ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards have been revised


Changes will take effect February 23, 2021

Almost every commercial transaction requires an ALTA/NSPS survey, so commercial practitioners are familiar with the most recent 2016 guidelines. Those guidelines are reviewed every five years, and a new version will be in effect beginning February 23, 2021.

You can review the new standards in their entirety, including a red-lined version, here.

The changes were made primarily to make the standards easier to understand and to correct a few inconsistencies. One change was made as a result of the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court case, Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno, which held the word “shall” is a false imperative that actually means “may”. As a result, the word “shall” in the standards was changed to the word “must” to indicate an obligation or imperative.

Section 5.E was revised to clarify that the surveyor must only note observed evidence of easements, servitudes and other uses which are “on or across” the surveyed property instead of those which affect the surveyed property. This section also changes the necessity to locate utility poles within ten feet of the surveyed property from the prior requirement of five feet.

A change to Section 6.C states that if the surveyor becomes aware of a recorded easement not listed in the title evidence, the surveyor must advise the title company (in our case, the closing attorney) of the easement. If evidence of the easement isn’t provided to the surveyor, the easement must be shown or explained. This section was also revised to allow the surveyor to omit matters of record that are not survey related from the summary of title matters.

The introductory paragraph of Table A optional items has been revised to clarify that the wording of a Table A item may be negotiated. Item 6 of Table A was modified to clarify that zoning information must be provided to the surveyor. Item 11 regarding underground utilities has been simplified to two choices: (a) plans and/or reports provided by the client; or (b) markings coordinated by the surveyor pursuant to a private utility request. Item 18 (wetlands) was deleted. If a wetlands delineation is required, it must now be negotiated as an additional Table A, item 20. Item 19 was revised to allow for off-site easements appurtenant to be surveyed in their entirety.

We have a couple of weeks to become fully familiar with the new standards.

Minimum Standards Revised for ALTA/NSPS Surveys


Celebrating the festival of Terminalia?

surveyorAmerican Land Title Association and National Society of Professional Surveyors have spent two years working on a new set of minimum standards for surveys. Their efforts resulted in the adoption of new 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys which go into effect on February 23.  The standards can be found here.

A notable change is the title which acknowledges the merger of ASMC with NSPS. The list of atypical interests in real estate has been expanded to clearly include easements. And a surveyor should now be provided with the most recent title commitment. The term “record documents” has been abandoned in favor of referencing documents that are “to be provided to the surveyor”.

A significant change is the new duty of the surveyor to show “the location of each edge of the traveled way”, including divided streets and highways. The 2011 standards required showing the “width and location of the traveled way”. The change will require surveyors to show the width of the dedicated road in addition to the width of the asphalt.

The requirement to show water features has beefed up. Previously, surveyors were required to show springs, ponds, lakes, streams and rivers bordering or running through the property. Now surveyors must also show canals, ditches, marshes and swamps if any are “running through, or outside but within five feet of the perimeter boundary of the surveyed property.”

If a new legal description is prepared, the surveyor must include a note stating that the new description describes the same real estate as the record description, or if it does not, then the surveyor has to explain how the new description differs from the record description.

The surveyor must now show all observable evidence of both easements and utilities on his plat. Previously, there was some confusion as to whether both had to be shown.terminus 2

There are other modifications, most of which will assist surveyors while not diminishing the value of their surveyors to commercial practitioners and title insurers.

What’s the significance of the date? The Roman god Terminus protected boundary markers. The name “Terminus” was the Latin word for boundary marker. On February 23, Roman landowners celebrated a festival called Terminalia in honor of Terminus. Let’s throw a party!