Do I need a Surveyor?

What does being a Registered Surveyor mean?

Registered Surveyor is the highest professional designation in the field of surveying.

In order to be recognised as a Registered Surveyor, a surveyor must achieve sufficient qualifications and accreditation. Once this status is reached, the Registered Surveyor may be warranted with direct management responsibilities in our land administration system by the government. Only Registered Surveyors may be authorised by the government to legally define boundaries and prepare subdivision plans.

What is the role of the Registered Surveyor?

Registered Surveyors define, manage and protect the space around us – but they do far more than just measure space.

Registered Surveyors interpret and navigate legal aspects of land ownership. From the smallest plot to multi-million-dollar developments, the world in which we live is organized and legal ownership parameters are determined through the expertise of Registered Surveyors.

Much like a Queens Counsel in legal realms, Registered Surveyors act with the highest standard of expertise and execution for and upon the legal definition of land.

Their experience leads to simpler navigation through each regulatory step to define the most workable, realistic solutions for each aspect of development. Their competency minimises risk and provides confidence and security. They are the experts in plotting the surest course through planning and compliance. They are masters in protecting development from error and liability. Their rapid adoption of modern technology propels greater creativity and yield.

Registered Surveyors are vital to defining and shaping our world and an invaluable asset to unlocking value in every aspect of modern development.

Do I need a Registered Surveyor?

You may need a Registered Surveyor for these important land decisions:

  1. Subdividing Land

  2. Developing a Community Title

  3. Developing a Strata Title Plan

  4. Identifying existing buildings and improvements on a parcel of land

  5. Determining levels for flood studies and other environmental changes in land

Full details of these 5 most commonly used surveys are detailed below.  


Subdividing Land

When can you subdivide your land?
The first professional contact to find out whether or not it is possible to subdivide your land is your local Consulting Surveyor. If they do not already know the potential for subdivision of your land, they know exactly how to find out.

How much will it all cost? 
The Consulting Surveyor performs subdivisions on a regular basis in the normal routine of their business. They can tell you the costs that you will have to meet to create your subdivision.

What is the first step?
Your Consulting Surveyor is the expert on subdivisions. In consultation with you, they will determine the best possible layout, balancing the various conflicting criteria of the maximum number of lots, Council Restrictions, shapes, sizes, topography, traffic flow, road and servicing cost, etc. Your Surveyor can prepare the submission and make application to the Council for approval.

What to do upon approval
After some weeks the Local Council sends the approval to the Surveyors, setting out the total of Council's required contributions with a list of conditions to be completed before Council endorses the subdivision plan.

Construction for larger subdivisions
Your Surveyor is expert in design and preparation of engineering plans for road and drainage construction. They will measure the levels of the land and the positions of the nearby drainage and services to make the design possible.

Provision of Services
Appropriate applications to have water, sewer, power, telephone and gas provided to the new subdivision can all be made by your Consulting Surveyor.

Final pegging and plan
Registered Surveyors are the only ones legally permitted to mark boundaries of subdivisions in accordance with the Surveying Act. After placement of all the required marks, the Surveyor prepares the subdivision plan and the documents to create any restrictions or easements for lodgement with the Land Titles Office. Once the Local Council has endorsed its certificate on the subdivision plan and all interested parties have signed it, the Surveyor can have the plan lodged at the Land Titles Office on your behalf. After some weeks the plan will become registered and title documents issued. The new subdivision is now complete and you are able to transfer ownership of the new lots.

Community Title

What is a Community Title Scheme?
Community Titles are schemes providing for low, medium or high-density housing, leisure, and retail facilities and other community uses. Whether the scheme is single, duplex or multi-story for residential or commercial usage it can be incorporated in a Community Scheme. The Schemes provide for lands to be set aside for Community, Precinct or Neighbourhood use while providing secure Title to the ownership of the Neighbourhood property. These schemes are particularly useful for land with dual occupancy and Community Titles Scheme Plans can only be prepared by a Registered Surveyor.

Community Associations
Community, Precinct and Neighbourhood Associations are similar to Bodies Corporate under the existing Strata Schemes. They are controlling bodies established to administer the obligations of the Community Land Management Act. The Associations are made up of owners of loss in the Neighbourhood Schemes comprising the overall Community Scheme. Your Consulting Surveyor will advise on the establishment of Community Associations.

Unit Entitlements
Unit Entitlements are proportional valuations of your title against the overall value of the Scheme and will control the amount payable by you towards the overall running and maintenance of the Scheme.

Development Statements
This statement sets out the developer's proposals and undertakings to provide facilities as well as rights and duties of owners in the Scheme. It can be used as part of the development contract for later stages. Statements are compulsory for Neighbourhood Schemes but optional in Precinct and Community Schemes. Your Surveyor can advise on and prepare Developing Statements.

Where can you have a Community Title Scheme?
The Local Council Planning Scheme sets aside localities zoned for different land uses. A standard, low-density residential community scheme can be achieved in any residential zone. Medium and high-density residential, retail, industrial or commercial schemes can be located subject to council approval in appropriately zoned land. However, mixed and varying uses may be allowed depending on Council policy and attitude. Your Surveyor will consult and negotiate with Council and investigate the possibility of creating and Community Title Scheme on your behalf. A Surveyor is trained and experienced in dealing with Local Councils.

Strata Titles Commission
With Strata Titles, the Arbitrator on Community Title Schemes will be the Strata Titles Commissioner. Your Surveyor can advise you on submissions to the Commissioner.

When it comes to Professionals
Your Surveyor can create anything from a small community to a new town. Call the professional best suited to discuss the advantages of Community Schemes for the development of your land.

Strata Title

What is Strata Title Plan?
A plan for Strata Title Scheme is prepared by a Registered Surveyor, under the Strata Title legislation, to designate areas or units for separate ownership within a building group of buildings. Generally, the building's common property and parcel of land are jointly owned by all separate title holders. Strata Title Schemes have been adapted by Surveyors over the years to cover townhouses, retirement villages, shopping centres, and industrial complexes, as well as homes and buildings. Originally the Act was intended only for multi-storey home unit buildings, thus being strata or layers of units one on top of the other. Now it is not necessary for Strata Schemes to have an overlapping Strata as found in multi-story buildings, and a Community Scheme may be better suited for this purpose. You Surveyor can advise you on this.

Staged Strata Schemes
A Staged Strata Scheme is a method which developers use to construct parts of a strata scheme building by building in a prescribed orderly manner. The legislation sets out the documents required to be lodged with the Strata Plan with which your Surveyor can assist and advise you.

The Body Corporate
The Body Corporate consists of every unitholder and is registered as the proprietor of all common property. The elected committee of the Body Corporate holds monthly meetings and records minutes. It administers all obligations and responsibilities imposed by the Strata Titles Act, including the setting of levies, insurance, maintenance and so on.

Unit Entitlement
Each strata holder has a share in the Strata Scheme which usually reflects the value of each unit. This is called the Unit Entitlement, is fixed at the proportion shown on the Strata Plan and is used to calculate the levies and expenses paid by each unit owner.

Strata Title Managers
Some Surveyors are Registered Strata Title Managers. This means that the obligations and duties required under the Act can be administered by these managers for a reasonable fee. Such appointment of a manager relieves the owners of the tasks which they are legally bound to carry out.

Existing Unit Buildings
It may be possible to convert an existing building of multiple units into a Strata Title Scheme. Existing flat buildings, commercial centres or factory complexes, which may have varying forms of ownership such as company title or one owner, may be converted to Strata Title if the Local Council deems it acceptable.

Obtaining your Strata Title
Having satisfied the Local Council that all conditions of approval, such as provisions of car parking areas, building compliance, fire safety etc., have been completed it is necessary to lodge the Strata Plan with the Land Titles Office. From this office, separate Strata Titles will be issued. Your Strata Title Scheme has then been created. Your Surveyor is the best and most experienced professional to help you determine whether or not it is possible to create a Strata Title Scheme over any property.

Identification Surveys

What is an Ident?
A survey which is required for the purpose of identifying existing buildings and improvements on a parcel of land is referred to as an Identification Survey or just Ident. It may only be undertaken by a Registered Surveyor.

When do you need an Ident Report?
It is always recommended to engage a Surveyor for an Ident survey when you are purchasing a property. Your solicitor will normally obtain an Ident report as a matter of course. He does so to protect you against any problems which can only be detected by a Surveyor. The Vendor Disclosure Legislation requires obligatory warranties and other statutory information from a vendor of the property. The Ident report can supply other required information and speed up the sale.

Why should you get an Ident Survey?
Through your Ident Survey, you can be sure that you are not buying any problems that may make the property difficult to sell in the future or create anxiety with neighbours or public authorities before you even move in. More importantly, you are sure that you are buying the property that you have been shown and whether or not the property has any defects which may devalue it.

What Information is supplied in an Ident Report? 
A Surveyor measures the site involved to determine the location of buildings on or adjacent to the land and any fences present. He will check for the existence of Easements (for drainage, etc.), Covenants and Restrictions on land use, and whether or not the subject land complies with the terms of these conditions. The Surveyor pays special attention to any encroachments by or upon the land or upon any Easements. In the instance of a residence, the Surveyor will report on the distances of the walls or eaves and gutters from the side boundary of the land.

What other checks are needed?
Your survey may be ordered in conjunction with other reports such as building and pest inspections. Your solicitor will carry out other necessary checks to protect your purchase during the period before the final settlement of the contract.

Value of an Ident
Remember that the legal principle "Caveat Emptor" (Let the buyer beware) applies to all land transactions. From an Ident, you will have the assurance that the property you purchased will not create problems for you afterwards. The Ident survey fee generally represents less than 0.25% of the cost of your property - a small amount to Protect Your Biggest Investment.

Flood Surveys

What is AHD?
Surveyors have expertise in determining levels on land. These levels are referred to as "Reduced Levels" (R.L.) which means a height above (or below) a datum. In Australia, this datum is called the "Australian Height Datum" (A.H.D.) and is calculated from the average of many tide gauges on the East Coast of Australia. Prior to A.H.D., there were numerous isolated datums in use. The establishment of A.H.D. has provided a common datum throughout the area which refers to the height above mean sea level.

What does 1:5, 1:100 flood mean?
Flood levels and the extent of flooding have been recorded for over 120 years in NSW. This data is the basis for determining the areas of land that are affected by flooding and the expected height of flood waters. The frequency at which various heights of flooding can be expected is referred to as once in five years (1:5), once in twenty (1:20), up to a maximum of once in one hundred years (1:100).

Your Local Surveyor can Help
Before buying property it is wise to check for flood risk. Unless your property is obviously in a high position, it can be difficult for the inexperienced to determine whether or not the property is flood prone. Surveyors are experts. They can investigate records and enquire from authorities as to the flood risk for a particular property. Observations can be made on the ground to determine the specific extent of the risk. Advice can be obtained on precautions required for new building or the likely depth of flooding which can be expected on existing buildings or land.

Building in a Flood area
In flood-prone areas, it is possible that the local Council will issue a building approval with the specific condition that the proposed floor level be not less than a particular reduced level usually 0.5 Metres above the 1:100 flood. Surveyors can provide you with a reference point adjacent to your building site so that the council's conditions can be met. When the building has been erected he can measure the reduced level of the floor "as built" and provide you with a report or certificate. Advice should be sought from a Surveyor with regard to determining potential problems which may result from floods. Surveyors are called upon to assess the seriousness of flooding to permit approvals for proposed development in flood-prone areas. Whatever the flood problems may be, a Surveyor can help you build a bridge to cross most of them.