Purchasing real property is likely the largest investment you will make in your lifetime. A surveyor can help you to protect your investment by ensuring that you know the extent of your property and you understand any related property rights.

Sale or Purchase of Land

Typically, your house and property represent your largest assets. If you are contemplating purchasing property, you should know as much as possible about the piece of land you are going to invest in. Obtaining a Surveyors Real Property Report (SRPR) may be the most important thing you do before you close the deal on any purchase. Without a survey, you may not know the extent of your property. Only an Ontario Land Surveyor licensed to perform cadastral (legal boundary) surveys can provide you with this information. Without a survey, there is much you do not know and you are risking both your relationship with your neighbours, and your investment.

It pays to know the boundaries of your land. A small distance can make a big difference. The erection of a fence or other structure in the wrong location can be the source of expensive litigation and ill will between neighbours. Your licensed land surveyor can help you avoid such disputes.

If You Are Selling Property

Under the Vendor and Purchasers Act, a vendor is only obligated to provide a registerable description of the land being sold, although many Agreements of Purchase and Sale contain a clause obligating the seller to provide “… any title deed, abstract or survey which are already in the seller’s possession.” Generally there is no obligation to provide a survey, unless the existing description does not meet current registration standards. In this case, a new survey, in the form of a Reference Plan may be required. A Reference Plan will not show any structures or improvements to the property unless they affect the boundaries.

You may wish to provide your buyer with an up-to-date Surveyors Real Property Report (SRPR) of your property in order to:

  • Give your buyer confidence in the purchase
  • Allow your buyer to register the transaction at the land registry office
  • Enable your buyer to make mortgage arrangements
  • Verify to your buyer the size and extent of the property
  • Avoid later legal disputes arising from inadequate or inaccurate property descriptions

Providing an old survey may be seriously misleading as well as illegal. Surveyors Real Property Reports are prepared for a specific transaction at a specific point in time and may not represent current conditions. The surveyor retains copyright to the plan of survey, and re-use of this plan is not allowed without permission from the surveyor.

If You Are Buying Property

You need to know what you're getting. Only a survey made by a licensed surveyor can legally define what you have purchased.

Your surveyor will undertake the necessary research, survey the property and prepare a Surveyors Real Property Report (SRPR) that will reveal:

  • Whether other people are entitled to partial use of your property through easements for utilities or rights-of-way
  • Whether fences, trees, buildings, gardens, embankments, driveways, walkways, swimming pools, house additions and other property improvements actually lie on your property
  • Whether your deed describes your property accurately

Your survey thus gives you a form of protection in addition to clarifying what you've bought, since it will reveal any encroachments or other irregularities that might be the cause of later legal disputes. In addition, your surveyor can mark the exact corners of your property with survey monuments.

If no up-to-date survey exists for the property you wish to buy, you should make it a condition of purchase that one be provided for you.

Title insurance is not a replacement for a surveyor’s opinion. In fact, most title insurance policies do not cover items such as fences or retaining walls that are encroaching onto your, or your neighbour’s, property that would have been shown on your SRPR.

Building a Fence or Addition

You should protect your investment by making sure that you are building on your own property and by recognizing the setback requirements of the local municipality’s zoning by-laws. A mislocated fence, driveway or carport can cause legal problems and extra construction costs. Before you build, let a licensed surveyor determine your property boundaries and replace any missing survey monuments. Allowing a surveyor to mark the location of your fence or building on site before construction begins will also ensure that you meet setback requirements and other restrictions enforced by the municipality in its zoning by-laws. Failure to comply with zoning by-laws could result in a “stop work “ order, the non-advancement of mortgage funds, or the loss of a future sale.

Download the AOLS brochure "Fence Building Tips" (PDF).

If You Are Dividing Land

The Land Registration System typically requires a legal survey for an owner to subdivide land.

A licensed professional surveyor will:

  1. Check and ensure extent of title, and note planning restrictions, easements and other legalities.
  2. Prepare a legal boundary and, if necessary, other surveys (for example a topographic survey) of the site.
  3. Engage other consultants, if necessary, to carry out preliminary studies of Engineering, Planning and Environmental issues that must normally be submitted with a Draft Plan of Subdivision or Condominium, or a Consent Application.
  4. Prepare a Draft Plan of the proposed subdivision or condominium.
  5. Prepare the final plans required for registration or deposit in the Land Registry system.

Refinancing or Obtaining a Mortgage

A prudent lending institution, whether it be a bank, trust company or credit union, may require a SRPR before they will lend money. Why is this a necessity and why are you often asked for an up-to-date survey?

Do the lot size, building setbacks, pool and fence locations meet local zoning by-laws?

The mortgage company will require the survey to protect its investment. It wants to be sure that the land and buildings on which it is lending money are as described in the documents that accompany the transaction. It also wishes to know that if there is a default in the mortgage there will be no boundary or title-related problems in re-selling the property.

Why a Professional Land Surveyor?

According to Ontario law, only surveys made by licensed Ontario Land Surveyors are legal. Only members of the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors have completed the academic requirements and practical training before licensing. Only Association members are required to maintain the necessary theoretical, practical and ethical standards set by legislation and the profession.

What Will It Cost?

Fees for surveys are determined by the nature and extent of the work, the amount of time required for the documentary research and the survey itself. Prior to engaging your surveyor, you should ask for a written estimate of the fees that the survey will entail, what product if any you should expect, for example, a plan or a report, and the expected completion date. In any event, the cost of an up-to-date survey is usually one of the best forms of insurance a homeowner can obtain.

Your Assurance

In cases of dispute, your surveyor can be an expert witness in court and assumes full professional responsibility for the accuracy of your survey. All licensed (cadastral) surveyors must carry professional liability insurance. The cost of the survey as a percentage of your total investment is small, and a reasonable price to pay for peace of mind.

Finding a Surveyor

You may wish to consult the "Find a Surveyor" section of this website or your lawyer may advise you of the surveyors in your area.