New 2011 ALTA/ACSM Survey Standard Detail Requirements

February 23, 2011, 9:27 AM

The new 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys (the 2011 Standards), which have been approved by the National Society of Professional Surveyors, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), will take effect February 23, 2011. The new 2011 Standards replace the currently effective 2005 standards. As of February 23, 2011, all previous versions of the Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys are superseded by the 2011 Standards. Click here to viewacomplete copy of the revised 2011 Standards available free of charge on-line on the ACSM website.[1]

Additionally, two other documents, which are also available free of charge at the ACSM website, are excellent resources and quick references to facilitate a review of operative changes in the 2011 Standards. The first is the: Summary of Significant Changes from the 2005 Standards to the 2011 Standards. This document lists a detailed summary of specific revisions, inclusive of changes to standard Table A.

The second is an incredibly useful tool in the form of a redlined mark-up of the 2011 Standards. New Standards with red highlights showing which clauses within those Standards are substantially new or are otherwise significantly modified from the 2005 version reflects detailed redline addition of revised terms, inclusive of changes to standard Table A.

The new emphasis placed upon minimum fieldwork requirements for compliant plats under Section 5, and the requirements for preparation of a plat or map to specifically reflect the results of fieldwork data and its relationship to Record Documents per Section 6, are particularly noteworthy. Presumably, the results of the newer and more stringent precision in field data, the stated bias against creation of new legal descriptions, and the express reference to the prudent surveyor standard of care will all combine to produce more uniform, accurate and detailed surveys.

Heightened requirements on empirical data and related surveyor certifications should produce new processes and protocols in the title insurance industry. Removal of a standard survey exception will presumably require a review of surveys, plats and maps satisfying the minimum requirements of the 2011 Standards. In the context of title insurance coverages, Covered Risk 2(c) in the 2006 ALTA Policy forms would presumably require a survey reading of a 2011 Standards compliant plat by the underwriter in order to obtain a deletion of the otherwise applicable standard survey exception. Moreover, endorsement coverages for the ALTA 9 series, ALTA 17-06, ALTA 17.1-06, ALTA 19-06 and ALTA 19.1-06, among other special endorsements, would all also presumably require additional new underwriting of a 2011 Standards compliant survey. The standard policy terms and conditions do not expressly adopt the ALTA/ACSM standards; however, they have been the practical benchmark for underwriting purposes for decades.

As the new 2011 Standards are implemented, the ripple effect will additionally beget a broad range of timely practical issues worthy of consideration:

(i) With regards to loan defaults, asset recovery, and related matters in the current economic environment, new survey standards must be considered. In the context of foreclosures and deed-in-lieu transactions, lenders/loan servicers/trustees, etc. will need to consider how the newer standards may impact a prospective disposition of distressed property. Updated survey data would presumably require compliance with the new standards; and, existing mortgagee coverage with exceptions under the older standards may not be adequate for survey related matters;

(ii) In the commercial real estate transaction context, it remains to be seen how the new procedures and commensurate expense of satisfying underwriting conditions will affect the timing and costs of CRE transactions. Presumably commercial lenders, mortgage bankers, conduit lenders, etc. will adopt objective underwriting criteria that mirror the new minimum standards and detail in the 2011 Standards; and,

(iii) It remains to be seen how the new minimum standards and detail will affect local planning, zoning, subdivision and related requirements and procedures. An argument can be made that the 2011 Standards mandate a level of detail and certification that is harmonious with many current local ordinance requirements for planning, subdivision, rezoning, Plan or Development and/or Site Plan review, etc.

Under Section 7 of the 2011 Standards, the new requirements provide significant limitations upon a surveyors ability to deviate from the mandatory form certification, confirming compliance with the 2011 Standards. A deviation is permitted only if required under applicable federal, state and/or local laws, rules, regulations, etc. Pursuant to Section 3(B), the surveyor must complete the survey in compliance with the requirements of the 2011 Standards, and the applicable requirements of federal, state and local statutes, administrative rules, regulations and/or ordinances that set out standards regulating the practice of surveying within a subject jurisdiction. In Virginia, reference should also be made to the provisions of Va. Code 54.1-400, et seq.; 18VAC10-20; and, 18VAC10-20-370, et seq., as well as the localitys planning, zoning, and subdivision ordinances for minimum plat requirements and detail.

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. --E. Duffy Myrtetus

[1] Multiple electronic versions are available in a .PDF format. Note that the website includes a Statement of Copyright as to the new 2011 Standards.