The role of the registered surveyor


In France, demarcation, ie, defining property boundaries is the sole responsibility of registered surveyors. However, this is far from their only activity and they have a wide range of skills which has greatly expanded in the last few years…

The profession of registered surveyor was legally established by the 7th May 1946 law which gave registered surveyors exclusive authority in the public service for the demarcation of land ownership. This means that only registered surveyors are able to carry out the demarcation of boundaries (defining neighbouring terrain) and draw up related plans and survey documents.

The 1946 law also created a professional association representing registered surveyors in their dealings with public authorities whilst at the same time regulating their activities. The OGE (Ordre des Géometres-Experts - Association of Registered Surveyors) is also closely involved in bringing up to date a profession which is undergoing many changes as a result of the latest technical and legal innovations as well as standardisation at European level and the increasing scale of sustainable development.

Main area of expertise : demarcation

As we have seen, the registered surveyor’s main area of expertise is determining land ownership. This requires both legal and technical skills, each of which have evolved at a rapid pace in recent years, as have other geosciences.

Nowadays, according to Article 646 of the Civil Code, <>. In the event of disputes, the registered surveyor will call everyone together and examine the deeds and plans in order to accurately define the area of each terrain. Demarcation can be amicable or judicial; in the latter case, it is brought before the court, which will then rely upon the expert’s report. A court ruling will then be made and the boundaries thereby defined will be enforced.

This aspect of a registered surveyor’s duties has greatly increased since the October 2007 A.D.S. law (Autorisations d’0ccuper le Sol – Permission to Occupy Terrain), whose principle objective, together with the December 2000 S.R.U law (Solidarité et Renouvellement Urbain – Solidarity and Urban Renewal), is to make it obligatory to formally demarcate any terrain created for construction purposes. Consequently the simple division of any terrain to be built upon must also now have its boundaries defined.

Expanding skills

The registered surveyor’s field of expertise extends far beyond this activity, however. They also have the role of legal and technical advisors and managers and developers in dealings with public and private representatives. They have thus become key players in urban planning, construction and real estate matters.

Within local government their expanded role has developed from the policy of decentralisation, which started in France in 1982 and was further extended by the 2005 law relating to development of rural areas, which handed over new responsibility to local authorities involved in development. As a consequence, regions and departments are now in charge of the road systems and agricultural and forestry land development.

Resulting from this, registered surveyors are now involved in :

  • Mapping and drawing up urban planning documents,
  • Giving legal and financial advice during development projects,
  • Optimising land heritage of communes (inventory and acquisition),
  • Setting up geographic information systems,
  • Engineering and project management for road systems, networks, infrastructure etc.


Other activities, mainly for private clients whether individuals or companies, include :

  • Legal advice concerning the building potential of a terrain,
  • Drawing up plans for applications and building permits,
  • Administration (requests for urban planning certificates, authorisation to "parcel up" land etc),
  • Appraisal of property and land assets,
  • Property reviews,
  • Building management,
  • Amending co-ownership documents etc.


A developing profession

The evolution of the profession of registered surveyor has only just started. For example, the R.F.U. (Référentiel Foncier Unifié – Unified Land Registry) a portal to geo-referenced data is just being set up. This is intended to consolidate land ownership databases and rights of occupation of land. Accessible to all in the profession, this will be available to the public in 2010. At the same time, use of the GPS Teria network will provide centimetric precise positioning information available in real time. In more general terms, these tools will contribute to the work of registered surveyors within the framework of a policy of sustainable development. To this end, the profession has recently adopted a specific charter signed by MEEDDAT ((Ministère de l’Ecologie, de l’Energie, du Développement Durable et de l’Aménagement du Territoire - Department of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Planning).

The setting up of a common European platform, to date comprising ten or so countries, testifies to the international nature of the continuing modernisation of the surveying profession. In addition, the creation of Fief (France international expertise foncière – France international land appraisals) contributes to international meetings of experts to discuss problems concerning development of territories, planning and land use policies.

There are also objectives for training reforms (modernisation of the D.P.L.G. , the harmonisation of requirements relating to professional training courses and requirements for ongoing training), which will , in time, open up the profession to a greater number of candidates so as to fulfil the increasing need for recruitment in this field.

The measures taken by registered surveyors have important legal and technical implications.

The registered surveyor is also called upon to give good advice.

(© Surveyor Monthly)
(© Surveyor Monthly)