New 2016 ALTA Survey Standards Are Now In Effect

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By Jacqueline Hoelting, Esq.

Land surveys are prepared in connection with real estate purchase or financing transactions for the purpose of assessing the boundaries, titles and location of improvements of a parcel of land. There are several different standards that a surveyor may adhere to when preparing a survey. The most comprehensive survey will be prepared based on a nationally recognized set of minimum standards jointly established by the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (formerly, the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping).  Effective as of February 23, 2016, the ALTA/NSPS adopted  new  Survey Standards (the “2016 standards”). The 2016 standards address a number of issues that arose from the previously effective 2011 ALTA/ACSM Survey Standards and are expected to result in fewer questions and communication problems between surveyors, title companies, lenders and clients.

Notable changes in the 2016 standards to the survey requirements include the following:

  • Title – The title of the survey has been changed from “ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey” to “ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey” to recognize the 2012 merger of the ACSM into the NSPS.
  • Section 4 – Clarifies which documents must be provided to the surveyor and the surveyor’s responsibility to conduct research of records.
  • Section 5 – Clarifies the precision with which items such as monuments, buildings, landscaping and vegetation, rights of ways, easements and servitudes, and waterways are to be depicted on the survey.
  • Section 5 –Utilities observed on the site must now be shown on the survey, instead of being an option in Table A.
  • Section 6 – If a new legal description is prepared, there must be a note explaining why the new description was prepared and describing how the new description differs from the old description.

Notable changes in the 2016 standards to Table A Items include the following:

  • Item 6 – A zoning report or letter must be provided to the surveyor by the client (not the insurer) if zoning classification information is to be shown.
  • Item 13 – Displaying the names of the owners of non-platted adjoining parcels is now optional rather than required.
  • Former Item 18 – The option of plotting observed evidence of use of the parcel as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill has been deleted.
  • New Item 18 (formerly Item 19)The surveyor is no longer responsible for delineating wetlands.  If a field delineation was done by a qualified wetland specialist, the location of the wetlands may be shown if there are delineation markers observed by the surveyor. If no markers are observed, a statement that no flags were observed should be included on the survey.
  • New Item 19 (formerly Item 20) – Combines Items 20(a) and 20(b) relating to appurtenant easements into a single item and eliminates the requirement of setting monuments at the corners of offsite easements or servitudes.

All ALTA surveys that are commissioned after February 23, 2016 must comply with the 2016 standards.

If you have any questions regarding the new survey standards and how they might impact your real estate purchase or financing, Ms. Hoelting can be contacted by phone at (216) 292-5807 or by email at jhoelting@smdklaw.com.