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Buyer Responsible For Surveyor Bill

Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A

REM #LAW 741

By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Summary: A ThinkGlink reader was in the process of buying a home when the deal fell through. The title agency had ordered a survey of the property and now the home buyer is wondering if he, or the title agency, is responsible for paying the surveyor.

Q: We were in the process of buying a house when the deal fell through just before closing. Since then, we received an invoice from a land surveyor for a survey done on the property.
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This was ordered (unbeknownst to us), on our behalf by the title agency.

The title agency said in their order to the surveyor, they have a disclaimer that says should the deal fall through, he is to collect the money directly from us, not them.

We don't feel we should pay him because we didn't order the survey. He says he did the work and that work was not contingent on our closing on the property. Are we responsible for payment or is the title agency responsible?

A: In many states, people buy and sell property with the assistance of a closing agent.

In some cases, the closing agent may be a title insurance company, an escrow company, or an attorney’s office. If you signed a document that stated that the closing agent was to undertake certain duties on your behalf that were needed in order to close on the home, the title agent would need to complete the list of items and you’d need to pay for them.

If it is customary for a buyer to pay for the survey on the purchase of a home and the closing agent ordered the survey on your behalf, you probably owe the money to the surveyor. While you did not “know” that the agent was ordering the survey, you hired the agent to do the things necessary for you to buy your home.

If the title agency paid the bill to the surveyor, they probably would have the right to turn around and bill you for the survey.

You need to review your documentation with the title agency and determine whether you gave them the right to order the survey on your behalf. If you did, you’ll have to pay for the survey.

If you did not have a written or oral understanding with the title agent for them to do work on your behalf, you probably don’t have to pay for the survey.

Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyce’s website




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