New ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Standards go Into Effect Today
February 4, 2021
Revisions to the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys go into effect. Feb. 23, 2021.
Every five years, ALTA and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) review the standards. ALTA’s Board of Governors approved the changes in October 2020. The NSPS Board also approved the revisions.
The changes primarily focus on modifications making the standard easier to understand. There are also updates to resolve inconsistent, confusing or conflicting language in and across the different sections. In a few instances, the refinements address unintended liability placed on surveyors while assuring that lender and title needs are still adequately met.
Gary Kent, chair of the ALTA/NSPS Survey Work Group and owner and manager of Meridian Land Consulting LLC, said the changes directly or indirectly assist surveyors, while importantly, not diminishing the value of the product for the ultimate user—title insurers.
“The NSPS and ALTA committees work closely to maintain a standard that will result in surveys that meet the needs of the title industry, while keeping the requirements clear, realistic and achievable for surveyors,” Kent said.
A change to Section 6.C.viii addresses the reporting of easements. If a surveyor becomes aware of a recorded easement not listed in the title evidence, the surveyor must advise the title company of the easement. If evidence of a release isn’t provided, the easement must be shown or explained on the face of the plat or map.
Todd D'Amico PLS, vice chair of the ALTA/NSPS Survey Work Group, said it’s the duty of the professional land surveyor to disclose any additional easement documents they may be aware of.
“This allows for a clearer property transaction by showing additional easements that might affect the property,” said D’Amico, who is vice president of commercial surveys and mapping for First American Commercial Due Diligence Services Co. “It also assists the title offices in revising commitments prior to insuring the property, if the easement has not been released. Title offices count on the surveying community to disclose any additional information and the surveyor may have practiced in that area for so long they have information no one else does.”
There are also several notable changes to the optional items of Table A, including a substantial modification to Item 11 that deals with underground utilities. This section was simplified to help surveyors show underground utilities.
In the 1995 case Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno 515 U.S. 417, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the word “shall” is a false imperative that actually means “may.” Because of this, the joint ALTA/NSPS committee reviewed each use of the words “must” and “shall” and used the one that it felt was most appropriate.
If there’s a contract to perform an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey prior to the effective date of the new standards, the surveyor may discuss with the client, title company and lender and include an appropriate clause in the contract.
- Suggested clause: “This survey will be prepared using the 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for Land Title Surveys as established by ALTA and NSPS since said standards are still currently in effect at the time of this contract. It is understood and accepted by all parties involved that said standards may no longer be current upon completion of the survey, but will still be used for the purpose of this survey.”
The standards can be found at alta.org/forms (under “Most Requested”)
Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or email@example.com.