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August Update - The New 2016 ALTA/ACSM (NSPS) Survey Standards

by Gary on August 24, 2015

As I have noted before in this space, over the past two years the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) having been working on the next version of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys.

This week, there was a joint meeting in Chicago of the two committees responsible for the standards – one from ALTA and one from NSPS - to hammer out a version that will be sent to the organizations’ respective boards in October.  That objective was achieved when, at the end of a marathon 8-hour meeting, the committees arrived at a mutually acceptable final draft.

The new standards will recognize the National Society of Professional Surveyors as the entity now responsible for on the surveying side of the standards.  Thus, their title will now be the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys.

The 2016 version will also address a number of issues that have been problematic for both surveyors and for title professionals. A few of the more significant revisions include:
  • Providing more clarity as to the surveyor’s responsibility with regard to research in Section 4.
  • Making it mandatory that observed utility features observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork be shown, rather than as an option in Table A.
  • Providing that a zoning letter or report must be provided to surveyors before they can address the zoning issues of Table A item 6.
  • Providing clear guidance on what surveyors will actually do pursuant to the Table A item on wetlands.
  • Removing Table A item 18 on use of the property as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill in lieu of adding ‘substantial areas of refuse’ to the examples provided in Table A item 8.

There are many other changes to the 2011 standards, each of which provides for better clarity and understanding between the surveyors who prepare the surveys and those who rely on them.
The committees also committed to meeting more frequently so they can explore the many ubiquitous business issues related to the use of the ALTA/NSPS Standards.

I think surveyors will be pleased with the new standards.  They will provide surveyors with better guidance as to their exact responsibilities and result in fewer questions and communication problems between surveyors, title companies, lenders and clients.

Because, as of this date, they have not been approved by the two boards, we are not publishing the new standards yet. In a few weeks, we will make them available and include a detailed explanation of all modifications and additions.  In the meantime, anyone wishing to review the draft can contact me and I will send it to them.