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New Standards for ALTA/NSPS Land Surveys
Land Surveys

New Standards for ALTA/NSPS Land Surveys

Amanda Farrell

Real estate transactions rely on multiple professionals to close successfully. This week, the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors made essential updates that will affect high-value residential and commercial development and sales. Even if you don’t regularly work on commercial real estate deals or currently order land surveys from PropLogix via our nationwide surveyor network, everyone should be aware of the new standards going into effect on February 23, 2021. 

These new standards supersede previous ones introduced in 2016 and affect the procedure for conducting what is commonly referred to as an ALTA survey. 

Both title professionals ordering these surveys and surveyors completing the work must be aware of what is now required. 


Ordering an ALTA/NSPS Title Survey 

If you plan to order an ALTA/NSPS survey at any point in the future, be sure to follow these guidelines: 

  1. The request must explicitly state that you require an “ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.” This is how we will be referring to this survey type in all communications in the future. 
  2. Although PropLogix has required these materials for some time from our clients to streamline the ordering process, they are now needed for the new 2021 ALTA/NSPS Standards: 
    1. Current Record Description of the Property to be Surveyed (if they are using the survey as a lot-split, we’ll need the parent parcel’s legal)
    2. The Full Copy of a Title Commitment
    3. Current Record Descriptions of any adjoining properties (unless they are in a platted subdivision)
    4. Any recorded easements that benefit the property being surveyed
    5. Any recorded easements, servitudes, or covenants burdening the property being surveyed
    6. Any other un-recorded documents the client wants to provide that the survey needs to reference
  3. A new Table A form has been developed for use with the new Standards, and title agents will need to provide a completed Table A form if any requirements are necessary. If no Table A items are required, they will need to include that in their request. 


Why Table A is important

The changes primarily focus on providing more detailed information to resolve inconsistent, confusing, or conflicting language across several sections. The new Table A Section has been simplified and clarified to better manage expectations of title professionals’ responsibilities and surveyors’ abilities. 

There are twenty items found in Table A that are negotiable between the surveyor and the client. The items include details like: 

  • Flood zone classification.
  • Gross land area.
  • Zoning classifications, setback requirements, parking requirements, and height and floor space area restrictions. 
  • Location of existing utilities on or serving the property.
  • Government Agency survey-related requirements. 


Changes to Table A

The introduction of the section now clarifies that the wording of any item may also be negotiated. Changes to the original language and any additionally negotiated items must be explained with a note. 

When requesting Items 6(a) and (b), zoning information should be provided to the surveyor. If the surveyor is willing and qualified to do this research, additional costs may be negotiated for this service. 

Item 10(b), which addressed whether particular walls are plumb, has been eliminated. 

Item 11 relates to locating and marking utilities. Accurate location of underground utilities is imperative for construction crews’ safety and essential to the final design plans. Still, the task has grown more difficult as more utility lines are placed underground. The update to the item hopes to set reasonable expectations on the surveyors’ ability to show underground utilities. 

There are now two choices for Item 11 (a) provide plans and/or reports for the surveyor or (b) marking coordinated by the surveyor according to a private utility locate request. The 811 locate request has been eliminated. 

Item 18 related to wetlands has been removed as it is unrelated to title issue. 

Item 19’s wording on offsite easements has been revised. 

Any of these items and their wording are still subject to negotiation. Surveyors are encouraged to create verbiage that reflects their expertise. 


Land Surveyor Requirements Affecting Title

The ALTA/NSPS Survey Work Group strived to make changes that would help surveyors reduce their liability while maintaining a high-quality product that meets title insurers’ needs. 

Gary Kent, chair of the Work Group, explained, “The NSPS and ALTA committees worked closely to maintain a standard that would result in surveys that meet the needs of the title industry while keeping the requirements clear, realistic and achievable for surveyors.” 


Some of the most significant changes to the standards that impact title work include: 

  • Sections 5.E.ii, iii. and iv. – any utility locate markings or utility poles within 10 feet of the property that may create a possible easement or servitude must be included. The source of utility locate markings must also be included or a note from the surveyor if the source is unknown. 
  • Section 6.c.ii – this section now clarifies that surveyors are only required to include an objective summary or rights of way, easements, and other “survey-related” matters affecting the surveyed property. The surveyor is not required to list any requirements or expectations listed in the title commitment unrelated to the survey, like general mineral rights exceptions. Surveyors are also not required to “opine on the effect” of any easements, rights of way, or other survey-related matters, although they may do so if inclined. However, the surveyor’s summary will still need to include recorded title documents, whether survey-related or not. The title insurer may use these documents to determine the impact on the surveyed property’s title. This prevents the surveyor from providing a legal opinion on an easement.
  • Section 6.C.viii – if the surveyor becomes aware of a recorded easement not identified in a title commitment, the surveyor is required to advise the title company of the easement. Additionally, if no release of the easement is found, it must be shown or somehow identified on the face of the plat or map. 


While it may only be on a rare occasion that you order an ALTA/NSPS Title Survey, take some time to review all the changes on the NSPS site. If you need a survey for your upcoming, PropLogix provides several options that fit both residential and commercial deals. 

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Amanda Farrell Content Marketing Strategist

Amanda Farrell is a digital media strategist at PropLogix. She enjoys being a part of a team that gives peace of mind for consumers while making one of the biggest purchases of their lives. She lives in Sarasota with her bunny, Buster, and enjoys painting, playing guitar and mandolin, and yoga.