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New 2016 ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards Now In Effect

In the real estate survey world, boundaries are shifting. In October of 2015, the American Land Title Association (“ALTA”) and National Society of Professional Surveyors (“NSPS”)[1] approved the 206 Minimum Standard Details Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys, and these became effective as of February 23, 2016. There are a number of changes to the required surveys designed to create a more easily understood plat and thwart potential miscommunication among surveyors, title companies, clients and lenders.


[1] It should be noted that the NSPS is a successor organization to the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (“ACSM”), so these standards are an update to the prior “Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys.”

SurveyThe standards at issue were first set out in 1962 and have since been revised seven times, the most recent revision of which took place in 2011. The recently supplanted 2011 version was the first version since initial adoption in 1962 to be completely rewritten, and the 2016 standards address issues and unintended consequences that have arisen since the 2011 rewrite.

Some of the significant changes in the 2016 version include:

  • Clarification of what documents must be provided to the surveyor and what the surveyor’s responsibility is when those documents are not produced.
  • Mandatory observed evidence of utilities, rather than optional or in the case of evidence of an easement.
  • Canals, ditches, marshes and swamps are added to the list of water features that must be shown.
  • A note is now required to explain how a new description prepared by the surveyor relates to the record description. The note should say either that the new description describes the same real estate as the description of the record or provide explanation as to how the new description differs from the record.
  • Surveys now require a summary of all rights of way, easements and servitudes burdening the property surveyed and any related notes.
  • When a zoning letter or report is provided to the surveyor by the client, the survey must list the current zoning classifications, setback, height/floor space restrictions and parking requirements.   If a zoning setback is included in the report, it should be graphically depicted. If the setback requires interpretation, it should not be depicted graphically.
  • The surveyor is responsible for trying to obtain utility plans and calling 811 to locate utilities.
  • The surveyor is not required to provide observed evidence that the site was used as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill, and that responsibility now falls to the providers of an environmental assessment.
  • Any delineation markers for wetlands observed by the surveyor during fieldwork should be included on the face of the plat, and if no markers were observed, the surveyor must state that fact. This clarifies that the surveyor is not responsible for delineation of wetlands.

Hopefully, the new standards provide even more clarity in the survey and provide a host of beneficial information to buyers, owners, lenders and land title companies. For more information on the impact of the new survey standards, or to learn about the importance of the survey in real estate transactions, contact the attorneys at McBrayer.

Brittany Roethemeier

Brittany MacGregor Roethemeier is an associate attorney practicing in the Lexington office of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. She is a graduate of Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky College of Law. Ms. MacGregor’s practice focuses on real estate law, including title examination, title insurance, clearing title issues, deeds, settlement statements, preparation of loan documentation, contract negotiation and preparation, and lease negotiation and preparation. She may be reached at bmacgregor@mmlk.com or at (859) 231-8780.

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law activities and does not constitute legal advice.

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