Guide to the New 2021 ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Standards
Effective February 23, 2021, the 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys (the “2016 Standards”) were replaced by the new 2021 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements (the “2021 Standards”). Moving forward, all ALTA surveys prepared in connection with contracts executed on or after February 23, 2021 must comport with the new 2021 Standards. The 2021 Standards can be accessed here.
The 2021 Standards include the same eight sections as the 2016 Standards that detail the minimum requirements for ALTA surveys, along with the separate “Table A” optional survey responsibilities and specifications that may be requested (and negotiated) by the parties. However, several revisions were made throughout with the most significant ones being set forth below, as compared with the formerly-utilized 2016 Standards.
Minimum Standard Requirements:
The most significant revisions are in Section 5 (addressing specific features that should be located during the surveyor’s fieldwork) and Section 6 (addressing information and related notes the surveyor should include on the plat or map).
Sections 5.E.ii., iii., and iv. have been revised to now include that utility locate markings may be used as evidence of easements and utilities. Such markings shall be identified on the survey (except in cases where the source of the marking cannot be ascertained, in which case there should be a notation on the survey stating that the source is unknown). Relatedly, Section 5.E.iv. now provides that surveyors locate any utility poles located on or within ten feet of the surveyed property and that the surveyor show the extent of any potentially encroaching utility pole crossmembers or overhangs.
Section 6.C.ii. has been tailored to require a summary of only rights of way, easements “and other survey-related matters”, meaning that surveyors are now able to omit matters of record that are not survey-related, regardless of whether they affect the property from a title perspective. Examples of items no longer required could include the so-called “standard” or pre-printed exceptions in a title commitment, or other general exceptions that are not survey-related (e.g., a general mining rights exception).
Section 6.C.viii. is a newly-added section requiring the surveyor to notify the title insurer if a recorded easement not listed in Schedule B-II of the title commitment is discovered. Unless provided with evidence of a release of the easement, the surveyor must show or explain such easement on the face of the plat or map and include a notation stating that the title insurer has been advised regarding the existence of the easement.
The most significant changes to Table A are the removal of the wetlands item and the revision of the underground utilities item. The wetlands item (2016 Standards, Table A, Item 18) has been completely omitted from the 2021 Standards, but it could possibly be negotiated and re-added in the miscellaneous Table A, Item 20, if mutually agreed upon by the parties.
Otherwise, the underground utilities item (Table A, Item 11) has been revised to provide two options as potential sources of evidence of underground utilities: (i) plans and/or reports provided by the client, and (ii) markings coordinated by the surveyor pursuant to a private utility locate request. Notably, there is no longer an option for markings requested by the surveyor pursuant to 811 utility locate requests (although this may be negotiated if an 811 request or other process would be helpful in the jurisdiction where the survey is being performed).