Frequently Asked Questions 

Frequently Asked Questions

Surveys provide property owners with accurate information on the size and shape of their property, set markers on the corners and provide a written description on the position of improvements such as buildings and fences. In Ontario, only a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor may provide you with this information. A survey is often required by property owners who wish to make changes to their property (add a building, build a fence, etc.) or simply wish to have knowledge of the conditions of their property.

Surveys may also be required when:

  • Buying or selling a property or part of a property
  • Mortgaging a property
  • Redeveloping a property  such as for a subdivision, condominium, etc.
  • Constructing new buildings, fences, hedges, etc.
  • Resolving boundary disputes.


The cost of a survey varies greatly with individual circumstances. The type of survey, size and complexity of the property, location, terrain, etc. are all factors. An Ontario Land Surveyor is the only person who can help you determine the appropriate survey for your needs and provide an estimate of its cost.


Surveying a boundary involves research, locating evidence, measurement, calculation, considering boundary law principles, analysis, drafting and communications.

When surveyors determine an existing boundary, their challenge is to locate the boundary where it was originally established. Since many boundaries were created decades or more ago, it can be a challenge finding the required information. Surveyors usually start with a Land Registry Office search but unlike lawyers their search must go beyond looking at the current parcel abstract. They must search back far enough to understand how and when the boundary was created in relationship to surrounding parcels. Often not all information is available in the Land Registry Office. They may have to retrieve the original crown patent maintained by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, find related records available in the Archives of Ontario, search for municipalities for appropriate by-laws, and consult a variety of other information such as local historical information, water elevations and historical photography. They also must acquire information from other surveyors that may have surveyed in the area and left evidence of the boundary (approximately only about one quarter of survey plans are stored in the Land Registry Office). A surveyor may have invested several hours into research and incurred significant disbursements before getting to the field.

Once at the site they (or their staff) will look for evidence which will include survey monuments, natural boundaries (e.g. the water’s edge), and other physical evidence such as fences or buildings that may be related to the location of the boundary. They will look for features that may encroach over the boundary. At this point they can start measuring. Surveyors and their technicians use a variety of advanced technology to measure today, ranging from robotic total stations to global navigation satellite systems (e.g. GPS) and data collectors. It is common for surveyors to have over $100,000 invested in equipment for each crew. Measurements will be recorded using a combination of sketches and digital files to depict relationships of the features captured.

Calculations are now performed to understand the relationships of the evidence tied in. This is compared against documentary evidence (i.e. information shown in descriptions and plans) to determine how it fits together. As should be expected, often old measurements that were determined with steel chains and compasses shown in the documentary evidence do not match the dimensions measured on the ground with modern technology. Additionally, physical evidence (e.g. survey monuments, fences, and buildings) might not align with a single location of the boundary. The surveyor must apply boundary law principles to help determine which evidence should be afforded the most weight in determining the location of the boundary. As an example, they may have to consider the priority of severances (e.g. if someone thought they owned 200 feet of frontage but only had 198 feet and sold 100 feet, they would not be left with 100 feet but instead 98 feet). The weighted evidence is then analysed to determine the most likely location of the original boundary. Surveying is not just a matter of measuring but requires professional judgement. At this point the location of any new survey monuments required or new boundaries for severances can be calculated and survey monuments planted.
All this information is conveyed to the office where calculations are performed and checked prior to the plan being drafted using modern drafting software and equipment. As with field equipment, office equipment such as scanners, plotters, computer stations and specialized software can easily cost more than $50,000. The plan should be independently reviewed and checked.

Ultimately the surveyor must prepare an internal report describing which evidence was used and any anomalies that had to be addressed. They generally also prepare a report for the client that addresses any issues uncovered during the survey (e.g. physical features that may be over a boundary line or limitations on the property such as easements or rights-of-way).
This short article is a simplification of the process, which can be quite involved and can be iterative (e.g. new evidence found in the field can involve additional research). It does not address other knowledge required such as the multiple statutes, regulations and by-laws that need to be considered. Surveyors are required to have a specialized university degree, complete several years of experience, and pass written and oral professional exams before they can obtain their license to practice for the public. In some of the areas of the province with older surveys and specific circumstances surveyors have built libraries of specialized information that helps them re-establish boundaries. The time you see survey crews in the field represents a small portion of the efforts into performing a survey.


There are many reasons why you may be refused a copy of a survey plan. Survey plans are not a 'product' bought and sold by surveyors. Survey plans are a communication tool used by the surveyor to express their professional opinion as to the location of property boundaries or other aspects of a property.

The information on the plan is specific to a certain time and for the specific purpose of the surveyor’s client. The information on the plan may be 'out of date' or may not be sufficient for current needs. For instance, a one-year-old survey for new construction is usually completed before the building is completed or the site graded. As such, it may not illustrate many important aspects of the improvements to the property such as building overhangs, fences, driveways, overhead utility lines, etc. These features can be critical to the current needs of the property owner.

Plans may also contain information that is confidential to the surveyor's original client. By providing new copies of plans, the surveyor may be accepting additional liability for his / her professional opinions and is entitled to reimbursement for that new risk.


The AOLS cannot advise property owners as to their specific property boundaries. It is necessary to employ a surveyor to research the issues and prepare the appropriate survey and report. As with any profession, if a property owner believes that the surveyor's opinion is incorrect, they are fully entitled to obtain a second opinion.

Measurement is not always the most important tool in determining property boundaries. Measurements always have a certain amount of error.  This is especially true for old boundaries that may have been established with chains and less accurate measuring equipment than available today.  The major land settlement in Ontario took place over 200 years ago, some with the benefit of survey,  and some without. Errors occasionally creep into deeds, documents are lost, original boundary markers are lost through reconstruction and in rare cases, unscrupulous individuals may move property markers or fences or alter documents to deliberately gain advantage. Surveyors must carefully research the history of the property and the physical evidence (property markers, fences, etc.) found in the field and resolve any conflicting information prior to expressing an opinion as to the location of a boundary.  In retracing a boundary the surveyor's job is to determine where boundaries were originally set, which may result in differing dimensions from those shown in deeds or on plans.

Where there is disagreement between a surveyor and client as to the cost of a survey and both parties agree, the AOLS can, through its Fees Mediation Service, offer some dispute resolution. However, where the client disputes the results of the survey and consequently does not wish to pay for the survey, this dispute must be resolved between the surveyor and the client, and the courts, etc., as the AOLS cannot determine if the survey was valid.


A complaint must be made in writing, to the attention of the Registrar. Please refer to the Complaints section of this website for further information.


The AOLS cannot advise property owners as to their specific property boundaries. It is necessary to employ a surveyor to research the issues and prepare the appropriate survey and report. As with any profession, if a property owner believes that the opinion of a particular professional is in error, they are fully entitled to obtain a second opinion.

Measurement is not always the most important tool in determining property boundaries. Measurements always have a certain amount of error.  This is especially true for old boundaries that may have been established with chains and less accurate measuring equipment than available today.  The major land settlement in Ontario took place over 200 years ago, some with the benefit of survey, and some without. Errors occasionally creep into deeds, documents are lost, original boundary markers are lost through reconstruction and in rare cases, unscrupulous individuals may move property markers or fences or alter documents to deliberately gain advantage. Surveyors must carefully research the history of the property and the physical evidence (property markers, fences, etc.) found in the field and resolve any conflicting information prior to expressing an opinion as to the location of a boundary. In retracing a boundary the surveyor's job is to determine where boundaries were originally set, which may result in differing dimensions from those shown in deeds or on plans.


The AOLS cannot advise property owners as to their specific property boundaries. It is necessary to employ a surveyor to research the issues and prepare the appropriate survey and report. The legal rights and interests in property are sometimes complex and span the expertise of both surveyor and solicitor. In these instances, it will be necessary for the surveyor to work together with the client's solicitor, and as a team, they can best advise the client.


The AOLS cannot advise property owners as to their specific property boundaries. It is necessary to employ a surveyor to research the issues and prepare the appropriate survey and report. The legal rights and interests in property are sometimes complex and span the expertise of both surveyor and solicitor. In these instances, it will be necessary for the surveyor to work together with the client's solicitor, and as a team, they can best advise the client.

When differing surveys become known, the surveyors can often resolve the matter and issue new plans and reports. Where surveyors cannot resolve the issues, only a Court or a Boundaries Act tribunal can make a final determination as the true location of a boundary.


An Ontario Land Surveyor can help you determine the appropriate survey for your needs. There are Ontario Land Surveyors with offices in many communities across Ontario. The "Find a Surveyor" page will help you find one near your location.


There are many reasons why you may be refused a copy of a survey plan. Survey plans are not a 'product' bought and sold by surveyors. Survey plans are a communication tool used by the surveyor to express their professional opinion as to the location of property boundaries or other aspects of a property.

The information on the plan is specific to a certain time and for the specific purpose of the surveyor’s client. The information on the plan may be 'out of date' or may not be sufficient for current needs. For instance, a one-year-old survey for new construction is usually completed before the building is completed or the site graded. As such, it may not illustrate many important aspects of the improvements to the property such as building overhangs, fences, driveways, overhead utility lines, etc. These features can be critical to the current needs of the property owner.

Plans may also contain information that is confidential to the surveyor's original client. By providing new copies of plans, the surveyor may be accepting additional liability for his / her professional opinions and is entitled to reimbursement for that new risk.


Property boundaries may only be established by a licenced Ontario Land Surveyor. Survey monuments are not always set directly on property corners, and may be displaced by construction activities or even by unscrupulous neighbours. If you rely on your own location, or that of an unlicensed surveyor, you assume the risk on incorrectly identifying your property boundaries and building a fence or other structure in the wrong location. Licensed Ontario Land Surveyors are required to carry professional liability insurance to protect the public if an error should occur. Having an Ontario Land Surveyor locate your boundaries is a worthwhile expense when compared to the cost of moving a fence, or having a neighbour take you to court.


Your municipality is responsible for setting conditions that must be satisfied before they will issue a permit for construction. These range from set-backs from boundaries or environmentally sensitive areas to limitations on the amount of coverage you can have on your lot. The conditions are imposed to protect you, your neighbours and the environment (e.g. to ensure fire fighting equipment can get to the back yard).

Surveyors provide site plans and up-to-date surveys to allow the municipality to ensure that their conditions have been met. Surveys cost a fraction of the development costs and ensure that your construction meet zoning requirements.


Some surveyors will provide copies of old surveys, however, they will ask for some form of release of liability. The survey plans may be out of date and not show all improvements, property limitations (e.g. easements), etc. and should not normally be relied upon as they may not include improvements, property limitation (e.g. easements), etc.

Many surveyors will not release old plans. There are many reasons why you may be refused a copy of a survey plan. Survey plans are not a ‘product’ bought and sold by surveyors. Survey plans are a communication tool used by the surveyor to express their professional opinion as to the location of property boundaries or other aspects of a property.

The information on the plan is specific to a certain time and for the specific purpose of the surveyor’s client. The information on the plan may be ‘out of date’ or may not be sufficient for current needs. For instance, a one-year-old survey for new construction is usually completed before the building is completed or the site graded. As such, it may not illustrate many important aspects of the improvements to the property such as building overhangs, fences, driveways, overhead utility lines, etc. These features can be critical to the current needs of the property owner.

Plans may also contain information that is confidential to the surveyor’s original client. By providing new copies of plans, the surveyor may be accepting additional liability for his / her professional opinions and is entitled to reimbursement for that new risk.


The legal question of “adverse possession” or “squatter’s rights” is a fairly complex legal issue that, among other issues will depend on where the property is located. In some parts of Ontario, adverse possession no longer applies due to provincial legislation. Your legal rights with respect to adverse possession can best be addressed by your solicitor. Your solicitor may wish to engage a surveyor to accurately determine the location of the property boundary with respect to the fence or other improvements to the property so that you and your solicitor are aware of the extent of the problem.


Section 6 of the Surveys Act does allow a surveyor, or a person in the surveyor's employ to enter and pass over the land of any person at any time, or to enter into a building, at a time suitable to the occupant. They access your property to find evidence needed to retrace property boundaries in the vicinity.  However, the surveyor is responsible for any damage resulting from his or her actions.

The AOLS recommends to its members that they attempt to contact the owner or occupant before entering a property. This is not always possible or practical, and the surveyor may have to complete the work without advising the owner. Surveyors and their employees are expected to identify themselves or provide contact information for the surveyor if requested to do so.


There are many reasons why you may be refused a copy of a survey plan. Survey plans are not a 'product' bought and sold by surveyors. Survey plans are a communication tool used by the surveyor to express their professional opinion as to the location of property boundaries or other aspects of a property.

The information on the plan is specific to a certain time and for the specific purpose of the surveyor's client. The information on the plan may be 'out of date' or may not be sufficient for current needs. For instance, a one-year-old survey for new construction is usually completed before the building is completed or the site graded. As such, it may not illustrate many important aspects of the improvements to the property such as building overhangs, fences, driveways, overhead utility lines, etc. These features can be critical to the current needs of the property owner.

Plans may also contain information that is confidential to the surveyor's original client. By providing new copies of plans, the surveyor may be accepting additional liability for his / her professional opinions and is entitled to reimbursement for that new risk.


When a surveyor retraces a boundary, their job is to determine where the boundary was originally established. They use a variety of evidence to determine the location of the original boundary. Sometimes surveyors will interpret evidence differently or provide more weight to some of the evidence than others. Boundary retracement can be complicated. As a result there are times when surveyors will have differing opinions on the location of a boundary.

When this happens, the surveyors can often resolve the matter and issue new plans and reports. Where surveyors cannot resolve the issues, only a Court or a Boundaries Act tribunal can make a final determination as the true location of a boundary.


No. The Association cannot recommend one member over another. Please see the "Find a Surveyor" page to find a surveyor near you.