Since the release of the 2016 ALTA/NSPS standards, Table A, Item 11 has been the source of much misunderstanding and confusion. The 2016 standards eliminated what was once optional item 11(a), which related to surface evidence of utilities and made this a mandatory requirement of a correct ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey and is outlined as follows:
The ALTA Standards, Section 5 outlines the evidence necessarily collected during the course of the fieldwork. Of all the evidence gathered in the field and as part of the field observation, utilities are mentioned extensively in Section 5.E. Subparagraph (ii) discusses evidence of utilities not disclosed in the documents provided, subparagraph (iii) discusses evidence of underground easements as indicated by surface features and subparagraph (iv) further expands on the previous paragraph to include overhead features as well as surface features.
ALTA STANDARDS SECTION 5.E.
ii. Evidence of easements, servitudes, or other uses by other than the apparent occupants of the surveyed property not disclosed in the documents provided to or obtained by the surveyor pursuant to Section 4, but observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork if they appear to affect the surveyed property (e.g., roads; drives, sidewalks, paths and other ways of access; utility service lines; water courses; ditches; drains; telephone, fiber optic lines, or electric lines; or water, sewer, oil or gas pipelines on or across the surveyed property and on adjoining properties).
iii. Surface indications of underground easements or servitudes on or across the surveyed property observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork (e.g., utility cuts, vent pipes, filler pipes).
iv. Evidence on or above the surface of the surveyed property observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork, which evidence may indicate utilities located on, over or beneath the surveyed property. Examples of such evidence include pipeline markers, manholes, valves, meters, transformers, pedestals, clean-outs, utility poles, overhead lines and guy wires.
The purpose of Section 5 is primarily the evidentiary function of the survey. Section 6 of the Standards outlines the presentation of the Plat and what must be shown on the ALTA Survey. Section 6.A clearly indicates that all of the evidence collected pursuant to 5.E. MUST be shown on the plat.
6. Plat or Map – A plat or map of an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey shall show the following information. Where dimensioning is appropriate, dimensions shall be annotated to what is, in the surveyor’s professional opinion, the appropriate degree of precision based on (a) the planned use of the property, if reported in writing to the surveyor by the client, lender, or insurer, or (b) existing use, if the planned use is not so reported.
A. The evidence and locations gathered, and the monuments and lines located during the fieldwork pursuant to Section 5 above, with accompanying notes if deemed necessary by the surveyor or as otherwise required as specified below.
We have been frequently asked, since the 2016 Standards have been released, to certify to “Item 11 (surface matters only)”. However, without further explanation, simply including “(surface matters only)” does not comply with the standards as Table A, Item 11 includes underground utilities from plans or markings.
Summary: It is my professional opinion that the 2016 ALTA/NSPS standards are clear. ANY above ground indications of ANY utility must be located and shown on the survey. Since the revision to the Standards in 2016, the item that was formerly referred to as Table A, item 11(a) has been moved to the body of the standards and is no longer an optional item for a correct ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey, but a requirement.
Jeff Mays, VP, PLS