New ALTA/NSPS 2021 Survey Standards

February 17, 2021

The American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Land Surveyors (NSPS) meet every four to five years to revise survey standards related to title insurance matters. These changes happen as a result of verbiage updates, technology advancement and business practice across the United States.

The 2021 survey standards contain several revisions that affect the surveyor’s duties and responsibilities as well as improvements for land title issues on the survey. Those who are involved in commercial real estate development should be aware of and understand the following changes.

  1. The new 2021 survey standards will take effect on February 23, 2021. The 2016 specifications are superseded. Use and review of surveys prepared under the 2016 specifications will need to be updated.
  2. Property surveys in Wisconsin, as defined in Wisconsin Administrative Code A-E 7, are required to be filed with the County surveyor or agency that collects and files the surveys. raSmith has always filed ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys, but this is now a requirement for all and is included in the specifications.
  3. Table A, item 6(a) and 6(b) regarding zoning classification, setback requirements, height and floor space, area restrictions and parking requirements have been revised to state that the survey will depict these items only if they are included in a report and the items are specific to the surveyed property. A municipality will often provide a complete copy of all pages of the municipal zoning code for a designated classification without providing the zoning data specific to the surveyed lot.
  4. Utility data: Table A, item 11 has been expanded to include 11 (a) and 11 (b).
    • Table A, item 11(a) has been added requiring the client/owner to provide copies of any utility plans or reports. These plans will help identify utility easements. The addition of item 11(a) places the responsibility of obtaining plans on the client/owner.
    • Table A, item 11(b) designates the surveyor coordinates utility marks with Diggers Hotline (811) as a method of identifying utility easements. Diggers Hotline logs requests and disseminates the requests to various utility marking companies that are hired by the utility companies. There are significant limitations with utilizing Diggers Hotline (811) as the sole source for obtaining utility locations and evidence of utility easements.
  1. Drone use for surveys. Drones can be used as an alternative for obtaining locations for on-site improvements. This method of data collection could increase efficiencies and reduce completion time.
  2. Table A, item 18 has been eliminated. If your project has a wetland component, alternatives should be discussed. raSmith has a WDNR assured delineator on staff and can address your wetland needs.
  3. Table A, item 19, plotting offsite easements, has been renumbered to item 18.
  4. Table A, item 20, professional liability insurance requirements, has been renumbered to item 19.
  5. Table A, item 21, additional requirements requested by client/owner, has been renumbered to item 20.


About the Author

John Casucci, PLS, has more than 30 years of experience on a wide range of surveying projects, including: boundary, aerial, construction, topographic and control surveying. John is responsible for project management, project research and setup, calculations, plan review and quality control. In addition, John prepares subdivision and condominium plats, certified survey maps and ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys. He is very experienced in the use of AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Land Development Desktop and Microsoft Office software.

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