Notable Changes to the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys

March 2016

Effective February 23, 2016, the American Land Title Association® (ALTA®) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors, Inc. (NSPS) have revised the "Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA®/NSPS Land Title Surveys," including the Table A optional survey responsibilities and specifications. These minimum standard detail requirements set forth the minimum requirements a survey must satisfy in order to be certified as an ALTA® survey. These requirements generally exceed state minimum requirements. Table A sets forth a list of optional items a client may request be included in the survey, often for an additional fee.

While many of the 2016 changes to the 2011 minimum standard detail requirements are form over substance, the requirements are worth reading to understand both the product being delivered and the client obligations to provide the surveyor sufficient information to complete the survey. Both a clean copy of these updated requirements and a redlined copy of the requirements can be found by clicking under "Resources" below. In addition, real estate professionals charged with ordering and reviewing surveys should pay special attention to the following notable changes in Table A:

  • Item 6 – Zoning Information

Previously, under the 2011 requirements, title insurers were charged with obtaining zoning information and surveyors were required to reflect the zoning classification and requirements on the face of the survey (e.g., height and floor space area restrictions ), including, if requested, depicting building setback requirements.

Under the 2016 requirements, the client is required to provide the zoning information to the surveyor in the form of a zoning report or a zoning letter from the applicable municipality, and the surveyor is only required to depict setback requirements listed in such zoning report or letter if such setback requirements do not require an interpretation by the surveyor.

Practical Tip: Order your zoning reports or zoning letters at the same time or before you order your survey so that the survey can be finalized within a reasonable period of time. Also, make sure the surveyor is showing the distances between improvements and adjacent roadways and property lines to be reviewed in connection with the setback requirements.

  • Item 11 – Utilities

Previously, under the 2011 requirements, Item 11 was broken out into 11(a) (location of utilities existing on or serving the surveyed property based on observed evidence) and 11(b) (location of utilities existing on or serving the surveyed property based on observed evidence, together with evidence from plans obtained from utility companies or provided by client, and markings by utility companies and other sources).

Under the 2016 requirements, the minimum standard detail requirements now include what was previously Item 11(a) and new Item 11 requires the surveyor to request an 811 utility locate or similar service.

Practical Tip: If your customary practice was to order Table A Item 11(a) only, that no longer needs to be marked in Table A.

  • Item 18 (and Item 8) – Waste Dump/Sanitary Landfill

Previously, under the 2011 requirements, Item 18 required surveyors to depict observed evidence of the site used as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill.

Under the 2016 requirements, Item 18 has been deleted in its entirety. However, Item 8 now includes in the list of features to be shown by a surveyor "substantial areas of refuse". It is likely that this change was made, at least in part, so that surveyors are not making legal conclusions as to what constitutes a dump or landfill.

Practical Tip: Item 8 of Table A should be included in your survey order and if any area of refuse is indicated, the prospective property user should conduct an on-site evaluation of such area.

  • Item 19 – Wetlands

Previously, under the 2011 requirements, Item 19 required surveyors to locate wetland areas as delineated by appropriate authorities.

Under the 2016 requirements, Item 19 is now Item 18, and only requires surveyors to locate delineation markers of wetlands observed on the surveyed property provided there has been a field delineation of the wetlands by a qualified specialist hired by the client.

Practical Tip: If wetlands on the surveyed property are suspected, it is the client's responsibility to involve and rely on a wetlands specialist, and not the surveyor, to investigate and identify whether the area is wetlands.