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The New 2016 ALTA/ACSM (NSPS) Survey Standards

by Gary on May 13, 2015

For the past year, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) have been working on the next version of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys.  A survey performed pursuant to these standards is often referred to simply as an “ALTA Survey,” although it is correctly known as an ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey.

The standards were first adopted in 1962 and have been revised seven times – in 1986, 1988, 1992, 1997, 2005 and 2011.  The current 2011 version was the first complete rewrite and reformatting of the standards since their 1962 adoption.  It became effective on February 23, 2011.  The 2016 version is anticipated to become effective on February 23, 2016.

The ALTA and NSPS committees have addressed about 14 pages of suggested revisions and additions to the 2011 standards and have developed a working draft addressing many of them.

First and foremost to the changes is the fact that the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), which was - with ALTA - one of the original parties to the standards, has been absorbed by NSPS, so the new standards will likely be entitled the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys. This is not as radical of a change as some might believe since for the last few versions of the standards, ACSM had turned over responsibility for the standards over to NSPS anyway.

The 2016 version will address a number of issues that have arisen since 2011.  Some of those issues are the result of the inevitable ‘unintended consequences’ of the 2011 rewrite, some reflect changes in practice since 2011 and earlier, and some simply clarify surveyors’ and clients’ responsibilities with regard to certain items.

The more significant revisions include:

  • Providing more clarity as to the surveyor’s responsibility with regard to research in Section 4.

  • Clarifying the precision with which features are to be located on the ground and depicted on the plat/map of survey.

  • Providing better guidance as to locating and depicting abutting streets and roads.

  • Making it mandatory that observed utility features be shown, rather than as an option in Table A.

  • If the surveyor prepares a new description, there must be a note explaining why it was prepared, and how the land described in the new description relates to the land described in the record description.

  • Removing the mandatory requirement that adjoiners names be shown on the plat/map of survey and adding it to optional Table A item 13.

  • Providing an explanation for any Table A items that were negotiated in a manner different from how they are written in the Standards.

  • Clarifying the numbering of any Table A items that were negotiated in addition to the specific 19 items listed.

  • Providing that a zoning letter or report must be provided to surveyors before they can address the zoning issues of Table A item 6.

  • Removing Table A item 18 on use of the property as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill.  The near universal use of Phase One Environmental Assessments on commercial property has rendered item 18 unnecessary as a survey requirement, although to soften the effect, a new requirement is being added to Table A item 8 requiring that the surveyor show ’substantial areas of refuse.’

  • Removing former Table A item 19 on wetlands because its intent continues to be very severely misconstrued and misunderstood by those requesting it.

  • Removing Table A item 20b regarding the monumentation of appurtenant easements because parties requesting this item do not understand the potential ramifications and because of surveyor liability issues.

It is hoped and anticipated that these changes will provide for a more readily understood plat/map of survey resulting in fewer questions and communication problems between surveyors, title companies, lenders and clients.

Work is progressing on the upcoming new 2016 ALTA/NSPS Standards.  Watch for more information later in the year!