Land surveyors are officially exempt from civil and criminal trespass in Maryland

By: William Bower, Senior Project Manager

William Bower is a Senior Project Manager at Atwell and Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the Maryland Society of Surveyors who supported the efforts behind the Reasonable Access Bill.

The Maryland General Assembly passed the Maryland Society of Surveyors’ Reasonable Access Bill to grant surveyors an exemption from criminal and civil trespass, while performing land surveying services.

Maryland has become the 32nd state to either allow private surveyors the right of entry or exempt them from trespass when engaged in land surveying activities. This is a tremendous step forward for Maryland as previously, crossing an unmarked property boundary could get a land surveyor in trouble with the law.

A bill that was two years in the making

On May 9, 2024, I attended the signing ceremony for Senate Bill 344 (HB382), known colloquially as the Surveyors’ Reasonable Access Bill. The Maryland Society of Surveyors (MSS) created a committee to examine the feasibility of Right of Entry legislation for surveyors in May 2021. The committee’s recommendations were delivered to the MSS Board of Directors in January of 2022, which tasked the Government Affairs Committee with enacting the legislation.

As the Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, our first task was to rebrand the proposed legislation from Right of Entry to Reasonable Access, as recent, similar legislation from other states was taking the route of the exemption to trespass, as opposed to true Right of Entry legislation. The difference between the two regulations is that Right of Entry laws allow surveyors to enter or cross lands without the consent of the owner, while our Reasonable Access bill simply exempts surveyors from civil and criminal trespass, and therefore, surveyors can’t be prosecuted for trespass. Under the bill, surveyors are still liable for damages incurred if the act is malicious, willful, wanton, reckless, or fraudulent. Thereby, protecting the property owner’s right to seek damages, if incurred.

Next, we found a sponsor for the bill in the Senate Judiciary Proceedings committee, Committee Vice Chairman Jeffrey Waldstreicher, and in the House of Delegates’ Judiciary committee, Stuart Schmidt. These two legislators assisted me, along with the MSS’s lobbying firm of Kress/Hammen Government Affairs in getting the bill through their respective committees, and on to the floor of the for votes by the legislative bodies. The bill passed through both houses with unanimous votes of approval.

This bill required two General Assembly sessions to garner approval, as we ran out of time in the 2023 session and did not get the bill to the floor of the House of Delegates for a vote.

Hoping for other states to follow suit

This statute protects land surveyors who are at risk every day to trespass threats simply for performing their job. Additionally, this legislation brings Maryland in-line with 31 other states who have similar statutes protecting private land surveyors. Pennsylvania has been trying to pass similar legislation to protect their surveyors for several years. Hopefully, Maryland’s success will help neighboring state’s legislators pass a similar bill.

 

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