Types of Land Surveys in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin

by Anthony Steinmetz, ATG Law Clerk

An indispensable component of any real estate transaction is the land survey. A land survey performed by a licensed professional land surveyor can assure the buyer, seller, lender, and title insurer that the information they base their decision on is accurate, consistent, and in accordance with state laws. In Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, professional surveyors must meet certain educational requirements and perform land surveys in accordance with the minimum standards set forth in state statute. This article focuses on the types of surveys set forth in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin statute and the requirements for each.

Types of Surveys

Please note, the first section below is a condensed description of each type of survey. For the exact language and requirements for a specific type of survey, please follow the link provided.

An Overview

ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey

Title insurers have very specific needs, and as a result of those needs, the American Land Title Association (ALTA), the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) created the ALTA/ASCM Land Title Survey (ALTA Survey). Outlined below is an overview of the requirements that a professional surveyor in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin must follow when conducting an ALTA survey.

First, the person seeking an ALTA survey must submit a written request also including the optional items from Table A (see below). When conducting the survey, the surveyor must establish or retrace the property being surveyed and stay in accordance with the measurement standards set forth by ALTA, NSPS, and ACSM. The surveyor must also perform a record research and conduct field work to identify and mark monuments, rights of way and access, lines of possession, improvements, buildings, easements and servitudes, cemeteries, and water features. In preparing the plat or map, the surveyor must include:

  1. evidence and locations gathered during the field work;
  2. boundary, descriptions, dimensions, and closures; and
  3. easements, servitudes, rights of way, access, and record documents.

Finally, the surveyor is also required to adhere to presentation standards for the plat or map. He or she must also include on the map the following certification:

To (name of insured, if known), (name of lender, if known), (name of insurer, if known), (names of others as negotiated with the client):

This is to certify that this map or plat and the survey on which it is based were made in

accordance with the 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys, jointly established and adopted by ALTA and NSPS, and includes Items of TableA thereof. The field work was completed on ___________.

Date of Plat or Map:_____ (Surveyor‟s signature, printed name and seal with

Registration/License Number).

Table A is a list of optional items that may be included with an ALTA Survey for an additional fee. It is important to determine what is required from Table A by the title insurer prior to getting an ALTA Survey. For complete requirements and standards of the ALTA Survey and the additional Table A items, please visit the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys.

Illinois Surveys

The Illinois Professional Land Surveyor Act of 1989, the Condominium Act, the Plat Act, and the Land Survey Monuments Act and local ordinances govern land surveys conducted in Illinois. The Professional Land Surveyor Act is codified under Title 68, Part 1270 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Boundary Survey

The Illinois Administrative Code defines the boundary survey as a “land survey that requires study, investigation and evaluation of major factors affecting and influencing the location of boundary lines[.]” I.A C. Tit. 68, pt. 1270.56. The survey’s purpose is to “establish or re-establish the extent of title lines, and to define and identify those lines so as to uniquely locate each lot, parcel or other specific land area in relation to well recognized and established points of reference, adjoining properties, and rights of way.” Id. The Professional Land Surveyor Act requires the boundary survey to include:

  1. clear and legible field notes containing all pertinent information, measurements and observations made in the course of the field survey;
  2. unless requested otherwise, a plat of survey;
  3. a legal description for any parcel surveyed; and
  4. unless requested otherwise, monument or witness points for all accessible corners of the survey.

The act requires a surveyor to perform appropriate research when performing the boundary survey. Their research must evaluate:

  1. the property description describing the subject parcel, however, if the surveyor finds the property description insufficient or needs more information it is duty of the client to furnish the additional information;
  2. a reproduction of the recorded subdivision plat that created the subject lot, block or parcel;
  3. a reproduction of the Government Township Plat and pertinent Monument Records if the survey is of a section or aliquot part of a section; and
  4. relevant data provided by the client regarding special circumstances, such as unrecorded easements, judgments or Court decrees that may influence the location of boundaries of the survey.

Regarding monuments for boundary surveys, Illinois requires any public land survey monument to be in accordance with the Illinois Land Survey Monuments Act. 765 ILCS 220, I.A.C. Tit. 68, pt. 1270.56. According to the Act, a “public land survey monument means any land boundary monument or position thereof established on the ground by a cadastral survey of the United States Government and made part of United States public land record.” 765 ILCS 220/3.03. Types of acceptable monuments or markers are iron rods, pipes, or concrete monuments in the ground, or nails set in concrete or asphalt. I.A.C. Tit. 68, pt. 1270.56. Most monuments and markers have specific size and placement requirements such as length and diameter for physical marker and depth and accuracy of its placement. For a complete description of monument criteria, please refer to I. A. C. Tit. 68, pt. 1270.56.

The plat of a boundary survey must contain:

  1. the firm’s name, address, and registration number;
  2. surveyor’s seal, signature, date of signing, and license expiration date;
  3. client’s name;
  4. north arrow;
  5. scale-written down or graphic;
  6. date of completion of field work;
  7. legal description of the property;
  8. legends for all symbols and abbreviations used on the plat;
  9. monuments and witness corners;
  10. sufficient angles, bearings or azimuths, linear dimensions and curve data must be shown on the plat to provide a mathematically closed figure for the exterior of the survey;
  11. the basis or proper names of the coordinate system;
  12. if a parcel in a recorded subdivision, any adjacent right-of-ways, easements, and setback lines;
  13. visible physical evidence of possession or occupation either way from the exterior lines of the survey shall be shown and dimensioned;
  14. visible evidence of improvements, right-of-ways, or easements upon request; and
  15. the statement, “this professional service conforms to the current Illinois minimum standards for a boundary survey.”

A professional land surveyor or a person under a professional land surveyor’s control must conduct fieldwork in accordance with accepted methods of surveying theory, practice and procedures. It is the professional land surveyor’s responsibility to ensure that:

  1. the surveying instruments are adjusted and calibrated;
  2. monuments are searched for in a methodical and meticulous fashion;
  3. evidence that could influence the location of the lines or corners is located and evaluated;
  4. when the survey is of an aliquot or divisional part of a larger tract, sufficient fieldwork is performed to ensure that the existence of excess or deficiency in the parent tract can be determined and distributed by the judgment of the surveyor; and
  5. all field data is retained in a legible and orderly fashion.

For complete requirements and standards of a boundary survey in Illinois, please visit Section 1270.56 under Title 68 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Practice Note: Because the requirements do not include a requirement to show all improvements located on the land to be surveyed, ATG members using the survey for Extended Coverage must specifically request that improvements be shown on an Illinois Boundary Survey.

Condominium Survey

When performing a survey for a condominium, the Condominium Property Act standards must be observed. 765 ILCS 605. Section 5 of the Act requires that the surveyor set forth:

  1. all angular and linear data along the exterior boundaries of the parcel;
  2. the linear measurements and location, with reference to said exterior boundaries, of any buildings improvements and structures located on the parcel;
  3. the elevations at, above, or below official datum of the finished or unfinished interior surfaces of the floors and ceilings and the linear measurements of the finished or unfinished interior surfaces of the perimeter walls, and lateral extensions thereof or other monumental perimeter boundaries, where there are no wall surfaces, that part of every unit which is in any building on the parcel, and the location of such wall surfaces or unit boundaries respect to the exterior boundaries of the parcel projected vertically upward; and the elevations at, above, or below official datum and the linear measurements of the perimeter boundaries, of that part of the property which constitute a unit or a part thereof outside any building on the parcel and the location of the boundaries with respect to the exterior vertical boundaries of the parcel, projected vertically upward; and
  4. an identifying number or symbol of every unit identified on the plat.

For complete requirements and standards of a condominium survey in Illinois, please visit the Condominium Property Act in the Illinois Compiled Statutes.

Subdivision Survey

A subdivision survey is similar to the boundary survey but what sets it apart is the subdivision survey requires monumentation as mandated in the Plat Act. I.A.C. Tit. 68, pt. 1270.56. Furthermore, according to the act, whenever the owner of land subdivides his or her property into two or more tracts of land, any of which is less than five acres, he or she is required to have it surveyed and a subdivision plat made by a land surveyor. 765 ILCS 205/1. However, there are exceptions to this law. A subdivision survey is not required in the following instances:

  1. the division of land is into parcels of five or more acres and does not involve any new streets or easements or access;
  2. the division of lots of less than one acre in any recorded subdivision which does not involve any new streets or easements of access;
  3. the sale or exchange of parcels of land between owners of adjoining and contiguous land;
  4. the conveyance of parcels of land or interests therein for use as a right of way for railroads or other public utility facilities and other pipe lines which does not involve any new streets or easements of access;
  5. the conveyance of land owned by a railroad or other public utility which does not involve any new streets or easements of access;
  6. the conveyance of land for highway or other public purposes or grants or conveyances relating to the dedication of land for public use or instruments relating to the vacation of land impressed with a public use; and
  7. Conveyances made to correct descriptions in prior conveyances.

A Plat Act Affidavit can be presented to the recorder, together with a deed or lease, to confirm that one of the above exceptions applies to the conveyance.

The requirements for a Plat of Subdivision are substantial. Read a complete list in our underwriting guidelines for Plats of Subdivision and Declarations. Once a plat is recorded, all streets, parks, etc. shown on the plat as dedicated to the public vest fee title in the municipality once the municipality accepts the dedication. Further, the lot numbers and name of the subdivision may be used as legal descriptions in conveyances after the recording of the plat of subdivision. For the complete requirements and standards of a subdivision survey, please visit the Illinois Plat Act, or Section 1270.56 under Title 68 of the Illinois Administrative Code

Mortgage Inspection

A mortgage inspection is not a survey and therefore does not “approach the standards of other Illinois surveys.” I.A.C. Tit. 68, pt. 1270.56. However, Section 5 of the Illinois Professional Land Survey Act requires a professional surveyor to conduct a mortgage inspection. The inspection includes field investigation, measurements and graphic representation of improvements. The mortgage inspection provides a lender or title insurer with a “professional opinion of the relationship of improvements with respect to the deed lines and the existence, location and type of building on the property, the intent which is to assist in the determination of the property’s suitability to serve as collateral for a mortgage.” Id. Note, mortgage inspections are not an opinion of the deed, title or platted lines, and is not to be used in legal disputes or for construction purposes.

For complete requirements and standards of a mortgage inspection in Illinois, please visit Section 1270.56 under Title 68 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Topographic Survey

According to the Illinois Administrative Code, “A topographic survey is the delineation of horizontal and/or vertical locations of the existing natural or man-made features of a portion of the earth's surface, subsurface or airspace and the graphic representation of the results of such delineation.” Id. Topographic surveys that also depict land boundaries are entitled "Boundary and Topographic Survey" or "ALTA/ACSM Land Title and Topographic Survey", and are subject to the current minimum standards established for the ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys or Boundary Surveys in the Illinois Administrative Code, except where differing federal, State or local laws, ordinances or rules may be more stringent. Id. When the position and/or extent of a topographic survey is not defined by land boundaries, enough information must be shown on the survey to enable the client to locate the survey on the ground. Id. A licensed professional engineer knowledgeable in topographical survey may perform a topographic survey specific to his/her design project. Id. A licensed professional engineer may not, however, offer topographic surveying services independent of their specific design project. Id. When conducting a topographic survey, the surveyor must evaluate:

  1. the description of the survey site, along with designated areas outside the actual survey site where necessary;
  2. the location, description, datum and elevation of all benchmarks to be used for the survey;
  3. the location and description of all horizontal control points to be used for the survey;
  4. the interval of contour lines if required by the client;
  5. the location and elevations of utilities and what information is to be shown; and
  6. the intended use of the survey.

The surveyor is also required while working in the field to keep all instruments adjusted and calibrated; apply the appropriate procedures to ensure accuracy and efficiency; and retain all field data in a legible and orderly fashion. Plats drawn for topographic surveys are required to contain the following:

  1. firm name, address and registration number;
  2. surveyor’s seal, signature, date of signing, and license expiration date;
  3. the statement, “This professional service conforms to the current Illinois minimum standards for topographic surveys”;
  4. client’s name;
  5. north arrow;
  6. date of completion of fieldwork;
  7. scale as agreed upon by surveyor and client;
  8. location and elevation of benchmarks at or near the survey and date noted;
  9. legend for all symbols and abbreviations used on the plat;
  10. if elevation points are shown, they must be to nearest one-hundredth of a foot on hard surfaces and to the nearest tenth of a foot elsewhere, unless requested otherwise;
  11. description of horizontal control points used in the survey, which must be noted and must be shown on the plat if possible;
  12. the location of permanent structures, including buildings, retaining walls, bridges, culverts, street or road paving and sidewalks;
  13. existing contour lines indicating relief of the entire parcel, unless otherwise requested;
  14. location and water surface elevations of lakes, rivers, streams and drainage courses on or near the surveyed parcel, and direction of flow if any;
  15. if boundary line information is shown on the plat, include the source of the boundary line information; and
  16. if topographic information is to be delivered via electronic media, a suitable format shall be agreed upon.

For complete requirements and standards of a topographic survey in Illinois, please visit Section 1270.56 under Title 68 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Indiana Surveys

Title 25 of the Indiana Code, Title 36 of the Indiana Code and Title 865 of the Indiana Administrative Code and local ordinances govern land surveys conducted in Indiana.

Original Survey/Retracement Survey

The Indiana Administrative Code 1-12 outlines the requirements for original and retracement surveys. 865 Ind. Admin. Code 1-12. According to the Code, an original survey is “a survey that is executed for the purpose of locating and describing real property that has not been previously described in documents conveying an interest in real property” while a retracement survey is “a survey of real property that has been previously described in documents conveying an interest in the real property.” Id.

When measuring retracement and original surveys, the degree of precision and accuracy necessary for each survey is based upon the intended use of the real estate. Surveys are classified as urban, suburban or rural. Urban surveys are performed on land lying within or contiguous with a city or town, except for single family residential lots; including properties from commercial and industrial to apartments and townhouses. Suburban surveys are performed on residential subdivisions lots including lots located in an urban or a rural area. Rural surveys are performed on real estate lying in rural areas that does not otherwise meet the definition of an urban or suburban survey. The acceptable relative positional accuracies for each classification of survey are:

  1. Urban surveys: 0.07 feet (21 millimeters) plus 50 parts per million.
  2. Suburban surveys: 0.13 feet (40 millimeters) plus 100 parts per million.
  3. Rural surveys: 0.26 feet (79 millimeters) plus 200 parts per million.

Relative positional accuracy may be tested by:

  1. comparing the relative location of points in a survey as measured by an independent survey of higher accuracy; or
  2. the results of a minimally constrained, correctly weighted least square adjustment of the survey.

The original survey and retracement survey have different standards for conducting preliminary research. For a retracement survey, the surveyor must obtain:

  1. the record description of the parcel to be surveyed and adjoining properties so to reveal any gaps or overlaps with the adjoining parcels;
  2. copies of any recorded subdivision plats and surveys that relate to the survey;
  3. copies of any maps, documents, and field notes relating to the survey; and
  4. copies of data relating to the survey from private sources. 865 IAC 1-12-9.

For an original survey, the surveyor must:

  1. obtain or prepare documents establishing the intended position of the lines to be created by the survey;
  2. obtain copies of the laws regulating division of property governing in the jurisdiction where the property is located;
  3. survey the portion of the parent tract required to define the lines of the parcel being created by the original survey;
  4. conduct field surveys to determine the location of planimetric or topographic features, if any, that control the intended position of the lines being created; and
  5. inform the client of any conflicts between the requested position of the lot lines to be created or the position required by any applicable ordinances or regulation, and resolve the conflict before certifying the survey. 865 IAC 1-12-14.

Indiana also requires a surveyor to perform fieldwork if they conduct an original and retracement survey. While conducting either survey, the surveyor must do the following:

  1. search for physical monuments and determine their liability;
  2. locate monuments that reference missing control monuments, monuments that have been obliterated, and any other monuments and real evidence that is necessary for the survey;
  3. obtain necessary measurements to correlate all found evidence and check the measurements to verify the work; and
  4. locate physical evidence of possession between adjoiners and identify age of possession. 865 IAC 1-12-10.

For both the original and retracement survey, the surveyor is responsible for setting monuments. 865 IAC 1-12-18. The surveyor must set monuments at every lot or parcel corner being surveyed, including the interior lots of a subdivision, except if there is an existing monument at the corner that is within the limits of the relative positional accuracy for the class of survey being performed, or setting the monument would cause confusion.

Retracement survey minimum standards require the surveyor conclude the survey by making necessary computations to verify the correctness of their measurements; verify the position of the monuments, adjoining properties, and reevaluate any evidence. 865 IAC 1-12-11.

After completing all measurements and fieldwork for an original and retracement survey, the surveyor must:

  1. provide the client with a written surveyor’s report including the type of survey performed, the methodology of the surveyor’s approach, and the surveyor’s opinion of the results; and
  2. record the plat of survey and the associated surveyor’s report with the county recorder’s office if meets the criteria outlined in the Indiana Administrative Code. 865 IAC 1-12-12.

The plat of an original or retracement survey must include:

  1. the client’s name, date of last fieldwork, surveyor’s file number, and surveyor’s name, address, signature and registration number;
    1. if a retracement surveys then the recording information of the parcel surveyed, and any new, modified or consolidated description along with the surveyor’s report; and if an original surveys then a metes and bounds description
  2. a north arrow, area and scale, including a graphic scale;
  3. angles or bearings;
  4. pertinent dimensions and monuments;
  5. the location of all monuments on or beyond the surveyed premises on which establishment of the corners of the surveyed premises are dependent;
  6. any physical evidence of possession appurtenant to either they surveyed premises or the adjoining property that is on, near, or across any exterior boundary of the premises;
  7. any lake, stream, known regulated drains, or regulated drain right-of-way;
  8. any evidence of use of the surveyed premises by others;
  9. adjoining parcels identified by title description or record reference;
  10. any easements or setback lines affecting the survey that were created by a subdivision plat, or when documentation is furnished by the client of an easement or setback line;
  11. on request, show zoning ordinance classification;
  12. data clearly indicating the theory of location applied in finalizing the corners, any data at variance of the theory of location, and data to allow retracement without difficulty;
  13. a certificate stating the survey was performed by a registered land surveyor, and include the land surveyor’s signature, registration number, and seal; and
  14. a vicinity map if necessary to define the location.

For complete requirements and standards for an original or retracement survey, please visit Rule 12 in Chapter 865 of the Indiana Administrative Code.

Route Survey

A route survey is a survey “executed for the purpose of acquiring an interest in the tracts of land required for the highways, railroads, waterways, pipelines, electrical lines, and any other linear transportation or utility route.” 865 IAC 1-12-2. Route surveys do not include “surveys executed for acquisition parcels that are of even width and immediately adjacent to an existing title, easement, or right-of-way line and do not require a property survey in order to prepare an accurate legal description for the parcel.” Id. Measurement requirements for route surveys are similar to the original and retracement survey. One exception is that the relative positional accuracy may not exceed five-tenths (.05) feet for an urban route survey. 865 IAC 1-12-22. Additionally, the land surveyor is responsible for ensuring that:

  1. measurements are shown on the route survey plat with a number of significant figures representative of the precision of the work;
  2. measurement specifications apply to the control survey points and the survey ties to either of the nearest United States Public Land Survey subdivision corners or monuments with established state plane coordinates, and all monuments and reference monuments, and any ties thereto, are set relative to the controlling survey line; and
  3. if the route survey references or is based on state plane coordinates or utilizes the Global Positioning System (GPS), the written surveyor's report identifies the following:
    1. the datum and projection;
    2. the year of applicable datum adjustment;
    3. the originating or controlling monuments;
    4. the GPS base stations or positioning software used;
    5. the source and format of the corrections if real time kinematic GPS was used;
    6. the Geoid model used, if applicable;
    7. the scale, elevation, and combination factors used in the coordinate calculations;
    8. information on any translation to or from a local system;
    9. the collection processes and methodology of final positioning; and
    10. whether the distance shown is grid or ground.

A route survey requires a land surveyor conducting fieldwork to establish the location of the control survey point, and base all subsequent work off that point to make it easily retraceable for other surveyors during or after construction. 865 IAC 1-12-21. Also, the surveyor must: locate any lines or corners necessary to describe any acquisition parcel and any United States Public Land Survey subdivision corners; set final monuments; take sufficient check measurements to verify work; keep survey notes; and make necessary computations to substantiate correctness of field measurements. Id.

A route survey requires a land surveyor: furnish the client with copies of the route survey plat, a written surveyor’s report; and record the route survey plat and any subsequent revision in the file of the county recorders’ office. 865 IAC 1-12-23. They must also prepare a route survey plat when conducting a route survey and the plat must:

  1. be drawn to scale
  2. show a north arrow and scale, a vicinity map, all pertinent dimensions, sufficient data to allow retracement, and all:
    1. survey line;
    2. centerline;
    3. reference;
    4. right-of-way;
    5. property;
    6. government; or
    7. other pertinent monuments, set or found;
  3. identify all monuments indicating which were set and which were found and their character, size and location relative to the surface of the ground;
  4. use accepted monument locating practices;
  5. show and located any right-of-way points, lines, or tracts that have been created or proposed relative to the initial control survey point;
  6. show the property owner’s name;
  7. the name of the client; and
  8. include a certificate stating the route survey was executed according to the statute and include the name, address, registration number, signature, and seal of the surveyor. 865 IAC 1-12-25.

For complete requirements and standards for a route survey, please visit Rule 12 in Chapter 865 of the Indiana Administrative Code.

Surveyor Location Report

A surveyor location report (SLR) is similar to the mortgage inspection in Illinois. “SLRs are designed for use by a title insurance company with loan policies on small tracts containing a one to four family house even if now used for commercial purposes.” 865 IAC 1-12-27. “A SLR is not to be used for nonresidential tracts greater than two acres.” Id. The client is responsible for providing any title documents other than recorded plats that are required for the SLR, and the SLR must be done according to its record description, if any. Id.

An SLR does not require a surveyor to set corner monuments, however, the uncertainty of location for a SLR cannot exceed plus or minus one foot on tracts in recorded subdivisions; or two feet for other tracts; unless otherwise specified and explained on the drawing. Id. Furthermore, any house location more than one hundred feet from an exterior boundary may be estimated; and obtaining accurate and complete data on or near the perimeter of larger tracts is beyond the scope of the SLR.

When conducting a surveyor location report, a land surveyor must perform the following:

  1. briefly describe and show the location of visible evidence of possession;
  2. show the location, dimensions, and a brief description of all buildings or structures on the property;
  3. show the location of and briefly describe any visible evidence of use by others;
  4. show the location and recording data for any easement or setback lines on the tract as determined from recorded documents provided by the client or a record plat;
  5. show the location of the perimeter of any visible evidence of cemeteries found on the surveyed tract;
  6. show the approximate size, location, and brief description of any lakes, ditches, or streams on the tract or any known regulated drains on or within seventy-five feet of the property
  7. show the name and location of any road, street, alley, or other public way abutting or on the surveyed property with the width of the traveled way, known right-of-way lines, and sources of any known right-of-way information indicated;
  8. show physical access to the property, or lack thereof; and
  9. show drawing scale, a north arrow, property description and address, surveyor’s job number, company name, certificate, signature and seal, clients name and those whom the report is certified; and a report dated less than 30 days from the date of delivery. 865 IAC 1-12-28.

For complete requirements and standards for a SLR, please visit Rule 12 in Chapter 865 of the Indiana Administrative Code.

Subdivision Plat

In Indiana, subdivision of a parcel of land is regulated depending on whether it is within a municipality. If subdivision is within a municipality then an advisory plan commission or municipal works board must approve the platted area, but if it occurs outside a municipality then approval is left with the county executive. Ind. Code. §§ 36-3-2, 3 ( 2014). Prior to the survey the authoritative body must describe and embrace all the tracts to be included. Ind. Code. §§ 36-3-6. For complete requirements and standards of a subdivision plat in Indiana, please visit Title 36, Article 7 of the Indiana Code.

Wisconsin Surveys

Wisconsin’s definition of a property survey is “any land surveying which includes as one of its principal purposes describing, monumenting, locating the boundary lines of or mapping one or more parcels of land.” Wis. Admin. Code § A-E 7.02. The State is unique in comparison to Illinois and Indiana because instead of defining the types of surveys and the minimum standard for each, the State of Wisconsin provides a general set of minimum standards and requires those standards to be applied to every property survey performed, unless:

  1. other standards are proscribed by statute, administrative rule, or ordinance, and they are more restrictive standards; or
  2. if the client and surveyor agree to exclude requirements in a signed statement. Wis. Admin. Code § A-E 7.01.

The general standard regarding the boundary location of a parcel is that every survey must be made in “accordance with the record of the register of deeds as nearly as is practicable.” Wis. Admin. Code § A-E 7.03. The surveyor is required to acquire data necessary to retrace record title boundaries, analyze the data, make a field survey, and set monuments marking the corners unless corners are already marked. Id.

The general standard for the description of a land survey shall contain “ties to adjoiners together with data and dimensions sufficient to enable the description to be mapped and retraced and shall describe the land surveyed by government lot, recorded private claim, quarter-quarter section, section, township, range and county and by metes and bounds, commencing with some corner marked and established by the U.S. public land survey; or, if the land is located in a recorded subdivision, a recorded addition to the subdivision, or recorded certified survey map, then by the number or other description of the lot, block or sub-division of the land which has been previously tied to a corner marked and established by the U.S. public land survey.” Wis. Admin. Code § A-E 7.04.

The mapping general standard requires a map be drawn for every property survey showing information developed by the survey. Wis. Admin. Code § A-E 7.05. The map must:

  1. be drawn to a convenient scale;
  2. reference to a magnetic true or other identifiable line of the U.S. public land survey and be recorded and filed set forth in Wis. Stat. § 59.73(1);
  3. show the exact length and bearing of the boundaries of the parcel surveyed;
  4. describe all monuments used for determining the location of the parcel and show by bearing and distance their relationship to the surveyed parcel and indicate whether such monuments were found or placed;
  5. identify the person for whom the survey was made, the date of the survey, and give a description in accordance with the State’s minimum standards;
  6. bear the stamp or seal and signature of the surveyor; and
  7. be filed with the county surveyor.

The general standard for survey measurements is that they meet the accuracy requirements set forth in Section A-E 7.06 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.

Lastly, monuments used for property surveys “shall be determined by the nature of the survey, the permanency required, the nature of the terrain, the cadastral features involved, and the availability of material.” Wis. Admin. Code § A-E 7.07. For complete standard and requirements for surveys in Wisconsin, please visit Chapter A-E 7 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.

Plat of Subdivision

A subdivision is a division of a lot, parcel, or tract of land by the owner thereof or the owner’s agent for the purpose of sale or of building development and to which the division creates five or more parcels or building sites of 1 ½ acres each or less, and or five or more parcels or building sites of 1 ½ acres each or less in area are created by successive divisions within a 5 year period. Wis. Stat. § 236.02(12)(am)(1)-(2).

A plat is simply a subdivision map. There two types of plats: preliminary plat and final plat. A preliminary plat maps the salient features of a proposed subdivision submitted to an approving authority for purposes of consideration. Wis. Stat. § 236.02(9). A final plat is the plat that is actually recorded and filed with the register of deeds. Wis. Stat. § 236.02(9c).

Any time a subdivision of land occurs, a plat of subdivision is required to be approved, filed and recorded with the register of deeds. Id. Surveying requirements for a plat of subdivision are:

  1. both external and internal corners of the divided parcels must be marked; and
  2. the accuracy of the survey must meet the standards outline in Section 236.15(2) of Chapter 236 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

There are also layout and recording requirements set forth in Chapter 236 of the Wisconsin Statutes. For complete requirements for a plat of subdivision survey, please visit Platting Lands and Recording and Vacating Plats in the Wisconsin statutes.

Certified Survey Map

A Certified Survey Map (CSM) is used to reconfigure lots of no more than four parcels. Wis. Stat. § 236.34(1). However, a local government can enact an ordinance or adopt a resolution allowing a subdivision of more than four parcels to be divided by a CSM. Wis. Stat. § 236.34(1)(ar).

Wisconsin statute does not require a state level review of a CSM but allows local governments to mandate that a CSM be reviewed by a local governmental body. Wis. Stat. § 236.34(1). However, Wisconsin has set minimum standards on how to prepare, monument, and map a CSM, and how accurate a CSM must be. Id. The preparation of a CSM must be in accordance with the general requirements and procedures in the Wisconsin Administrative Code. Wis. Stat. § 236.34(1); Wis. Admin. Code § A-E 2. Monuments placed in accordance with a CSM must be flush with the ground as possible at all corners. Wis. Stat. § 236.34(1)(c). The mapping requirements are:

  1. not more than four parcels;
  2. must be drawn to scale;
  3. legible;
  4. include monuments;
  5. include exterior boundaries;
  6. include length and bearings;
  7. include easements;
  8. correct parcel designation;
  9. the square footage of each lot;
  10. bearing reference;
  11. boundary ties;
  12. curve data if necessary; and
  13. abutting lands and streets. Wis. Stat. §§ 236.34, 20.

Also, the CSM must include a surveyor’s certificate and be recorded within six months of last approval and twenty-four months within first approval. Wis. Stat. §§ 236.34,21 (1)-(2). For a complete description of CSM and its requirements, please visit the CSM Checklist compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Administration.


Land survey requirements and standards vary from state to state. Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin provide minimum standards for the different types of surveys available and obligate surveyors to adhere to those standards. For further information regarding a specific type of survey, please either review the material above, the applicable statute, or Contact an Underwriter.

Posted on: Tue, 02/17/2015 - 12:00pm