Types of survey plans

Surveyors prepare more than a dozen different types of plans, each serving a specific purpose. The following plan types are the most useful for homeowners:

Surveyor’s Real Property Report (SRPR)

An SRPR is a highly informative document typically used in real estate transactions involving residential properties, but also used for apartment buildings, commercial, industrial and rural property transactions. Called a Building Location Survey if prepared 20 years ago, today’s SRPR has become the most common type of survey used for showing the precise location of property boundaries, buildings, fences and other structures situated on the property. An SRPR is prepared for a single client and includes ownership (title) information necessary for real estate transactions. While an SRPR references the underlying information defined in other plans (e.g., Township Plans, Plans of Subdivision, Reference Plans) they are not filed with the Land Registry Office but rather remain with the surveyor who retains the copyright on the plan.  Protect Your Boundaries has made available to the public over 650,000 SRPR's representing almost one million residential properties in the GTA.

Reference Plan

A Reference Plan designates different sections of a property as "Parts," enabling a specific legal interest associated with each particular portion of the parcel to be highlighted and described. For example, a parcel of land could be shown as a four-part Reference Plan prepared to fulfill a condition of consent to sever a building lot from a larger urban plot of land. The parts might be used to describe the severed lands, remainder lands, easement lands and road widenings.  Rather than describing all of the above in the deeds using ponderous legal language, a Reference Plan makes everything much easier to understand. Reference Plans are available to the public at the Land Registry Office.

Plan of Subdivision

A  Plan of Subdivision enables the development and construction of future neighbourhoods, residential, commercial and industrial. These plans typically include land blocks reserved for community and commercial buildings, including schools, commercial plazas, churches, and other special blocks. Roads included on the plan are dedicated for public transportation use. Individual parcels of land (lots and blocks) are newly created when a Plan of Subdivision is officially registered, supplanting a previous vacant field or farm. Plans of Subdivision are available to the public at the Land Registry Office.

Topographic Plan

A Topographic Plan is a map of the physical features of a property, showing “planimetric” land features, ground elevations and (sometimes) surface contours. It can show underground utility locations, including sewer culverts, pipes and manhole inverts.  Generally these plans are used by engineers, architects and planners as an electronic base for their designs when developing property and may be similarly useful to a homeowner who wants to build outdoor structures, additions or new landscape features.

A topographic plan is not considered a legal survey plan unless certified by a land surveyor.  Without the surveyor certification - which confirms that extensive boundary research has been conducted, boundary corners have been marked with iron survey bars, and the boundary has been added to the plan - the topographic plan's usefulness to a homeowner is limited and may require additional input from a surveyor.

Plan of Survey

A Plan of Survey is a catchall phrase describing many different types of plans depicting legal boundaries. As noted above, both Reference Plans and Plans of Subdivision are considered to be plans of survey that are officially deposited with the Land Registry Office, and can be viewed or purchased by the public. Survey plans (e.g., an SRPR) also can be prepared for the private use of an individual or corporation and are not required to be registered/deposited with the Land Registry Office. Survey plans can represent small residential properties or larger 100-acre properties. Other kinds of survey plans include Expropriation plans, Boundaries Act plans, Certification of Title plans and more—all beyond simple explanation, but enormously useful for land information professionals.

Beware the sketch—and other sketchy things

People often mistake a sketch for a genuine boundary survey created by a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor. A genuine survey is an important legal document that will include the words "survey" or "boundary plan" in the plan title and will be signed by the land surveyor.

Existing Survey Plans versus New

Existing survey plans, like those you can find on Protect Your Boundaries, are a valuable, time-saving and cost effective resource for homeowners. They enable you to gain an understanding of the location of your property boundaries, facilitate the sale and purchase of real estate and many other activities related to home ownership.  

However, existing survey plans are a snapshot of a property at the time the survey was conducted.  If there have been changes to the property (e.g. road widenings, utility easements, access right-of-ways) and/or its physical features (e.g. foundations, buildings, fences, driveways, retaining walls) since the date of survey, the information on that survey plan may be inaccurate. If you are unsure, your safest bet is to commission a new survey.  That way you will have the most up-to-date representation of the property's boundary and physical features.