The American Land Title Association ("ALTA"), the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping ("ACSM") and the National Society of Professional Surveyors ("NSPS") adopted joint 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys (the "2011 Survey Standards"), superseding the survey standards that were last revised in 2005. The 2011 Survey Standards are effective as of February 23, 2011. Click here to view the 2011 Survey Standards.
The ALTA/ACSM Minimum Standard Detail Requirements are recognized as clear and concise technical standards for land title surveys. They contain the text of a certification to be made when the survey conforms to these requirements.
The ALTA/ACSM requirements are sometimes varied to conform to local practices, for example, statutes or administrative rules regulating surveying in certain jurisdictions. The survey standards provide that, to the extent of a conflict between the ALTA/ACSM survey standards and jurisdictional requirements or standards of practice, the more stringent standard shall apply.
The 2011 Survey Standards are a major reorganization of the prior survey standards. Some of the changes memorialize features that already appear on many surveys. This bulletin describes some of the significant changes to the ALTA/ACSM survey standards.
A. Topic headings. The 2011 Survey Standards contain topic headings, which group the survey standards by general category, e.g., "Request for Survey," "Surveying Standards and Standards of Care," "Records Research," "Field Work," and "Plat or Map." The 2011 Survey Standards also contain subheadings, including "Rights of Way and Access," "Buildings," and "Easements and Servitudes." Requirements from the prior survey standards as well as new requirements have been organized and grouped within these categories and subcategories.
B. Properties presenting special issues. The 2011 Survey Standards provide that certain properties, including marinas, campgrounds, trailer parks and leased areas may present issues outside of the scope of a normal ALTA/ACSM survey. The 2011 Survey Standards also provide that the scope of the survey for such properties should be discussed with the customer, the lender and the title insurer, and agreed upon prior to requesting the survey. (Request for Survey, Section 2).
C. Surveyor's Certification. The 2011 Survey Standards state that a current ALTA/ACSM survey "shall bear only" the certification described therein, unaltered, except as may be required by applicable laws or jurisdictional requirements. The certification now also includes the date of completion of the field work for the survey. (Certification, Section 7). If a customer is seeking a different certification or additional information to be certified, that certification/information should be provided separately from the survey.
D. Method of Delivery. Digital copies of the plat or map may be provided in addition to, or in lieu of, hard copies in accordance with the terms of the agreement. (Deliverables, Section 8).
E. New Required Items. The 2011 Survey Standards include a number of new items that must appear on an ALTA/ACSM survey, including a few items that were previously optional matters. The new required items include the following:
1. visible evidence of physical access (such as, but not limited to, curb cuts and driveways) to any abutting streets, highways or other public ways (Field Work, Section 5.B.iii), and evidence of access to and from waters adjoining the surveyed property, such as paths, boat slips, launches, piers and docks. (Field Work, Section 5.B.vii). (both previously optional Item 10 on the 2005 Survey Standards).
2. the location and character of vehicular, pedestrian or other forms of access by other than the apparent occupants of the surveyed property to or across the surveyed property, including driveways, alleys, private roads, sidewalks and footpaths. (Field Work, Section 5. B. iv). This addition addresses access issues other than those described in Section 5.B.iii (described above).
3. the 2011 Survey Standards discourage the preparation of a new property description, which should be avoided unless deemed necessary or appropriate by the surveyor and the title insurer. The 2011 Survey Standards also provide that preparation of a new description should also generally be avoided when the record description is a lot or block in a platted, recorded subdivision. If a new property description is created, the survey must contain a statement explaining why the new description was prepared. (Plat or Map, Section 6.B.i).
4. where gaps or overlaps are identified, the surveyor shall disclose this to the title insurer and the customer, prior to preparation of the final plat or map, for the determination of a course of action concerning junior/senior rights. (Plat or Map, Section 6.B.vii).
5. a note on the plat or map identifying the title commitment/policy number, effective date and name of the insurer for any title work provided to the surveyor. (Plat or Map, Section 6.B.x).
6. the width and recording information of all plottable rights of way, easements and servitudes burdening and benefitting the property surveyed, as evidenced by recorded documents which have been provided to the surveyor. (Plat or Map, Section 6.C.i).
7. a note regarding any right of way, easement or servitude evidenced by a recorded document which has been provided to the surveyor:
(a) the location of which cannot be determined from the recorded document,
(b) of which there was no observed evidence at the time of the survey,
(c) that is a blanket easement,
(d) that is not on, or does not touch, the surveyed property,
(e) that limits access to an otherwise abutting right of way,
(f) in cases where the surveyed property is composed of multiple parcels, which of such parcels the various rights of way, easements, and servitudes cross. (Plat or Map, Section 6.C.ii).
8. when recordation or filing of a plat or map is required by law, such plat or map shall be produced in recordable form. (Plat or Map, Section 6.D.i).
9. a vicinity map showing the subject property in reference to nearby highways(s) or major street intersections. (Plat or Map, Section 6.D.i) (previously optional Item 2 on the 2005 Survey Standards).
10. the surveyor’s project number, if any, and email address, in addition to the following previously-required items: surveyor’s name, registration or license number, signature, seal, street address, telephone number, and date(s) of any revisions. (Plat or Map, Section 6.D.iv.).
F. New Optional Items. The 2011 Survey Standards include several new optional items in Table A, titled "Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications." These include the following:
1. addresses, if disclosed in the recorded documents, or observed while conducting the survey. (Table A, Item 2; this was previously required Item 5(g) on the 2005 Survey Standards).
2. determination of the relationship and location of certain party walls with respect to adjoining properties. (Table A, Item 10(a); this was previously required Item 5(i) on the 2005 Survey Standards).
3. determination of whether certain walls are plumb. (Table A, Item 10(b); this was previously required Item 5(i) on the 2005 Survey Standards).
4. observed evidence of recent street or sidewalk construction or repairs. (Table A, Item 17).
5. wetland areas as delineated by appropriate authorities. (Table A, Item 19).
6. improvements within any offsite easements or servitudes benefitting the surveyed property that are disclosed in any recorded documents that are provided to the surveyor. (Table A; Item 20).
7. require professional liability insurance in a minimum amount and furnish a Certificate of Professional Liability Insurance upon request. (Table A; Item 21).
G. Document Requirements. The section titled "Records Research" expands the list of documents that are to be provided to the surveyor. (Records Research, Section 4). The documents are as follows:
1. most recent title commitment [new requirement];
2. current record description of the property to be surveyed, or, in the case of an original survey, the parent parcel [same as prior];
3. current record descriptions of adjoining properties [new requirement];
4. recorded easements benefiting the property [same as prior];
5. recorded easements or servitudes and covenants burdening the property [same as prior];
6. documents of record referred to in any of the above documents [same as prior];
7. documents necessary to ascertain, if possible, the junior/senior relationship of gaps or overlaps with adjoining property [new requirement];
8. any other documents containing desired appropriate information affecting the property being surveyed [same as prior].
Item 6 of Table A contains optional items relating to zoning. These optional items contemplate that the current zoning classification, building setback requirements, height and floor space area restrictions will be provided to the surveyor by the title insurer. (Table A, Item 6(a) & (b)). However, this qualification does not prohibit another third party, or even the surveyor, from obtaining such information, if negotiated.
H. ALTA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). ALTA prepared a series of Questions and Answers relating to the 2011 Survey Standards, revised as of 06/06/11. These provide additional information regarding some of the more frequently asked questions and common concerns. Click here to view the ALTA FAQs.
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