Land surveys are a critical tool
Together with preliminary title reports and title insurance, land surveys are a critical tool for real estate buyers, sellers, investors, developers, and lenders in helping verify and evaluate the lawfully-recognized conditions of their actual or potential real property interests. Before embarking upon any significant real estate project, it is prudent to have a proper survey performed in order to uncover any potential obstacles to the endeavor, and to help ensure its success.
Revised standards for the preparation of survey
Over the past number of months, the American Land Title Association (“ALTA”) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (“NSPS”) have been working to put together revised standards for the preparation of surveys, which were last modified in 2011 by ALTA and the predecessor to NSPS in this endeavor, the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. The updated document, entitled “Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys,” was adopted by ALTA and NSPS on February 23, 2016, becoming effective immediately. A redlined version of the new document showing the changes made to the 2011 edition may be found here; a listing of the significant amendments made by the new standard to the 2011 version is available here.
Important changes to be aware of
Although a number of the changes to the requirements have been characterized as being merely stylistic by some commentators, those who use and depend upon land surveys and the information that they present need to be aware of the specific modifications to these standards. Here are a couple of important changes to be aware of:
- Limiting the surveyor’s professional obligation to inquire into recorded documents, the new standards require the surveyor to include only those recorded documents provided to the surveyor by the client or the title company in the survey.
- Rights of way, easements, and servitudes are exempted from being shown on the survey by the surveyor under the new standards if the documents evidencing those items are illegible or if the surveyor has proof that such items are no longer in effect.
Those of us who use and rely on surveys would be well advised to review these new standards carefully. Some of these new provisions require different information to be provided to the surveyor from what was previously specified, or allow different items in the survey to be contractually negotiated between the parties. Failure to review these new standards could lead to surprises or misinformation for parties and their representatives, as they may unknowingly rely on surveys that omit information that was previously provided under the old standard.