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Is It Illegal To Move a Survey Marker?

Blog - Survey-Marker

Boundary pins may be driven into the ground at the corners of your lot by a licensed surveyor. These mark the intersection points of the property, so you can tell for certain where your property ends and that of your neighbor begins.

One question we get asked frequently is: Is it illegal to move a survey marker? Generally, the answer to that question is YES, it is illegal. Only government officials with a permissible purpose, such as a cadastral land resurvey, should remove or alter permanent survey markers. Even a professionally licensed land surveyor will not move or remove survey markers, as it is considered unethical to do so.

For Wyoming, we refer you to the Wyoming State Statutes & Constitution, Title 6: Crimes and Offenses.

6-3-202. Altering landmarks; penalties.

     (a) A person is guilty of altering landmarks if, with intent to destroy or deface the mark on a monument, landmark or bearing-tree designating the corner or boundary of a tract of land, he knowingly:

     (i) Displaces the monument or landmark;

     (ii) Defaces or alters the mark; or

     (iii) Breaks, cuts down or removes the monument, landmark or bearing-tree.

      (b) Altering landmarks is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00), or both.

Furthermore, some survey monuments may be federally owned, such as the section corners for the U.S. Public Land Survey System (shown below).  Those are actually stamped with the words “UNLAWFUL TO DISTURB.”  Any unauthorized person who alters or removes of these government survey monuments could also be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable with fines and/or imprisonment.Corner 1 Resize

Okay, so what about the little wooden stakes with orange tape that surveyors put out to temporarily mark a boundary or pre-construction build site?

It could also be illegal to remove wooden stakes placed by the surveyor, depending on what the stake is there for.  They should only be removed by the person that paid for them in the first place.  Unless they are on YOUR property, it’s best to leave them alone. General common law principles of trespass would hold a person liable for removing a surveyor’s stakes from someone else’s property.

If you are the one who paid the surveyor to put the markers on your property, and your use for them is now done, then go ahead and remove them.  They do make good kindling!



9 Responses

  1. Is it legal for your neighbor to put orange or pink property tape on someone else’s property marker

    1. General rules of trespassing would apply if a person entered another property to place tape on a marker. Most property corners have multiple surface owners on either side of a property corner that uses the corner in common with one another. The property corner intends to create a substantial landmark that will be used to identify boundaries for decades or centuries. Some states have specific Trespass Laws allowing surveyors access to positions without being burdening the surface owners, as long as no property damage is done. With that said, if you place landscaping or turf on top of a property corner, expect it to be dug up and used at some point in the future, surveyors require access to the property corners.

    1. Most states have statutes that specifically protect boundary corner monuments and allow for fines to be written if such destruction can be proven. Please visit with your attorney to learn more about Tennessee boundary law. Perhaps, your boundary markers were driven below the surface of the ground to avoid landscaping conflicts.

  2. I’m in GA. I disagree with the boundary markers that my neighbor’s surveyor placed. What do I need to do to dispute it without involving a an attorney?

    1. First, you should hire a professional land surveyor (licensed and registered in your state) to provide you with a second opinion. Do not be surprised if your surveyor comes up with different measurements from previously recorded surveys. Surveyors don’t all use the same equipment or method to accomplish the same task to measure the same boundary. In addition, don’t be the individual that is relying on a local government’s online public GIS system to determine if your corners are out of position; hire a professional surveyor. Keep in mind: surveyors do not practice law, if you have legal questions be sure to ask your attorney, not a surveyor. Each state has statutory language protecting boundary corners, and each state has different civil and misdemeanor penalties. It is unethical to move survey markers, and can present a very costly retracement survey to correct the situation.

    2. I would say pay for your own survey if you don’t believe the one your neighbor paid for. Simple logic.

  3. My neighbor had new property pins put in, and for some reason the rebar is sticking up 3′ out of the ground. It’s been this way for months and I have yet to meet the owner to ask about it.

    But can I cut the rebar down on the 2 that are also my property corners? I would still leave it in the ground, I just don’t want 3′ of rebar sticking up out of the ground til the end of time.

    1. The best thing to do would be to discuss with the neighbor first. See if you can find out the name of the surveying company that performed the survey. Contact them and explain the situation. Hopefully the survey firm will be able to send a surveyor to rectify the problem. Surveyors are often required to have a certain length of aluminum or steel for property corners. Cutting the rebar without the surveyor knowing could potentially jeopardize the marker or the corner position. Above all, the most neighborly thing to do would be to talk it over with your neighbor to see if there’s a reason for that amount of rebar, and see if you can find a solution.

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