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ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys – Table A, Utilities

by Gary on August 7, 2014

Utilities are often of great interest and concern to the lender and/or buyer of a property that is the subject of an ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey because of planning, construction and/or maintenance issues. And they can be of interest for two entirely different reasons.

First of all, in some cases a utility installation is evidence of an easement.  This can be of special concern if there is actually no written easement to support the location of that feature.  In such cases, the property may be burdened by an unwritten ‘prescriptive easement’ or one of several types of implied easements.  Either way, clients, title companies and lenders need to know a property may be encumbered by an unrecorded easement. Thus when a utility is evidence of an easement, it must be shown on the plat or map of survey.
However, utility features are not always evidence of an easement.  For example, if a storm sewer system simply collects on-site storm water and runs it into an on-site detention pond, there is no associated easement.  But sometimes utilities are of interest simply because they need to be accommodated in the planning or construction process.  In situations where a utility feature is not evidence of an easement, it does not need to shown on the plat or map unless Table A item 11a or 11b is selected.

Table A item 11a requires that the surveyor locate and show any observed evidence of utilities on or within 5 feet of the property being surveyed (10 feet for utility poles).  Such evidence includes, but not be limited to, manholes, utility poles, transformers, utility pedestals, valves, clean-outs, and meters.

Pursuant to Table A, item 11b the surveyor is to locate and show any observed evidence of utilities as specified in Item 11a, in addition to conducting what might be termed a ‘utility investigation.’  Such an investigation would typically include (1) contacting the state’s utility “one-call” center, and/or the appropriate utility companies, to have the underground lines marked, and (2) attempting to obtain copies of utility plans from the relevant utility companies.  If the client or owner has such plans, they are to be provided to the surveyor.

Interested parties should always remember that even when surveyed and shown, utility locations are problematic. They can only be shown based on source information from plans and markings which are typically inaccurate and often incomplete.  That imperfect information is combined with observed evidence of utilities and a corresponding view of the underground utilities is developed.  However, lacking excavation, the exact location of underground features cannot be accurately, completely and reliably depicted.  Where additional or more detailed information is required, the client should be advised that excavation may be necessary.