Beware of Use of Existing Surveys

An Article by the Surveying Committee of the NC Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors


Knowledge of survey plats is essential to your real estate practice. Prepared by Professional Land Surveyors (PLS) in North Carolina, survey plats are visual records of properties at the time the surveys were performed.

Whether you list a property or research one for a prospective buyer, you should caution your client to be certain that any existing plat prepared by a surveyor in the past is a true description of the property in the present.

The accuracy of any survey plat, as a snapshot in time, is only assured by the licensed surveyor on the date of performance of the survey. At any time, afterward, changes can occur, including, but not limited to:

•  Alteration of property corners

•  Encroachment of buildings or fences or other structures

•  New easements

•  Violations of current zoning laws

•  Revised buffer and flood zones

•  Sale of part of the property

•  Reshaping of impervious surface area

Relying on plats that do not reflect changes occurring since the last survey has the potential to harm the purchaser of the property and the public. Historical survey plats, especially, are more likely not to provide the purchaser with the current accuracy of the boundaries or of any potential liabilities that may have evolved over time.

A map of survey must meet the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors Board Rules, specifically 21 NCAC 56.1604 (Office of Administrative Hearings, and, if the plat is going to be recorded in a county Register of Deeds office in a plat book, North Carolina General Statute 47-30 (North Carolina General Assembly, The Board Rules and Statutes, including GS 47-30, are available from the Board’s Web site at

Survey plats can be prepared on three map sizes, 18” x 24”, 21” x 30”, and 24” x 36”. At a minimum, each county Register of Deeds must accept the 18” x 24” size. Plats prepared to meet board rules do not have a size requirement, but the size of a map must permit all details to be legible on a copy. If a plat is going to be recorded as an attachment to a deed, the size requirement is no larger than 8½” x 14”.

A sample GS 47-30 plat can be found at

For any questions or help when ordering or using surveys please contact the Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors at (919) 791-2000 or visit the Web site at

This article came from the May 2012-Vol43-1 edition of the bulletin.