Revised 2021 ALTA Standards

2021 ALTA/NSPS Minimum Standard Detail Requirements

Jan. 11 2021 - By Burk Cornelius, PLS Sr. Project Manager, Bureau Veritas

Here we go again! 

The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) and The American Land Title Association (ALTA) have approved and adopted the latest version of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys. The new standards will become effective February 23, 2021. Any Land Title surveys contracted after that date must meet the 2021 Standards. If the contract is signed prior to Feb 23rd but the survey is not completed until after the 23rd, the survey may be prepared 2016 standards.

If you are saying to yourself, “why?” You are not alone. Every 5 years the committee on ALTA/NSPS Land Title surveys reviews and examines the standards by which Land Title Surveys are performed.  Some changes are more significant than others. Some address issues that have existed in prior versions, some are grammatical/organizational in nature and serve to better describe actions or requirements that were always intended but not written well.

The bottom line is the 2021 version is not necessarily life changing. In fact, most users might not even notice a difference except for the name (date) and the fact that there are one fewer Optional Table A Items.

Below are some of the more significant changes that you should be aware of, besides the technical changes such as measurement standards and other field work requirements.

Section 6 - Plat or Map
There are three specific changes to Section 6 that are worth mentioning:

“..based on the description contained in the record document-does not affect the surveyed property”.

  1. Easement notes: In the past, some clients have required that a surveyor note each and every item listed in Schedule BII of the title commitment in a note on the survey, even if those items might not be survey related (i.e. mineral rights, mortgage documents). Many surveyors try to avoid notations about such items that are not typically considered survey related. The revised standard now states, “A summary of all rights of way, easements, and other survey-related matters burdening the surveyed property”.

    The problem with this is who decides what is “survey related”. So be aware that the client, title company and the surveyor might have differing opinions on what is survey related. Be prepared to have a conversation addressing those opinions.
  2. Affects or Does Not Affect: Ever since the 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements were released, there has been much conversation in the surveying community about the role of the Surveyor in addressing title exception documents and use of the words “affect” or “do not affect”. I have strong opinions on this matter and have written an article on my LinkedIn page that can be found HERE. I won’t reiterate those comments but instead focus on the changes made in the 2021 Standards. The new standards attempt to clarify what affects and does not affect by adding the following statement: “..based on the description contained in the record document-does not affect the surveyed property”.

    I would rather have seen this statement included on all exception notes, not just those that do not affect.

    In my opinion this does not really address the issue as I see it because any statements made regarding “affect” made by the surveyor have always been made based on the description. You can read my LinkedIn article and form your own opinion. Again, be prepared to have a conversation with the surveyor or title company on the matter.
  3. Easements not listed in the title commitment: A new paragraph was added to Section 6 as follows:

    If in the process of preparing the survey the surveyor becomes aware of a recorded easement not otherwise listed in the title evidence provided, the surveyor must advise the insurer prior to delivery of the plat or map and, unless the insurer provides evidence of a release of that easement, show or otherwise explain it on the face of the plat or map, with a note that the insurer has been advised.

Besides this being a very long sentence, I am not sure why it states “advise the insurer prior to delivery” but I am sure that it could be done concurrently with the delivery of the first draft of the survey. The title company can then address it on future versions of the title commitment if necessary.

Optional Table A Item changes:

The most obvious change is that there are now only 19 items instead of 20. More on that later.

Item 6 Zoning. This item was clarified as to the responsibility of the client to provide zoning report or zoning information to the surveyor to be shown on the survey.

Item 10 (b) Party Walls being plumb. has been eliminated from the current version. This was not a title issue.

Item 11 Utilities. was simplified somewhat. There are now 2 choices as there were in the 2011 version of the standard.

(a) Plans provided by the client
(b) Markings pursuant to a private utility locate a company

One thing removed from Item 11 is the utilization of 811 utility locate. The 811 system of utility location was never designed to be used to support a Land Title Survey. It was solely a safety locate to prevent damage to utilities and possible harm to individuals. Listing it as an option in the 2016 standards was, in my opinion, not appropriate.

The only other issue I see with Item 11 option (b) is that it is not clear who orders and pays for the private utility locate. Be sure this is negotiated in the contract so there is no misunderstanding.

Previous Item 18 Wetlands. has been eliminated completely. This is another example (like 10b) that was not a title issue.

A note can always be added regarding the National Wetlands Inventory Map if so desired. Similar to the FEMA flood insurance rate maps that are referenced in Table A item 3. But this is not required and is at the discretion of the surveyor.

New Item 18 Off-site easements. Previously Item 19 but renumbered due to the elimination of Item 18. This has long been a source of confusion and the revision to the standard made some progress in alleviating the confusion. If selected, all appurtenant easements listed in the commitment will be included as part of the survey and surveyed as if it was part of the fee property WITH THE EXCEPTION OF MONUMENTING THE EASEMENT.

Truthfully, this is no different than before, except monumentation is explicitly excluded. Which could have been done previously with the addition of a note. It should still be noted, however, that including Table A item 19 can substantially increase the cost of the survey, such as in the case of an out lot in a shopping center.

It should still be noted, however, that including Table A item 19 can substantially increase the cost of the survey, such as in the case of an out lot in a shopping center.

If you have any questions regarding the 2021 ALTA/NSPS Standards and how they might affect you, contact your Sales Representative, Project Manager, or email ALTA@bvna.com. We would be happy to talk you through it!

A full version of the 2021 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for Land Title Surveys can be downloaded below.