Surveying the Ins and Outs of Property Ownership

The staff of F. Michael Hemmer Land Surveyor in front of their new office in Noyac.

A sole source aquifer is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as supplying at least 50 percent of its drinking water for its service area and has no reasonably available alternative drinking water sources should the aquifer become contaminated. As this is true for Long Island as whole, water protection has been a top concern on the East End. After the extension and expansion of the Community Preservation Fund during the 2016 election, advanced wastewater treatment systems have become an important discussion in matters of real estate. With a profound understanding of South Fork property regulations and how it plays into the rights of land ownership, land surveyor F. Michael Hemmer shares what buyers need to know as his eponymous company opens a new office in Noyac.

“Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) lower the nitrogen content of treated domestic and commercial waste,” Hemmer says, as septic system design is one of the services offered by the company. “These systems contribute to the reduction of algae blooms in our creeks, bays and harbors. Protection of our environment is critical to our enjoyment of this beautiful place that we live.”

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services reviews and approves septic system designs prior installation, ensuring they meet specific functional standards and are installed by certified contractors. Hemmer and has team has worked with many of the local engineers to design these types of systems in the townships of Shelter Island, East Hampton, and Southampton, the latter of which is home to an Aquifer Protection Overlay District. In terms of title surveys, over clearing in this high priority area and in the Town of East Hampton is a common issue. On Shelter Island, Hemmer says this is not an issue, yet.

When purchasing a home, owners buy the rights to the land, physical improvements on the property, the airspace above, and in many cases the mineral rights of the ground below. During the course of a title survey, which is ordered by an attorney and in some cases a real estate broker after contracts have been signed, the company locates possible unrecorded easements of encroaching neighbors. During this process, another common issue arises; the location of fences and who owns them.

“When properties pass through multiple owners over time, memory of fence ownership can become unclear,” Hemmer explains. “Agreements to share the cost of a fence installation between adjoining owners are not usually written and are often forgotten. Ownership is often evident by the finish face of the fence, which by code is supposed to face out from the subject property, but not always. The responsibility of the surveyor is to identify the location of a fence and not its ownership. We can help facilitate a discussion between owners to resolve a fence line question.”

Title surveys are among one of the many crucial steps in real estate purchases and are equally important as obtaining title insurance. Other services Hemmer offers include boundary surveys to mark out property lines, topographic surveys, subdivision planning and mapping, health department applications, and more.

“Title policies always have a clause stipulating that there is no insurance coverage for ‘any facts, rights, interest or claims which would be disclosed by an accurate survey,’” Hemmer explains of the process. “Thus, the new owner will have no coverage for any matters which a survey would show, such as over clearing, zoning code problems that a survey would reveal, or fences far enough off property lines to be viewed as rendering the adjoining strip of property ‘out of possession’ by a title insurance reviewer.”

While the process may seem complicated, F. Michael Hemmer, LS, P.C. has decades of experience as Hemmer has been in the business of land surveying since 1972 and became professionally licensed in New York and New Jersey in 1987. The new office, located in Burkeshire Court at 3330 Noyack Road and opened just this month, is central to the company’s geographic area of practice on the South Fork. Hemmer says, “It is an exciting time for all of us and we look forward to serving the community in the years to come.”


For more information, visit or call (631) 725-7199.