The Survey Says… New ALTA Land Survey Requirements

The 2016 ALTA/NSPS Minimum Standard Detail Requirements went into effect February 23, 2016. These requirements revise the 2011 ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey requirements to address survey-related issues to facilitate the process for title companies, lenders, surveyors, and clients.

The 2016 ALTA/NSPS Minimum Standard Detail Requirements went into effect February 23, 2016 to update the 2011 ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey requirements. The American Land Title Association (ALTA) 2016 survey requirements incorporate several significant changes of which real estate attorneys should be aware.

In a preliminary nominal change, the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) was succeeded by the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). Therefore, reference should be made to an "ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey."

Overall, the updated requirements may increase transaction costs by encouraging the use of specialized consultants, such as zoning and environmental specialists. The updated requirements also relieve surveyors of certain obligations.

This Update highlights the key aspects of the updated survey requirements.

Records and Research

Section 4 provides a list of title-related documents that must be provided to the surveyor, including:

  • The most recent title commitment or title evidence satisfactory to the title insurance company.

  • Public records that impart constructive notice that benefit or burden the property, such as adjoiners, easements, servitudes, and covenants.

  • Unrecorded documents affecting the property and survey, if desired by the client.

If the surveyor is not provided with these documents, the surveyor is only required to perform research to the extent required under the statutory or administrative requirements of the jurisdiction where the property is located. The surveyor and client may negotiate for the surveyor to perform additional research if necessary.

Fieldwork

Section 5 regarding fieldwork has been substantially revised. The updated requirements allow the surveyor to use its professional opinion to decide the appropriate degree of precision for measurements used in the survey based on the property's intended or existing use. Within the surveyor's fieldwork responsibilities, the updated requirements provide significant revisions concerning:

  • Monuments.

  • Lines of possession and improvements along boundaries.

  • Buildings.

  • Easements and servitudes.

  • Cemeteries.

  • Water features.

Table A

Table A contains optional survey responsibilities that may be negotiated between the surveyor and the client. The 2016 update contains substantial revisions to items in Table A, including:

  • Zoning. The surveyor is now required to include zoning information in the survey only if the client provides the surveyor with a zoning report. This change encourages clients to hire zoning consultants and relieves the surveyor of an obligation to perform zoning-related research.

  • Parking. Surveyors are only required to indicate parking spaces in the survey that are marked or clearly identifiable.

  • Utility Easements. The surveyor is now required to locate utilities by making an 811 utility locating request. Surveyors must also indicate observed utility features.

  • Wetlands. The revisions encourage clients to hire environmental consultants to mark the delineations of wetlands. The surveyor is no longer responsible to judge the dimensions of wetlands.

The full text of the 2016 ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards and a redline showing the 2016 revisions can be downloaded from the ALTA website.

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Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Data Source: PLC