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CalAttorney2, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10244
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses and others in real estate matters.
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We hired a surveyor to plot out our one acre lot from a person's

Customer Question

We hired a surveyor to plot out our one acre lot from a person's 5 acre lot. He did that and we paid him, but in the course of surveying the owner's land, found that he had built his foundation over the boundary onto state land. The surveyor took it upon himself to survey the owner's land again and is now charging us over $7000 for this. We say it's not our bill as we did not ask or authorize him to do this. It feels like we are paying for the owner's mistake, who by the way takes no responsibility. The surveyor is threatening to take us to small claims court.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 2 years ago.
Dear Customer, thank you for using our service. I would like to assist you today. Responses may have a short delay for review and research.
The surveyor can only claim for the work that he was contracted to do. So review the contract that you signed with him carefully, ensure that you didn't sign anything that was open ended.
The surveyor may want to claim that he is entitled to compensation under "equitable" theories (fairness) theories - such as "unjust enrichment" or "quantum meruit" but these quasi-contractual theories should only apply when the two parties had an agreement for services to be performed and it would be unfair for the plaintiff not to be compensated. You often see these principles apply when the two parties have a contract that is partially fulfilled or there are terms which prevent the contract from being fully enforced, but fairness requires at least some payment.
In your case, this should not apply - the surveyor simply performed work that wasn't asked of him (it would be akin to a mechanic coming to your home and working on your car, then asking you to pay for it - it may have been helpful, but you certainly wouldn't be required to pay for it).
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have just found out that there was no written contract, only a verbal agreement to plot out the 1 acre lot. Nothing else was asked of this surveyor. How do we convince him that we don't owe him for work we didn't ask or authorize him to do?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 2 years ago.
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward way to do this. If you go to trial on the matter, it will be decided on the relative credibility of the two parties (each side will testify as to what their interpretation of the oral contract was and the court will make a determination).
Short of filing a lawsuit, you can try to mediate the dispute with them - contact your local bar association and request referrals to mediators, a third party neutral can often help you reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Use the bar association's referrals to contact a mediator or two, the mediator will then contact the other party to set up a mediation session, and you can go from there - hopefully resulting in a formal or written settlement agreement, and save yourself the time and expense of litigation.