Effective on February 23, 2016, the minimum standard requirements for the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) surveys are changing. Recently, ALTA and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) have published new Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys (Minimum Standards) which will replace the 2011 Minimum Standards. NSPS is the successor organization to the ACSM which was involved in prior versions of the Minimum Standards.

The revisions to the Minimum Standards are intended to clarify the areas of the requirements which were commonly subject to differing interpretations, and they affect the survey recipient (the owner, buyer, lender and title insurer) in addition to the surveyor. Several of the most significant revisions are as follows:

  • Section 4 regarding the research that a surveyor is required to do has been revised and expanded to clarify what documentation must be provided to the surveyor and the surveyor’s responsibility to conduct additional research. For example, a surveyor must be provided with copies of all easements benefiting and burdening the property together with any unrecorded documents affecting the property. If such documents are not provided to the surveyor, then the surveyor shall only be required to conduct additional research to the extent that such research is statutorily or administratively required in the jurisdiction where the property is located, together with any other research that is specifically negotiated by the client.
  • Section 5 regarding fieldwork has been revised and expanded to clarify what must be depicted in a survey with respect to all observed evidence of above or below ground utilities. For example, all pipeline markers, manholes, valves, meters, transformers, pedestals, clean-outs, utility poles, overhead lines and guy wires located on the surveyed property must be depicted.
  • Section 6 regarding the plat/map has been revised to clarify how new or revised legal descriptions should be incorporated into the survey. For example, if a surveyor creates a new legal description for an existing parcel, then the survey must include a note that the new description describes the same property as described in the applicable previously-recorded document. However, if the new description is for different property than that which was contained in the applicable previously-recorded document, then the surveyor must include a note explaining how the new description is different from the existing description.
  • Table A, No. 6 regarding zoning classification, setbacks and parking requirements has been revised to require that a zoning letter or report must be provided to the surveyor before zoning, setbacks and parking requirements can be included in the survey.
  • Table A, No. 18 regarding dumps and landfills has been deleted, and No. 8 has been expanded to require the depiction of "substantial areas of refuse."
  • Table A, No. 19 has been revised (as new No. 18) to clarify the surveyor’s responsibility to depict wetlands. If the client desires for the surveyor to depict wetland boundaries, then a qualified wetland specialist must mark the wetland boundaries prior to the surveyor’s fieldwork, and the surveyor shall then depict the location of the markers on the survey.

All professionals who routinely work with real estate and surveys should be aware of the upcoming 2016 changes to the Minimum Standards in order to avoid potential delays and misunderstandings when engaging a surveyor.