It is now generally required that an ALTA survey be provided on commercial real estate involved in a transaction. Just what is an ALTA survey?

An 'ALTA survey' is a land survey that meets the specifications set forth in the ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey Specifications. ALTA is the American Land Title Association, and ACSM is the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. While some may recognize an ALTA survey as being more detailed, or others might believe that it is something like the 'Cadillac' of surveys, it is really just a survey that meets certain requirements. These misunderstandings may arise because the specifications are several pages long, and contain several different sections.

In the body of the specifications, there is outlined a set of 'base' specifications that all such surveys must meet. This is followed by a lengthy Table A, which sets forth Optional Items that may also be required.

The optional items should be worked out between the surveyor and the client. One cannot simply specify all of the optional items, as they all do not apply to all situations.

While the ALTA requirements are quite comprehensive, there may be other requirements that dictate the inclusion of certain optional items that the client is not concerned with. One such example would be Item 1, which refers to the setting of monuments at property corners. While this may not be important to all of the parties to a transaction, state laws may very well require them to be set.

The form below is provided for your convenience, in preparation for an ALTA/ACSM LAND TITLE SURVEY. As always, any information that is furnished to us through this web site is kept strictly confidential. It is used solely for internal purposes and is not sold or disseminated to any third party.

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NOTE: The items of this form must be negotiated between the surveyor and client. It may be necessary for the surveyor to qualify or expand upon the description of these items (e.g., in reference to Item 6(b), there may be a need for an interpretation of a restriction). The surveyor cannot make a certification on the basis of an interpretation or opinion of another party. Notwithstanding items 5 and 11(b), if an engineering design survey is desired as part of an ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey, such services should be negotiated under item 22.

If checked, the following optional items are to be included in the ALTA/ACSM LAND TITLE SURVEY, except as otherwise negotiated:

Please check all that apply:

1). Monuments placed (or a reference monument or witness to the corner) at all major corners of the boundary of the property, unless already marked or referenced by existing monuments or witnesses.

2). Address(es) if disclosed in Record Documents, or observed while conducting the survey.

3). Flood zone classification (with proper annotation based on federal Flood Insurance Rate Maps or the state or local equivalent) depicted by scaled map location and graphic plotting only.

4). Gross land area (and other areas if specified by the client).

5). Vertical relief with the source of information (e.g. ground survey or aerial map), contour interval, datum, and originating benchmark identified.

6). (a) Current zoning classification, as provided by the insurer.
  (b) Current zoning classification and building setback requirements, height and floor space area restrictions as set forth in that classification, as provided by the insurer. If none, so state.

7). (a) Exterior dimensions of all buildings at ground level
    (b) Square footage of:
(1) exterior footprint of all buildings at ground level
(2) other areas as specified by the client.
  (c) Measured height of all buildings above grade at a location specified by the client. If no location is specified, the point of measurement shall be identified.

8). Substantial features observed in the process of conducting the survey (in addition to the improvements and features required under Section 5 above) such as parking lots, billboards, signs, swimming pools, landscaped areas, etc.

9). Striping, number and type (e.g. handicapped, motorcycle, regular, etc.) of parking spaces in parking areas, lots and structures.

10). (a) Determination of the relationship and location of certain division or party walls designated by the client with respect to adjoining properties (client to obtain necessary permissions).
  (b) Determination of whether certain walls designated by the client are plumb (client to obtain necessary permissions).

11).   Location of utilities (representative examples of which are listed below) existing on or serving the surveyed property as determined by:

  (a) Observed evidence.
  (b) Observed evidence together with evidence from plans obtained from utility companies or provided by client, and markings by utility companies and other appropriate sources (with reference as to the source of information).
  • Railroad tracks, spurs and sidings;
  • Manholes, catch basins, valve vaults and other surface indications of subterranean uses;
  • Wires and cables (including their function, if readily identifiable) crossing the surveyed property, and all poles on or within ten feet of the surveyed property. Without expressing a legal opinion as to the ownership or nature of the potential encroachment, the dimensions of all encroaching utility pole crossmembers or overhangs; and
  • utility company installations on the surveyed property.
Note - With regard to item 11(b), source information from plans and markings will be combined with observed evidence of utilities to develop a view of those underground utilities. However, lacking excavation, the exact location of underground features cannot be accurately, completely and reliably depicted. Where additional or more detailed information is required, the client is advised that excavation may be necessary.

12). Governmental Agency survey-related requirements as specified by the client, such as for HUD surveys, and surveys for leases on Bureau of Land Management managed lands.

13). Names of adjoining owners of platted lands according to current public records.

14). Distance to the nearest intersecting street as specified by the client.

15). Rectified orthophotography, photogrammetric mapping, airborne/mobile laser scanning and other similar products, tools or technologies as the basis for the showing the location of certain features (excluding boundaries) where ground measurements are not otherwise necessary to locate those features to an appropriate and acceptable accuracy relative to a nearby boundary. The surveyor shall (a) discuss the ramifications of such methodologies (e.g. the potential precision and completeness of the data gathered thereby) with the insurer, lender and client prior to the performance of the survey and, (b) place a note on the face of the survey explaining the source, date, precision and other relevant qualifications of any such data.

16). Observed evidence of current earth moving work, building construction or building additions.

17). Proposed changes in street right of way lines, if information is available from the controlling jurisdiction. Observed evidence of recent street or sidewalk construction or repairs.

18). Observed evidence of site use as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill.

19). Location of wetland areas as delineated by appropriate authorities.

20). (a) Locate improvements within any offsite easements or servitudes benefitting the surveyed property that are disclosed in the Record Documents provided to the surveyor and that are observed in the process of conducting the survey (client to obtain necessary permissions).
  > (b) Monuments placed (or a reference monument or witness to the corner) at all major corners of any offsite easements or servitudes benefitting the surveyed property and disclosed in Record Documents provided to the surveyor (client to obtain necessary permissions).

21). Professional Liability Insurance policy obtained by the surveyor in the minimum amount of: $ to be in effect throughout the contract term. Certificate of Insurance to be furnished upon request.

Adopted by the Board of Governors, American Land Title Association, on October 13, 2010. American Land Title Association, 1828 L St., N.W., Suite 705, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Adopted by the Board of Directors, National Society of Professional Surveyors, on November 15, 2010. National Society of Professional Surveyors, Inc., a member organization of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, 6 Montgomery Village Avenue, Suite 403, Gaithersburg, MD 20879

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