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ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys – Table A, Monuments

by Gary on January 20, 2014

When clients contact me requesting that a survey be prepared in accordance with the 2011 ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey Standards, I always ask which of the Optional Table A items they want included.
I find that ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys Standards can be very confusing to a client who makes the decisions regarding which Table A items they want. This series of blogs should help the client better express their needs and wants to the surveyor.
Table A was first developed as a part of the 1988 ALTA/ACSM Standards (it was actually called Table 3 at the time). Its purpose was to offer a menu of 15 items that lenders could select from that were above and beyond the requirements of a basic land title survey.  Since then, the Standards have been revised five times with the current 2011 set having become effective on February 23, 2011.  In the process, Table A has expanded to include a wider variety of items that might be of interest not only to lenders, but also to other parties who might utilize the survey, like the clients themselves, or their attorneys.  

The current version of Table A contains 21 items from which the client can select.  Aside from the fact that there is a cost associated with each item – ranging from potentially several thousand dollars (e.g., Item 11b), to perhaps just a few dollars (e.g., Item 14) - not all Table A items are necessarily optional in every case. The best example of this is Item 1 – Monuments – which states:

Monuments placed (or a reference monument or witness to the corner) at all major corners of the boundary of the property, unless already marked or referenced by existing monuments or witnesses.

Many states require that surveyors set (or find) monuments at every corner of the properties they survey.  Let’s use Indiana as an example. 865 IAC 1-12-18 of Indiana Administrative Code requires that monuments be found or placed at all corners of any property being surveyed. Other states require monuments, but with some exceptions (for example, in some states, the client can opt out). In still other states, monuments are required only on certain types of surveys.
Regardless of the exact scenario, Section 3.B. of the 2011 ALTA/ACSM Standards says the following in that regard:

3.B. Other Requirements and Standards of Practice - Some Federal agencies, many states and some local jurisdictions have adopted statutes, administrative rules and/or ordinances that set out standards regulating the practice of surveying within their jurisdictions. In addition to the standards set forth herein, surveyors shall also conduct their surveys in accordance with all applicable jurisdictional requirements and standards of practice. Where conflicts between the standards set forth herein and any such jurisdictional requirements and standards of practice occur, the more stringent shall apply.

Every state regulates the practice of surveying and requires that surveyors be licensed to practice.  Section 3.B. of the Standards is aimed primarily at each state’s statutes and regulations. Surveyors must assure – regardless of the requirements contained within the 2011 ALTA/ACSM Standards – that their surveys meet the requirements of their regulating jurisdictional authority. Thus, if the survey is performed in a state that requires monuments, the surveyor will have to set monuments regardless of the client’s wishes.
In my experience, confusion on this issue occurs most often when I am dealing with attorneys from the State of California, although basically the same issue can arise in other western states. Because of statutes related to what is referred to as a “Record of Survey,” the setting of even one monument can radically increase the cost of a survey in those states. Thus, oftentimes, a request coming from someone in, for example, the Golden State will include a note that they do not want any monuments. However, Surveyors need to remember and remind their clients that although the ALTA/ACSM Standard is nationally recognized, it does not trump state laws. They will have to meet the laws and regulations of their states; and in the case of Table A item 1, that means they may need to set monuments regardless of the client’s wishes.