14 Things You Should Know About the New 2016 Surveying Standards

Legal Alert

Effective Tuesday, February 23, 2016, the ALTA/NSPS group has adopted changes to the listing of items to be included in a standard survey (what used to be called an “ALTA/ACSM” survey). The ALTA/NSPS survey standards are the joint work product of the American Land Title Association (i.e., title insure companies) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (surveyors). The “check the box” items on Table A have been updated in some ways that should be useful to you and will modify what will appear on a typical survey. A survey that meets the current standards will be referred to as an “ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.” The following are the significant revisions to Table A for an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey: 

  1. HOW SHOULD YOU REFER TO THE NEW SURVEY? As noted above, it should be referred to as an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey. The change in name is intended to eliminate a need to say the “2016” version of these standards, since this is the first one using “NSPS”.
  2. ITEM 5(B)(ii), WIDTH AND LOCATION OF ABUTTING PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ROADS. The standard provides that the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey show the width and location of any abutting public or private roads, included divided streets, unless the recorded documents provided to the surveyor under Items 5 and 6 disclose that there is no legal access to the road(s).
  3. ITEM 5(C)(ii), BUSHES AND THINGS VEGETATIVE! This standard clarifies that the surveyor does not need to depict the location of trees, bushes, shrubs and other natural vegetation unless they are deemed by the surveyor to be evidence of possession. So, items that are planted that appear to be part of adverse possession by a neighboring owner, show - otherwise, not.
  4. ITEM 6(b)(x), NEARBY RESTRICTED PHYSICAL ACCESS. This standard requires that the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey show if there are any areas on the boundaries of the surveyed property where physical access within five feet was restricted (e.g., a fence on the neighbor’s adjoining property).
  5. ITEM 6(a) and 6(b), ZONING INFORMATION TO BE PROVIDED BY CLIENT, NOT TITLE COMPANY. Zoning information is now required to be provided by the surveyor’s client, and not the insurer (as was true in the 2011 changes to Table A). You, the surveyor’s client, are now expected to provide: (i) a zoning report or letter, (ii) a list of the applicable current zoning classification(s), (iii) setback requirements, (iv) the height and floor space area restrictions, and (v) parking requirements. You can hire someone to provide it, but it is no longer the responsibility of the title insurer.
  6. ITEM 8, SUBSTANTIAL FEATURES OBSERVED BY THE SURVEYOR. In addition to parking lots, billboards, signs, swimming pools and landscape areas, the surveyor is now also required to depict on the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey any “substantial areas of refuse.”
  7. ITEM 9, PARKING AREAS. The surveyor is required to show (only) striping of clearly identifiable parking spaces on surface parking areas and lots (and not the striping of parking spaces within a parking structure). The surveyor needs to show the number and type of clearly identifiable parking spaces on surface parking areas, lots and in parking structures, though. 
  8. ITEM 11, LOCATION OF UTILITIES. The surveyor is responsible for attempting to identify underground utilities. The surveyor will attempt to locate utility plans, or make an 811 utility locating request, or seek information or utility plans provided from the surveyor’s client. If the surveyor is relying on a private utility locating service (which are deemed by ALTA/NSPS to be the least reliable source), then the surveyor will note such on the survey.
  9. ITEM 13, NAMES OF ADJOINING OWNERS BASED ON CURRENT TAX RECORDS. The ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey should show the names of owners of adjoining parcels, based on the current (property) tax records.
  10. ITEM 18, DELINEATION OF WETLANDS. The ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey should show the location of wetlands as they are delineated in the field by a qualified specialist hired by the surveyor’s client. Basically, this change places the duty on the client to hire a specialist to make the determination and mark the areas in the field. The surveyor’s duty is only to show on the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey what the specialist marked in the field as the wetlands. If a specialist’s flagging of wetlands in the field has not been conducted at the time the surveyor does its field work, a note stating that no flags were observed will be noted on the survey.
  11. ITEM 18, NO NEED TO SHOW CERTAIN ENVIRONMENTAL AREAS) ON THE SURVEY. The former 2011 Table A required the surveyor to show any solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill on the survey. Those requirements have been deleted. The duty to identify these areas is now with the environmental assessment firms, and are part of the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.
  12. ITEM 19, OFF-SITE EASEMENTS OR SERVITUDES. If there are plottable off-site (i.e., appurtenant) easements or servitudes, the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey should depict them if they are disclosed in documents provided or obtained as a part of the survey pursuant to Sections 5 and 6 of the Minimum Standards, along with Improvements, as defined in Sections 6 and 6 of the Minimum Standards. The client is responsible for obtaining permissions from the off-site land owners/tenants/etc. for the surveyor to have access to do the survey work on the offsite easements or servitudes. However, the 2016 Standards delete the requirement (in the 2011 Table A) that the surveyor place monuments at the major corners of the off-site easement or servitude.
  13. ITEM 20, PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE. This standard now provides that the surveyor will NOT put on the survey what professional liability insurance the surveyor may carry. Clients should verify for themselves what professional liability insurance the surveyor carries.
  14. HANDLING OF LEGAL DESCRIPTIONS AND CERTIFICATION. The 2016 specifications continue the revisions for ALTA/ACSM surveys in 2011, which state the survey shall bear only the specified certification and preparing a new legal description is to be avoided unless deemed appropriate by the surveyor and insurer.

If you have questions, feel free to contact any of the attorneys in our Real Estate Group. 

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