The American Land Title Association® (“ALTA®”) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors, Inc. (“NSPS”) have revised the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys for 2016. These changes will take effect on Feb. 23, 2016, and are expected to provide a more readily understood plat/map of survey resulting in fewer questions and communication problems between surveyors, title companies, lenders and clients.

Land surveys are primary due diligence tools in real estate transactions or development deals that depict location, boundary and topography, with a description of improvements, encumbrances and other observations. The 2016 version addresses a number of issues that have arisen since 2011. Many of the revisions are stylistic in nature, including the name changing from ALTA/ACSM to ALTA/NSPS. (The American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (“ACSM”), which was one of the original parties to the standards with ALTA, has been absorbed by NSPS.) However, practitioners should note the following changes.

  • There are several changes relating to review of recorded documents. The revisions clarify the surveyor’s obligation to include only recorded documents that are provided to the surveyor by the title company or their customer.
  • There is now a specific exception that the surveyor will not show rights of way, easements or servitudes if the documents are illegible or if the surveyor has evidence that such right of way, easement or servitude has been released or terminated.
  • Notable changes to Table A Items include the following:
    • In the 2011 version, Item 6(b) was more inclusive than Item 6(a); Item 6(a) is now more inclusive. In addition, zoning classification information will be shown only if a zoning report or letter is provided to the surveyor by the client (rather than relying on information provided by the insurer.)
    • The 2016 version combines Items 11(a) and 11(b) into a single Item 11 and removes railroad tracks, spurs and sidings from the list of items to be shown on the survey.
    • The 2016 version revises Item 13 to provide that the names of adjoining owners will be provided based on “tax records” only (rather than “public records” which could involve a broader review.)
    • The 2016 version removes Item 18 relating to evidence of use as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill. The new version also revises Item 19 relating to location of wetland areas and moves it to Item 18.
    • The 2016 version moves and combines Items 20(a) and 20(b) relating to appurtenant easements into a single Item 19.

It is important for practitioners using these devices to understand the changes that have been made to the Standards to ensure surveys are accurately prepared and that all parties’ expectations are met. Businesses and lenders will need to be mindful of these new changes when reviewing titles, surveys, drafting survey requirements for loan commitments, drafting closing instructions, and the like. The redlined document to highlight updates and revisions is available on the ALTA website. An attorney can help ensure compliance to these new Standards.