statement of opinion. When the surveyor measures certain features of a parcel of land and reports them on a plan or plat of the site, the surveyor is a reporter of facts. When the surveyor offers an opinion as to the reliability of the evidence determining the property lines of the parcel, or when the surveyor offers an opinion as to compliance with zoning, the surveyor is no longer just a reporter of facts. The surveyor’s statement of opinion should not be in the form of a certification.
A few typical forms will demonstrate the dilemma of the surveyor in dealing with the certification statements often requested by clients. The following certification statements are among those presented to a Massachusetts surveyor.
 ATA/ACSM certification of 1962 (superseded)
 ACSM certification of 1979 (Superseded)
 ALTA/ACSM certification of 1986 (Superseded)
 ALTA/ACSM certification of 1988 (Superseded)
 ALTA/ACSM certification of 1992(Superseded)
 ALTA/ACSM certification of 1997 (Superseded)
 Individual land Title company “surveyor” report”
 New England Land Title Association “surveyor” report”
These certification forms presents an assortment of problems and liabilities for surveyors; ranging from slight to excessive. Some constitute statements of fact, for which the surveyor is safe assuming the surveyor is factually correct others require the surveyor to certify on the basis of an opinion, or on the basis of facts that are not within the surveyor’s knowledge; these should be avoided. The following discussion examines some of the typical certification mentioned above.
register of deeds certification
This certification provides “I certify that this plan conforms to the rules and regulations of the Registers of Deeds dated January 1, 1976. “ This is a statement of facts that are within the surveyor’s knowledge and presents no undue liability risk to the surveyor as long as the surveyor has in fact conformed to those rules and regulations. The surveyor is able to know, for example, that the plan is on 4 mil polyester film and that the lettering is at least one –eight inch in size.

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