Effective February 23, 2011 – The minimum standard detail requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys were recently revised.  The last revision was in 2005.  Surveys using these standards are commonly referred to as “ALTA surveys” and are frequently used when title insurance is involved and especially in commercial real estate transactions.

The following is an overview of the significant changes to the ALTA/ACSM Standards.

Provided by Albert J. Myers, P.S., Myers Surveying Company, Inc., Bexley, OH  43209. (614) 235-8677.  Mr. Myers involvement in professional organizations is extensive.  He has also served on the ALTA/ACSM national commitee since the 1980?s.  In 1982 he was elected President of the Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio (PLSO).  He has also served as State PLSO President-elect, State PLSO Treasurer and PLSO’s Past Presidents’ Chairman.  In addition, A.J. was Chairman of the State PLSO Professional Standards Committee and currently chairs the State PLSO Interprofessional Affairs Committee.

The new standards were reviewed and approved by The Board of Governors, American Land Title Association on October 13, 2010 (with input from the Lenders Council) and the Board of Directors, National Society of Professional Surveying  (a member organization of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM)) on November 15, 2010.

The document was re-organized to consolidate subject matters within the appropriate sub-sections.  For example, information concerning plat or maps was somewhat scattered in various sections in the 2005 Standards.  All data dealing with plats or maps is now consolidated into Section 6 of the 2011 Standards.

The following are highlights of the 2011 changes by section:

Section 1 Adds a new sentence at the end to better define what constitutes the  ALTA/ACSM survey.

Section 2 Adds non-traditional survey sites (i.e. marinas, etc) and instructs the surveyor on  procedures.  States the client may need to secure permission for surveyor to enter upon subject and adjoining properties.

Section 3  Provides definitions to the surveyor and procedures with respect to Cross Jurisdictional issues standards of Care, Boundary Resolution and Measurement Standards. Changes term Relative Positional Accuracy to Relative Positional Precision.

Section 4 Adds “most recent title commitment” and “current record description of adjoiners” and “documents necessary to ascertain, if possible, the junior/senior relationship pursuant to Section 6.B.vii (gaps and overlap).

Section 5  Requires surveyor to add the location and character of access, as observed in the field, by parties other than the apparent occupants of the surveyed property.

Requires all buildings to be located by measurement “perpendicular to the nearest perimeter boundary” Requires surveyor to provide more detailed  information with respect to any water boundary.

Section 6  Specifies information the surveyor shall set forth on the plat of survey.

  • The current description and any new description.  Preparation of new description requires surveyor to explain reason for new description.  Preparation of a metes and bounds legal for platted lots on recorded subdivision plat should be avoided.
  • Plat shall show the record dimensions (distance and direction) and surveyed dimensions, if surveyor determines the difference between the two is “deemed significant by the surveyor”
  • Mathematical data to describe a curve sufficient for mathematical closure.
  • Remainder of parcel when doing a partition need not be shown to scale, only sufficient information to depict relation between split parcel and parent tract.
  • Requires surveyor to inform insurer and client, prior to release of survey, if any gaps/overlaps exist.
  • Notation on plat identifying the “title commitment/policy number, effective date and name of insurer”
  • Surveyor provides data on easements both burdening and benefiting the subject property with appropriate notes.
  • Surveyor must include his/her personal email address on face of survey.

Section 7

  • 2005 Standard  permitted two forms of Surveyor’s Certificates.  2011 Standard permits only ONE  certificate, unaltered and the date of the field work must be included.

Table “A” Changes

  • Item 2.  Address as disclosed in Record Document or observed by surveyor.
  • Item 5.  Vertical relief with source of information (e.g. ground survey or aerial map), contour interval, datum, and originating benchmark.
  • Item 6.  Zoning classification – as provided by insurer.  Classification with building setback requirements, height, floor space area, etc, as provided by insurer
  • Item 10  Party wall determination – client to provide access.  Determination if walls are plumb – client to provide access.
  • Item 11  Utility pole crossmembers or overhangs.  A note with regard to underground location – the client will be responsible for any excavation required.
  • Item 19  Wetlands delineated by others
  • Item 20  Location of improvements within off site easements benefitting the property – client to provide access
  • Monuments set at corners of off site easements – client to provide access
  • Professional Liability Insurance

Most of the changes will have a minimal effect on the title insurer.  The exceptions may be Section 4, 7, 6.B.vii, and Table A items 6 and 21.

Item 4 – I do not know what ramifications for the title insurer are created by the requirement for all adjoining deeds to be provided to the surveyor. If the adjoining deeds are recorded plat lots in a subdivision plat, no deeds are required unless Table A item 13 is required. I cannot recall a single instance where the title company would not provide the deeds necessary to solve a junior/senior issue.

Item 6.B.vii – This sector requires the surveyor to analyze deeds for gap and overlaps. New last sentence requires notification to the insurer and the client prior to issuance of  final plat so a resolution of the problem may be addressed.

Item 7 – The certification is usually never an issue with the title insurer.  Legal counsel for the lender will frequently insist on a “long form” certification.  These certifications usually create unnecessary liability to the surveyor.  One typical phrase the long form contains is “all utilities necessary for the operation of the premise …..”  No surveyor could sign off on this language.  If the surveyor inserts any certification other than the ALTA/ACSM certificate, then the plat may NOT be identified as an ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey.

Table A – Item 6 requires all zoning information be provided to the surveyor by the title insurer.

Table A – Item 21 Provides, if checked off by the client or insurer, the surveyor to maintain a professional liability insurance policy. I would guess that most insurers think all surveyors maintain the insurance. At a recent meeting of surveyors from all over Ohio, very few in the room indicated that they have professional liability insurance. Is a title insurer in violation of state laws if they direct business to a non-insured surveyor?

The new 2011 Standards hold great promise for better, more complete, more precise, and more accurate surveys.  It is essential that lenders, title insurers, attorneys and others, who order, use and rely upon surveys become familiar with the new 2011 Standards.

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