Changes to 2021 ALTA Survey Standards – what you need to know

Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP
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Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLPThe American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) recently adopted revised Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys. The new standards will become effective February 23, 2021, and will supersede the existing standards introduced in 2016. A survey performed in accordance with these standards is typically referred to as an “ALTA Survey.”

In addition to some clarifying revisions and revisions related to measurement accuracy, the theme of the new revisions is to narrow the focus of the survey to matters that are truly survey related and to provide greater clarity about the surveyor’s role in performing various tasks in connection with the survey.

Highlighted below are four of the key changes made to the 2021 Standards and the (optional) Table A requirements.

Utilities Sections 5.E.ii., iii. and iv. and Table A item 11

Sections 5.E.ii., iii. and iv. have been revised to specifically include utility locate markings found by the surveyor on the surveyed property and utility poles on or within 10 feet of the surveyed property as examples of evidence of possible easements or servitudes burdening the surveyed property. For utility locate markings, the surveyor is also required to include the source of the markings or note that the source is unknown.

Table A item 11 has been revised to include two choices with respect to sources of additional evidence of underground utilities to be included in addition to the observed evidence pursuant to Section 5.E.iv. A client may select from (a) plans and/or reports provided by the client, and (b) markings coordinated by the surveyor pursuant to a private utility locate request. Notably, there is not an option for markings requested by the surveyor pursuant to 811 utility locate requests. As with other Table A items, changes could be negotiated with the surveyor if an 811 request or other process would be helpful in the jurisdiction where the survey is being performed.

Title documents Section 6.C.ii.

The key change in Section 6.C.ii. is that the surveyor is only required to include a summary of all rights of way, easements and other “survey-related” matters burdening or benefiting the surveyed property and identified on the title evidence provided to the surveyor. By limiting this requirement to survey‑related matters, the surveyor may omit matters of record that are not survey related, whether or not they affect the property from a title perspective. Thus, a surveyor is not required to list those items listed as “standard” or pre-printed exceptions in a title commitment, or exceptions that are not survey-related matters, such as general mineral rights exceptions. As a practical matter, however, the surveyor’s summary will still need to include each recorded document, whether survey-related or not, to confirm for the title insurer whether it affects the surveyed property based on the description contained in the recorded document.

Recorded easements Section 6.C.viii.

Section 6.C.viii. was added to clarify that if the surveyor becomes aware of a recorded easement that is not listed in the title evidence provided, then the surveyor must advise the title insurer, and unless provided evidence of a release of such easement, the surveyor must show or explain such easement on the face of the plat or map and include a note that the title insurer has been advised.

Wetlands – deleted 2016 Table A item 18

Following the 2016 changes, which clarified that the surveyor must depict the location of any wetland delineation markers observed at the property only if a field delineation has been conducted by a qualified specialist hired by the client, this Table A item has now been deleted in its entirety. If a wetlands delineation is required to be shown on the survey, it will need to be negotiated as an additional Table A item 20.

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DISCLAIMER: 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.

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