Board makes fresh changes to standards for land surveys


A state regulatory board made changes yesterday to standards land surveyors must begin meeting in December, but the revisions failed to appease critics who charge that the new rules will increase Maryland's already high closing costs.

The Board for Professional Land Surveyors altered the regulations after trying to reach a consensus last week with a professional group that represents more than half the state's surveyors.

Members of the Maryland Society of Surveyors had objected to new rules that they said will force surveyors to charge clients for services they don't want or need. For example, the group said, surveyors would be required to do time-intensive actual boundary surveys that could cost as much as $1,000 when a more cursory $150 house location drawing would accomplish the same thing.

Lenders require only house location drawings before approving mortgages, and that cost is added to the charges homebuyers pay at settlement. According to a 1988 study by the National Association of Realtors, Maryland closing costs were the fourth highest in the nation.

In yesterday's action, the board modified performance levels for surveyors it adopted Sept. 7 that require boundary surveys in cases where buildings and structures do not clearly sit within property lines. One change requires surveyors to tell clients when property lines are not clearly evident from field work and to give them the option of having a more extensive boundary survey done.

"We're trying to say to surveyors, you must inform the public of this," said Charles Maloy, chairman of the state board.

Another change requires all house location surveys to contain notes explaining how the surveyor determined the boundaries and warning consumers that house location drawings do no more than help secure financing.

Consumers, Mr. Maloy said, often don't understand the limitations of a location drawing. While it satisfies the requirements of lenders and title companies, such a survey cannot be used to prove boundaries when a homeowner wants to to build a shed, erect a fence or add a room, he said.

But Joel M. Leininger, past president of the society and head of its standards review efforts, said the changes don't change the situation.

"It doesn't go to the heart of the issue and doesn't reduce the costs," Mr. Leininger said.

Surveyors will still have to do significantly more boundary surveys, especially for townhouses and rowhouses, he said.

And in cases when they don't have to, they will need to take steps such as analyzing adjoining deeds and spending more time gathering evidence on site, he said.

"A certain amount of work is necessary to determine whether property lines are clearly evident," he said.

The society has called an emergency meeting next week to review the changes and to consider whether to seek a court injunction to stop the state from enforcing the regulations, said Robert L. Mead, the society's executive director.

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