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  1. #1

    Default Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Michigan
    I posted prior to this when a buyer was considering buying the narrow lot next door. He didn't like our tree and fence and wanted us to remove them. He actually offered to pay for half of the removal of the tree, but since we did not want to remove the tree, asking us to pay for half of something we didn't want was not in the cards. He ended up purchasing the property and, as part of the purchase, apparently had a survey done (although we did not actually see the survey being done). As a result of his survey, he asserted that half of the tree and part of the fence was on his property.

    We let him know that if there was a part of the fence that was on his property, he was welcome to remove what was on it (although, by our survey stakes, we did not see where the fence was encroaching - it was built two feet inside the property line). It turned out to be that there was some leaning going on in the fence and he felt that it was in his air space. So he removed a section, which we didn't argue with him about as we didn't want to get into a disagreement with him. I called the county forestry people about the tree, and they sent someone out to look at the tree. He assured me that the tree was not on the neighbor's property, but that the overhanging branches could be trimmed back to the line, as is proper. We let the neighbor know that he was free to have the tree trimmed, but we did not want the tree removed, or any of the major structures harmed.

    So...I get home the other day, and the tree has been trimmed to within an inch of its life. Two of the major branching structures are completely gone, leaving some minor branching on top of about an 8 foot trunk. It looks awful. I called the tree trimmer about it, and he came right over to explain his work. When he got there, he explained that he only removed what was on the neighbor's property. I asked him to walk over, line up the stakes, and tell me if he felt that the tree was on the neighbor's property. When we walked over, we noted two things: 1) My survey stakes from OUR original survey are gone and 2) He agreed that, by the remaining stakes (the neighbor's survey), the tree, was NOT on the neighbor's property at all. He was very confused, as he said that when he cut the tree, the stakes indicated that the tree was about half and half and he removed the half that was encroaching. He felt that the stakes had been moved. He also said that he had been asked to remove a post in our fence and had refused because it would cause the fence to fall, so we went and looked, and sure enough, the post was gone and about another six feet of fencing was stacked up. We have since walked the property line, and only the neighbor's survey stakes appear to be intact.

    As it is, I no longer trust the stakes that he has left, since it appears that he is not above moving them when he feels like it. I am at a loss. Do I call the police and file a missing stakes report? What is the procedure? Can I force the neighbor to do another survey? I feel that the survey is going to be important, as he has placed stakes for the corners of his structures, and he appears to be building right up to the property line (we do not have any township rules that would govern a setback).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Posts
    988

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    Wood or metal stakes.It may matter!

    Often states have laws against removal of survey stakes.placed by a licensed professional .look it up for MI.

    If you "acquiesce " as to a new propery line by a fence etc you may be on losing end of equation in MI.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    They were the wooden stakes placed by the surveyor. I was just going to repeat the survey, but it turns out that it will be $500 to replace just that side. More than I wanted to spend on it!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,867

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    Is the line in question a straight line and if so, were iron stakes put at the corners? If so you should be able to locate then and run a string or laser from one to the other to determine where the line is.

  5. #5
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    Jun 2015
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    988

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    The MI penal code at 750.383 addresses removal of boundary markers ...I don't know if it applies to markers on private lands or temporary wood stakes .
    But a licensed land surveyor in MI probably knows?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    No, that statute has nothing to do with survey markers.

    Michigan does have a statute forbidding the removal of certain, non-temporary markers:
    Quote Quoting MCL 54.222. Section corners and quarter posts; marking; removal, penalty.
    The surveyor as above employed shall sink into the earth at all section and quarter post corners from the surface to a depth of at least 3 feet, a column of broken brick, charcoal, broken stones, or other easily distinguishable substance, of a diameter of at least 3 inches, and carefully describe the same in the records of his survey, and also to mark and record new witness trees wherever possible to do so, and if any person shall wilfully cut down, destroy, deface or injure any living witness tree, or remove a corner post in any shape, as above established, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be liable to a fine of not less than 25 dollars nor more than 50 dollars.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    I have a call in to the surveyor to ask him what my permanent markers look like. What I can find are my temporary markers (the wooden stakes that he placed) have been thrown on the ground, and there is a marker at each end of the line that is just a piece of corner shaped metal (bent at a right angle and tapped down into the ground). The one at the lake side of the house is still there, the one at the road side of the house has been pulled out and thrown on the ground. At any rate, the sheriff came out and looked at what I thought were the corner markers and said no, that they would look different than that. Other than that, I don't see anything that looks like it would be the corner. Is it *always* part of the survey to place a permanent corner?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    314

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    A surveyor can take a piece of rebar and pound it into the ground as permanent points. My SOB neighbor removed my wooden stakes, but did not lift up the rebar points which had a orange cap on top of them. I hope Land Surveyor, or EAPIS visits this thread as they are both surveyors.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    7,056

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    Quote Quoting fivekidsnadog
    View Post
    I feel that the survey is going to be important, as he has placed stakes for the corners of his structures, and he appears to be building right up to the property line (we do not have any township rules that would govern a setback).
    If the town doesn't have their own zoning ordinance, the county surely does and it will control in the absence of town regulations. Check your county website for the zoning ordinance. If you don't know what zone you are in, check the zoning map then check the performance standards for that zone.

    I have checked several county zoning ordinances in Michigan and the side yard setback for residential and accessory structures is 25 feet in those that I have checked.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    El Dorado County, CA
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    395

    Default Re: Neighbor Removed My Survey Stakes

    It's been a long time since I've worked in MI, but as I recall, there is a law regarding setting corner monuments of a durable nature. I believe that Land Surveyor is licensed in performs survey in MI from time to time, so hopefully he will come along and verify.

    Typical practice was, and likely still is to place a section of iron rebar or pipe at each corner as the corner marker. These are topped with a plastic, aluminum, or brass cap marked with the license number of the surveyor who set them and/or the business name. In a residential setting and other small parcels, or in other locations a corner marker could be subject to disturbance, these irons would be driven to below ground surface. Depending upon the situation, the cap may be at or just barely below ground surface, or they may be a foot or more below the surface.

    If you remember just where the corners according to your survey were, and you have access to and know how to use a metal detector, try that first. When digging, be very careful to not disturb the monument with your digging tools. If you have any question whatsoever as to the proper location, or that what you find are indeed the corner monuments that your surveyor set, bite the bullet and pay the $500 to have him verify the points and reset them if need be. $500 sounds like a lot, but it's actually pretty reasonable when you compare the time spent in the office and field by the licensed professional and any skilled technicians working under his direction and then compare that to the fees of almost any other licensed professional and most skilled tradesmen.

    Once the corner monuments set by your surveyor and any set by your neighbor's surveyor are uncovered, take pictures that show the disparity. Ask each surveyor why there is a disparity if one exists.

    Too bad about your tree. However, if its trimming to such a severe extent is due to misrepresentation by your neighbor, then he could be in for a very rude awakening. As I recall, MI has a statutory provision for punitive damages of 3 times the market value when one removes or damages trees that they knew or should have known were not on their property. You might want to look into that.


    As to the zoning and building setbacks, they can vary quite a bit depending upon the community and the zone type. The 25' side setback mentioned by Budwad is typical of rural and agricultural zoning. More typical in a non-rural residential zone would be 5' or 10' for a side yard setback. Zero setbacks occur typically only in certain commercial zones, some old portions of long established towns, and areas approved for high-density housing. In the several jurisdictions I've worked in, these amounts are pretty typical. Unless you are in an area that was subdivided into very small lots prior to the 1940s, or are in a high-density residential zone, I would expect that the minimum side-yard setback would be something between 3' and 10'. Check with your local Building or Planning Department.

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