2021 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys

December 4, 2020
3 min read
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Newly adopted 2021 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys will go into effect on February 23, 2021. You can be confident that Howell Kline will be knowledgeable and ready to integrate the new standards.

New ALTA standards are adopted every five years or so, and as lending institutions become aware of the change in the current standards, we are contacted about ALTA surveys. By and large, the most common request we will handle is the request to "update" an existing ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey to the current standards and to do so quickly and at a bargain price. After all, “Nothing has changed and all you need to do is recertify it, right?”

I get this, all too common, request quite often and because I have been handed the bullhorn this week, I thought I would take the opportunity to explain. When dealing with an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey, there is no such thing as an “update”; there is only a new survey.

The Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys have become the bridge that has allowed all parties involved in a real estate transaction to understand a piece of real property on common terms, and in this short article I will not attempt to add anything to that description. Instead, it will attempt to illustrate why, contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as an updated ALTA survey.

First and foremost, any ALTA survey that bears a new signature and/or certification date is nothing less than a new survey. Irrespective of the fact that the surveyor may have performed the survey previously, there are several requirements within the aforementioned “minimum standards” that the surveyor must adhere to.

For instance, “The survey shall be performed on the ground” and the surveyor shall “locate improvements within 5 feet of each side of the property line.” This requirement necessitates a re-evaluation of the site from the same perspective as the original survey and involves the survey crew inspecting the site for changes to physical improvements, searching for evidence of easements or claims not found within the public record, and looking for evidence of adverse uses. All of these can negatively affect title to the insured real estate. These are just a few of the requirements subject to the certification dates for fieldwork.

Once the field and office work are complete, these findings are then compiled and certified as to the new date and current conditions, thereby effectively creating a new ALTA Survey at a new snapshot in time. There are many times that we perform an “update” of a survey that was completed one or two years ago, only to find that the site conditions have changed (e.g. a building or parking expansion) or that there have been new easements created on the property.

Secondly, we need to look at the update request from a liability perspective. The liability a surveyor incurs in the re-issuance, or an "update" of an ALTA survey, is commensurate to the liability of an entirely new survey. No professional surveyor should be expected to assume this liability without compensation.

ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys are among the greatest tools an investor can use to evaluate a particular piece of real property. While performing ALTA/NSPS land title surveys, Howell Kline surveyors are a first line of defense in risk management for clients and owners. There is nothing that we want more than to provide an accurate and legal land document to help avoid or minimize the impact of any unforeseen title issue. Look for more information in the coming months from Howell Kline’s team on the 2021 updates and how they may impact your due diligence process.


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A Howell Company

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West Chester, PA 19380

Phone: 610-692-7007

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