Friday, April 8, 2011

Taken for a ride?

Ever get that feeling you’ve been taken for a ride?  You know, like when the mechanic tells you a belt in the car is about to fail or your brakes are shot?  Or how about when the handyman asks for cash up front to buy the materials for your new repair project? 

Whatever the circumstances, the feeling usually occurs as the culprit’s tail lights fade into the distance or you pull out of the mechanic's service station. 

Some scammers even provide a half-hearted “professional” service that, to the untrained eye, appear to be just what was asked for. Unfortunately, this almost always happens when you can least afford it. 

Bait and switch schemes involving fraudulent and unscrupulous contractors are too common.  They happen when a contractor is being paid to use one product and switches it out with a cheaper product without approval from the owner, engineer, or architect.  It could be a brand of windows or pipes; whatever will go unnoticed.  Fortunately for the consumer, building inspectors are there to catch shoddy work or incorrect materials before the project moves too far too fast.

But what can you do if you don’t have a public official there to guard against you being taken for a ride?  What can you do to protect you, your property, your wallet, and your reputation?

Recently, an architect was overheard saying that he “knew the surveyor was a crook because he was only on the job site for 4 hours but he billed $800!” In this real-life example, the architect was right that the surveyor was a crook and that the amount billed was not in proportion to professional services rendered by a duly licensed land surveyor. The architect got exactly what he paid for. 

Professional services do not come without a price.  If you went to a doctor who spent 4 hours repairing your body or consulting you, would an $800 bill be justified?  We might like the insurance to cover it, but an $800 bill would probably be cheap. 

So what do professional land surveying services cost and why?  Like many things, professional land surveying services cost what the market will bear, sometimes more, and sometimes less. 

Some professional land surveyors offer services in a menu fashion.  For example, they offer all “lot surveys are $500” or all “deed preparations $200”.  The problem with offering services like this is that some people will cut corners to achieve their price point and make a profit, despite the harm or injury they may cause to consumers. 

As a licensed professional land surveyor, I can safely say that I have never encountered a situation where I would feel comfortable charging $500 for a "lot survey".  Let’s consider the following:

Any "lot survey" (assumed to mean a boundary survey) in California will require research at least at three government offices: the county recorder, county surveyor, and city hall.  You may also need, and I always recommend, obtaining a title report.  The research, less the title report will easily eat up one 8-hour day.

Next, the licensed professional land surveyor must review the findings of his or her research.  They must begin to reconstruct on paper how the property was created.  This reconstruction is somewhat similar to the way an architect might create a model but without any creativity.  The research materials are evidence which are all weighed and considered. 

Now the licensed professional land surveyor (or their technician) visits the site and begins the field survey.  This can last hours, days, weeks, or longer.  This phase is specifically to recover field evidence.  The evidence may include physical improvements such as fences, wall, buildings, or other features.  It will also include the search and recovery of survey monumentation.  All of the evidence is located and referenced to a singular point of origin, or datum, so that the measurements between the evidence are relevant to one another.  Another type of evidence collected is parol.  Speaking with persons who have no interest in the rights of the land being surveyed together with special knowledge of the land’s boundaries or rights thereto are sworn in, interviewed, and their oath taken.  The field survey can last hours, days, or, in some cases, even years. 

Once the evidence is collected in the field, it is weighed together with the parol and research evidence.  It may be held up and compared with certain case law.  Ultimately, the licensed professional land surveyor opines a conclusion from the evidence and reestablishes the most likely location of the land boundary.  This may take a few hours or many days to conclude depending on the breadth, depth, and magnitude of the property and the research materials.

If you wanted your boundary marked with survey monuments, the licensed professional land surveyor (or their technician) will return to the property and layout the locations of the property corners, set monuments that represent the property corners, and document any irregularities observed since their last visit to the site.  Setting monuments for small lots (less than an acre) in a suburban or urban environment usually takes a few hours.  Rural parcels may take much longer, depending on topography, neighbors, weather, etc.

The location of the boundary lines and any monuments set are documented by the preparation of a map, usually a Record of Survey.  A Record of Survey is a type of survey map prepared by a licensed professional land surveyor and submitted to the County Surveyor’s Office for review (sometimes for a fee) who will then file it with the County Recorder’s Office. 

As you can imagine, a “small lot survey” may take a week to begin and conclude.  Is that worth $500 or $800?  Not to the professional.

Considering the experience, education, specialized hardware and software that most licensed professional land surveyors have, a survey of a smaller magnitude such as outlined above should probably cost a minimum of $3,000.  Even $5,000 would not be an unreasonable fee considering the aforementioned time involved.   

Back to our disgruntled architect.  Although he felt like he was being ripped of because the surveyor was there for 4 hours but billed $800, the architect was not overcharged and ripped off.  In fact, the architect was certain the surveyor had done everything that any other duly licensed professional land surveyor would have done.  The reality is that the surveyor did not conduct proper research, did not weigh all of the evidence, and did not file a legally required map, the totality of which reveals that the surveyor was practicing below the standard of care required by law and expected by consumers.  Had the surveyor practiced accordingly, he would have had to bill the architect about $4,000.  The surveyor in question is in the process of having their license revoked.

Here are some things you can do if you need to employ the professional services of a civil engineer or land surveyor and protect yourself from being taken for a ride.

First, get references and CALL them.  Don’t email or send a letter because respondents, concerned about potential litigation for slanderous statements may wish to speak openly “off the record”. 

Second, contact your state’s board of registration that regulates engineers and land surveyors. In California, the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists is the authority to contact (http://www.pels.ca.gov/ or 1-866-780-5370).  Find out if they have any “actions” or complaints pending or if their license has ever been disciplined. 

Third, ALL licensed professional engineers and land surveyors are required to have a contract (B&PC 8759).  Contracts must include the following:
  • A description of the services to be provided to the client
  • A description of any basis of compensation applicable to the contract, and the method of payment agreed upon by the parties.
  • The name, address, and license or certificate number of the licensed land surveyor or registered civil engineer, and the name and address of the client.
  • A description of the procedure that the licensed land surveyor or registered civil engineer and the client will use to accommodate additional services.
  • A description of the procedure to be used by any party to terminate the contract.

In the case of our architect, B&PC 8759 specifically states that no contract is necessary if the licensed professional engineer of land surveyor provides services to any of the following parties:
  • A land surveyor licensed under this chapter.
  • An architect licensed under Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 5500).
  • A contractor licensed under Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 7000).
  • A geologist or a geophysicist licensed under Chapter 12.5 (commencing with Section 7800).
  • A manufacturing, mining, public utility, research and development, or other industrial corporation, if the services are provided in connection with or incidental to the products, systems, or services of that corporation or its affiliates.
  • A public agency.

Clearly, the law expects certain professionals, such as architects, to understand what types of services are being provided and their associated costs when they consult with a licensed professional engineer or land surveyor. 

It is assumed that consumers by and large do not have the technical understanding of these professions and so contracts must be executed. 

In California, consumers can contact the California Land Surveyor’s Association (CLSA) at http://www.californiasurveyors.org/index.asp or (707) 578-6016.  The CLSA represents all land surveyors, whether they are employees or proprietors, whether in the public or private sector as a professional society and is NOT a union or bargaining unit. 

Consumers are also encouraged to go to http://clsaforum.californiasurveyors.org/index.php and ask questions on the message board.  Most of the commentators are licensed professional land surveyors who are more than happy to offer up advice and answer questions.  You don’t have to be in California to ask questions but you should mention that up front so you get a thorough response. 

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Greg Sebourn

Orange County Bail Bonds

The Beauty of a Storm

The Beauty of a Storm
Orange County, Ca.

My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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