A recorded survey has special sanctity in Michigan. The original Michigan government survey GSO maps, for example, cannot be attacked as erroneous, even if incorrect. Additionally, Act 132 requires a “stake survey” be recorded if prepared for a property sale. MCL 54.211(2). Our courts have recognized a recorded survey’s special significance—even if erroneous—for over 130 years:
” . . . if all the lines were now subject to correction on new surveys, the confusion of lines and titles that would follow would cause consternation . . . and the visitation on the surveyor might well be set down as a great public calamity.” Diehl v. Zanger, 39 Mich. 601 (1878).

Michigan law further recognizes the “doctrine of repose”: more recent surveys should not disturb long established, settled boundaries.Adams v. Hoover, 196 Mich. App. 646 (1992). The recent case of Morelli v. Tudor (Mich. Ct. App. No. 300621, May, 2012, unpublished) reminds again that recording a survey is the first step in settling a boundary. In Morelli, a surveyor prepared and recorded a survey in 1979 whose descriptions were used in subsequent conveyancing documents for 30 years without objection despite other unrecorded, conflicting determinations. In 1999, the county prepared a survey and established new corner markers without referencing the 1979 survey. The new corners produced new boundaries favorable to defendant, who promptly moved her fence 30 feet north. Plaintiff Morelli brought a quiet title action.

The Court of Appeals affirmed for plaintiff, relying on res judicata(plaintiff had previously sued to quiet title against defendant, and won). With a nod to its earlier decision, and citing favorably to the doctrine of repose, the Court of Appeals noted: “…there exists a clear public policy favoring consistency in determining the location of boundary lines.” The lesson? Record your survey.

Read More at michbar.org.

Paul Thursam