The ALTA Survey Changes: What You Need to Know

RepublicNationalWebLogoThe American Land Title Association (ALTA) is changing its Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for this year, going into effect at the end of the month, on Feb. 23 (You can download the ATLA changes here).

We spoke with our own Bryan Mitchell at GRS | Republic National about this. Mitchell told us the benefits of the changes that ALTA has made and a few of the drawbacks.  Here’s what he told us:

Will the requirement of providing zoning reports be a hindrance, or is this good for the industry? 

This is great news for the responsible surveyors that understand how serious zoning requirements could be to a client purchasing a property or creating new or rebuilding improvements to their property. At first, the surveyor will hear moans and groans “Can’t you look up zoning yourself?” or “My other surveyor does it for me.” This will remove the liability from the surveyor and places it on the zoning company if the zoning data was incorrect.

Please tell us how the Table A Item 19 changes will be beneficial for the industry.  

The new Item 19, which was 20(a) previously, is a great change. The removal of the requirement to instruct the surveyor to survey all improvements within offsite easements was completely unnecessary. Clients had to choose this item to see how the offsite easements benefitted or were burdened by ingress/egress easements, utility easements, and other factors, that ran across property lines. Now a surveyor just has to plot those easements. As time moves on, it will probably turn into clients asking for aerial underlays so they can see what improvements are within those easements, and more importantly, show more access points to their property. This is a much easier and less costly process.

Was there anything about the changes that surprised you?  

The change of Item 11 missed the mark of its intention, in my opinion. Utilities above ground or any visual evidence will always be shown on the survey, and it is now part of the standard items. However, they left as the first bullet mark “Observed Evidence” in Item 11. This will cause confusion and make the client think item 11 should be checked to see observed evidence of above-ground utilities. Bullet No. 2, “Evidence of plans requested by the surveyor and obtained from utility companies, or provided by the client….” Lets say that Item 11 is checked. Every survey just has to say “O.K., I’m requesting plans from the client to obtain any utility maps.” Clients normally won’t send the information because they typically don’t know where to search for them on a property they are just trying to purchase; and if they do, these plans most likely won’t be complete with all utilities. Even with the 811 service/and/or utility plans provided, the client still cannot be 100 percent sure all underground utilities are on these plans. So, this bullet point leaves a lot of unknowns. The third bullet point is: “markings requested by the surveyor pursuant to an 811 utility locator or similar request.” This is a good addition, however, instead of “surveyor” it should say “client.” As pointed in the third paragraph of the new item 11, the 811 service in some states can ignore this request from a surveyor, but the 811 can not ignore the request from a property owner. This revised item 11 will cause the most confusion, and the survey process will be easier if this item remains unchecked.

What is your overall takeaway of how this will impact the industry and deal flow?  

Like anything else, when you change something, there is confusion at first. The new/revised items 6 and 19 were very good changes and should help the surveyor, lender and clients know exactly where those two items stand.  Item 11 will be a problem for many months, if it is requested. Surveyors will put blame on the client not providing documents. Clients will put blame on surveyors for not requesting or finding the utility plans.  Bottom line, we’re committed to getting it right no matter what it takes.

GRS Group is a proud member of the American Land Title Association, the national trade association for the title industry. All GRS | Republic National survey reports are written to the ALTA standard.

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