The “Gold Standard” in land surveying for the commercial real estate market has always been the ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey, which, for purposes of this article, I will call the “ALTA Survey”. This survey is one that meets the minimum standards set forth by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), formerly the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (ACSM). This type of survey has been chosen by Buyers, Sellers, Lenders, Title Companies and their attorneys over the years because it provides each of these parties nearly everything they need in a survey when acquiring, selling or lending in a commercial real estate transaction.
In a real estate transaction, the title company will be asked to provide Buyer and Lender with a title insurance policy. That policy will contain a standard exception for matters that would have been revealed by an accurate survey of the property. In order to have the insurer delete this exception, the insurer will need to review an accurate survey of the property to discover if any matters do in fact affect the property being insured. In an effort to have the land surveyors provide a survey that will contain all the features that these parties need and to obtain some degree of consistency, the ALTA Survey was created.
In short, the ALTA Survey is a detailed boundary survey of the property and includes all improvements and easements or other record matters disclosed by the title company’s Commitment to Issue Title Insurance. There are also many optional items that the parties may require that the land surveyor includes in the survey; these are called Table A Optional Items.
The ALTA Survey standards were first adopted in 1962 and have been revised many times since then. On February 23, 2016, the newest standards will go into effect. The first change that experienced practitioners will notice is in the name. The American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) merged with the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) and the name of the ALTA Survey standards has changed from Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey to Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.
Other changes will be discussed in depth in future articles but here is an overview of the changes:
*Changes to what the Client must provide the surveyor for the project (title commitment, or other title evidence, record descriptions of adjoiners, easements benefiting and burdening the property, etc);
*Changes dealing with the precision of on the ground measurements;
*The former Table A Item 11(a) “observed utilities” is now no longer optional but a part of the minimum standards;
*A Table A Item for matters that are negotiated between the Surveyor and his or her client;
*The requirement that a zoning report or letter must be provided to the Surveyor in order to address Table A Item 6 – Zoning;
*Modifying the Table A Item on Wetlands (formerly 19, now 18) such that a field delineation of any wetland areas must be done by an expert in order for the Surveyor to address such areas on the Survey;
*Removing Table A Item 20(b) (now 19) regarding off-site easements.
In the days to come, more articles addressing some of these changes in a more detailed manner will be published.
Vincent Macauda is available to provide on-site or web-based presentations on the new ALTA/NSPS Land Survey Standards to your company or group. To schedule your presentation please contact Mr. Macauda at firstname.lastname@example.org