FAQ - Survey


01. What is the map and tax lot number for my property?

Go to our Intermap site and follow the instructions.

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02. How do I find out why a survey crew is working in my neighborhood or on my land?

If possible, contact the crew and ask them what they are doing and who they are working for. You may have to get their company phone number and call their supervisor for more information. You can also try to get a company name off of the vehicle they are driving. New survey monuments are required to be marked with caps that include the surveyor’s registration number or corporate name on them. If you find such a monument, you can call the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors at (503) 362-2666, and they can provide you with information on how to contact the surveyor or the company. Your neighbors could be another source of information. The County Surveyor’s Office crews use clearly marked trucks and use yellow and orange ribbon marked "WASHINGTON COUNTY SURVEYOR". You can get information regarding a County survey crew by calling (503) 846-7933 or (503) 846-7891.

03. How can I find out if a survey exists for my property?

The Washington County Surveyor's Office has a research website called iSpirits, where you can search for surveys, plats and other records. You can also come into our office and our staff will assist you in your research (155 N. First Avenue, Ste 350, Hillsboro, OR 97124).

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04. Will the County survey my property for me?

The County does not perform survey work for private parties. If you want your property surveyed, you must hire a private land surveyor.

05. How do I locate a licensed Professional Land Surveyor?

The yellow pages of the phone book have a listing under "Surveyors-land." The County Surveyor’s Office cannot make recommendations.

You may find the brochure “A Guide to Selecting an Oregon Land Surveyor,” published by the Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon helpful.

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06. What is a Record of Survey?

A record of survey (ROS) is a document that is filed in the survey records at the County Surveyor’s Office. Only a Professional Land Surveyor may prepare and file a ROS. Generally that survey represents the Professional Land Surveyor’s opinion of the location of one or more property boundaries.

Since 1947, Oregon law has required that surveys be filed with the County Surveyor when a registered professional land surveyor establishes or reestablishes a boundary monument. A surveyor may choose to file a survey for informational purposes even if it is not required.

Many surveys were filed prior to the legal requirement to do so. The Washington County Surveyor’s office dates back to 1856 and the documents archived there date back to that date as well.

07. What is the significance of the county’s acceptance of a Record of Survey for placement in the survey records?

Today the County Surveyor is required by law to file any survey performed by a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) if it meets the minimum requirements set out in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 209.250. In addition to the checklist of items in the law the County Surveyor’s Office will point out any obvious errors or omissions but the law requires that the survey be filed and indexed into the records whether the County Surveyor agrees with the resolution of the boundaries, or not.

The survey standards and requirements have changed over the years and today’s legal requirements reference a checklist of required items such as the surveyor’s seal and signature, the date of the survey, scale of the drawing, and other informational items.

The county’s acceptance of a survey for filing does not mean the county agrees with the boundaries resolved on the survey. The significance of placing it in the records is limited to the fact that the survey document meets the minimum legal requirements for a survey map.

Once a survey is filed into the County Surveyor’s records, it falls under the state archiving schedule for permanent retention. There is no provision for removing a survey from the records.

08. Is a record of survey proof of the location of the boundary lines?

A record of survey is evidence of the location of the boundaries of a specific piece of property, in the opinion of the surveyor preparing the survey.

A Professional Land Surveyor has specialized training, experience, and skills that that have been rigorously examined in order to qualify them to be licensed by the State of Oregon.

The surveyor uses information from deeds, prior surveys, and physical evidence found on the ground in conjunction with laws, rules, and other standards of practice in order to make their conclusions.

An accurate boundary survey, in which boundary lines are identified by a licensed surveyor, is usually an effective means by which property owners can resolve common boundaries.

09. Why do the surveys in my neighborhood show different widths for the public roadway in front of my property?

Private surveyors work on the limited budget provided by a client that needs a property boundary survey. There are times when the resources available for research and field work are limited so the surveyor may show the road as traveled and use the width as shown on other surveys or on the county assessor’s tax map.

However, tax maps and records of survey do not fix the legal location or width of a public road. A survey that notes that the road shown is “as traveled” and makes no attempt to justify the width shown should not be relied upon with regard to the legal location and width of the road. A survey that shows the controlling elements used in locating a road and citing the records relied upon in stating the road location and width may be strong evidence, but a survey still reflects the opinion of the surveyor.

If you hire a surveyor to determine the location and width of the roadway adjacent to your property, be sure that he or she understands the desired scope of work. It is important to hire a surveyor that is knowledgeable in route surveying and the laws applicable to our public rights of way. The County Surveyor’s office will work with your surveyor to provide the best available information regarding county road locations. By law, we are not able to provide advice or surveying services to private surveyors or the public.

The county does conduct surveys that focus explicitly on the correct location and width of the road based on the best available evidence in the field and pertinent documents. These surveys are generally performed only when: 1) a future road improvement is being considered; 2) when it is not possible to accurately establish the legal location and width of an existing road based on available survey monuments and documentation; or 3) when the “as traveled” location of an existing road differs from the location described in the available records.

10. What if I disagree with the Surveyor?

If the survey in question is a modern survey and the surveyor is still available, talking directly to him or her may be the most expeditious way to handle the situation.

There may be instances where ambiguous deed language, a lack of records, or conflicting records, in combination with the actions of current or previous owners may result in more than one reasonable interpretation of a boundary.

If you meet with the surveyor and after you present your information, and he or she explains their method of arriving at the boundary, and there is still a difference of opinion, you may have to hire your own surveyor for a second opinion. Seeking a second professional opinion is common in many instances where you are dealing with other professionals such as doctors.

If there are proposed solutions that may involve filing new deeds in which there may be the appearance of a property line being adjusted, you should check with your local planning authority to determine if you need a permit for a property line adjustment (PLA).

If the boundary dispute can not be resolved by the land owners and their Land Surveyors, you may have to consider legal action in court. The court can authoritatively fix the location of a disputed boundary line. In some instances that decision may be further appealed but in the end it is resolved in the court system.

11. What is an easement?

An easement is an interest in the land of another.

An example could be in a case where you live in a rural area and it would be more convenient or shorter for your neighbor to cross your land than to drive a more circuitous route to access his property. You could grant the neighbor an ingress-egress easement over a driveway to be constructed on your property. You would own the land under the driveway but the neighbor would have the right to use it for the specific purpose granted.

12. What is the definition of a “public road right-of-way”?

Generally, in Washington County, a public roadway is in the form of an easement for road purposes. The easement is over someone’s land and is subject to the use of the public. The county generally has jurisdiction over the public’s use of the right of way, including requiring permits for activities in the roadway. That means the county can regulate the use of the roadway subject to the public easement but the county does not own the property under it.

The county does not maintain public dedicated roadways, if they are located outside of the county’s Urban Road Maintenance District, except in certain emergencies. (See ORS 368.031)

13. What is a “County Road”? How is a county road different from a public road?

In some situations it is in the public interest for the county to accept a roadway into the county road system. This is done by an action at the Board of County Commissioners. A County Road Number is assigned and records of the proceedings are filed in the County Surveyor’s Office.

The primary advantage of establishing a public road as a county road has to do with the funding for maintenance. Road Funds (gas tax revenues) may be spent to maintain a county road without declaring an emergency or going through a Board of Commissioners action to allocate the funds. 

14. Who owns the property lying in the right of way?

When a road is dedicated as a public road or established as a county road the underlying ownership remains with whoever the rightful owner is.

The county, as a corporate body, may own property. It is rare that this is the case in a roadway. If the county owns property that is intended to be used for roadway purposes, the county usually dedicates the road to the public in order to create the easement for a public road.

15. What is a road vacation?

A vacation of the roadway is an action in which the public’s right to use the property for road purposes is extinguished. The property is no longer burdened by the public’s right to use it for road purposes.

The County Assessor’s office will incorporate the area back into the appropriate account, or accounts, for tax purposes. This is often the abutting tax lot(s) because the owner(s) of the abutting property always held the underlying ownership of the road and now, after the road vacation, the property is once again taxable.

16. What is “County Road Legalization”?

The county uses the legalization process as defined in Oregon Revised Statutes 368.201 through 368.221 when there is doubt as to the location and/or width of a county road. This may occur due to omission or defect in the original action establishing the county road or when the location of the road cannot be accurately determined due to loss of the original survey, defective surveys, or numerous alterations of the pertinent records.

The legalization process may also be used when the traveled roadway does not conform to the surveyed location and it has been in its present location for more than 10 years. Typically, the roads subject to these actions have been in their present location for many decades.

The legalization process finalizes and fixes the location of the public right of way and can act to automatically supersede other records that may show the right of way in another location.

Legalization is in the public interest because it clarifies conflicting records and creates a known, easily locatable, right of way boundary along the frontage of the abutting properties.

17. Generally how is the width of a county road determined?  Particularly, how is the width determined for a proposed legalization action?

Current law requires that all orders or resolutions accepting a road as a county road must state the right of way width. For new roads, the width is typically set based on current county road standards.

When legalizing a county road, the width stated in the original documents establishing the road is used. In some cases the original documents do not state a width. In those cases the road may be legalized according to the state laws governing the width of county roads at the time the road was originally established or to a width conforming to the current county road standards for a road of that functional classification (functional classifications are established in the county’s Transportation System Plan —typical roadway classifications are Arterial, Collector, and Local roads.

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18. How will I know if the county is contemplating legalizing the roadway adjacent to my house?

The need to legalize a roadway usually becomes apparent when the county is attempting to locate the right of way on a portion of or all of a county-maintained road. When the need for a legalization action has been indentified, the Board of County Commissioners sets a time and date for a public hearing and directs that all affected property owners be notified of the hearing.

If you own or rent property along a road that may be the subject of these proceedings, you will receive personal notice in the mail, and there will be postings in conspicuous locations in the area of the roadway. The mailed notice will include contact information for the County Surveyor’s Office in case of questions.

19. What is an engineering location survey?

When it becomes apparent that a county roadway needs significant repair or other improvements and funding has been identified to support that effort, the first step is to create a topographic map of the existing conditions at that site. As part of that survey work, the road right of way, or limits of the public easement, must be located.

This engineering location survey becomes the basis for designing improvements that may be required due to failure of the existing road surface, safety concerns, or lack of capacity of the existing facility.

20. How will I know if the county is conducting a location survey in anticipation of significant road improvements?

When a county capital project has been funded and a location survey has been requested, the Capital Project Coordinator or Manager will provide personal notification by mail to those property owners and occupants of properties that may be affected by the project.

If the county is hiring a private surveying firm to do the work there may be additional notification from the consultant survey firm.

The engineering staff may not be able to answer all your questions about a project at this stage because they need to review the topographic data from the survey in order to make finial design decisions.

21. What are public land corners?

Public land corners are defined in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 209.005 as a section corner, one-quarter section corner, Donation Land Claim corner, meander corner, witness corner or any other corner established by the General Land Office or its successor.

These public land corner monuments provide the basis and control for the legal descriptions of all the real property in Oregon and other states that are designated as public land survey system states. The legal description for your property makes reference to the Township Range and Section where the property is located. The tax lot number mapped on the tax maps by the County Assessors Office is based on this system.

The public land survey system was implemented prior to land being conveyed from the federal government to private ownership. Generally all the government land corners were monumented at one time by the federal government and now the County Surveyor is tasked with locating and protecting those monuments.

Many of the original monuments were wooden posts, stones, or other physical objects that were available at the time. Today we are systematically marking these locations with brass or aluminum caps set in concrete or other permanent markers.

22. Who is responsible for the restoration and maintenance of the monuments at the public land corner lo-cations?

Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 209.070 requires that the County Surveyor establish, reestablish, and maintain all public land survey corners.

23. How many public land corners are in Washington County?

There are approximately 3,400 public land corners. The County Surveyor’s Office has an active work program to restore and maintain the monuments at these corner locations.

24. What is the legal status of corners that are established or reestablished by the County Surveyor?

Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 209.070(5) states that “When so established or reestablished such corner monuments shall be recognized as the legal and permanent corners.”

25. How is the restoration and maintenance of these survey monuments funded?

Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 203.148 authorizes counties to establish a “Public Land Corner Preservation Fund.” This fund is supported by a fee on recording documents associated with conveying real property. The fee is collected by the County Clerk and placed in a fund to be used to pay expenses incurred and authorized by the County Surveyor in the establishment and maintenance of public land corners.

26. Who should I contact if I find a public land corner monument that may be subject to destruction or disturbance?

Contact the Survey Supervisor in charge of the Public Land Corner work group at (503) 846-7933 or contact the County Surveyor directly at (503) 846-3405. If you are engaged in construction work and need to have a monument referenced or replaced, call before you disturb it. Contact the County Surveyor’s Office as soon as the need becomes apparent. Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 209.140(1) provides that the County Surveyor may charge a fee in an amount that will reimburse the county for the work performed. Our policy is to waive that fee, and do the work with public land corner preservation funds when we get timely notification and can work cooperatively with the person or agency causing the disturbance in order to mitigate the costs.