New Minimum Survey Standard Requirements

2016 Standards  |  Redline of Changes from 2011

PUBLISHED: 05/16/16

The new 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys (“2016 Standards”) went into effect on February 23, 2016 replacing the prior 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys (“2011 Standards”).  Many of the changes provide further clarification of the surveyor’s responsibilities.  Some of the more notable changes are summarized below.


– The American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), one of the original parties to the 2011 Standards, was absorbed by the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS).   Accordingly, the surveys are now “ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys”.


– Revised Section 4 of the 2016 Standards clarifies the documents that must be provided to the surveyor to complete a survey, but more importantly, addresses the surveyor’s responsibility to conduct research if those documents are not provided.  The surveyor must be provided with complete copies of the most recent title commitment, or if a title commitment is not available, other title evidence satisfactory to the title insurer. Additionally, the surveyor must be provided with recorded documents and any unrecorded documents affecting the property being surveyed, if so desired by the client. If recorded documents or unrecorded documents are not provided to the surveyor or if non-public or quasi-public documents are required to complete the survey, the surveyor is only required to conduct that research which is required by the state’s statutory or administrative requirements and any research that has been previously negotiated between the surveyor and the client.

Rights of Way and Access

– Section 5.B.ii of the 2011 Standards required the surveyor to show the “width and location of the traveled way”. Under the revised section, the surveyor is now required to also show “the location of each edge of the traveled way” unless there is no access from the land to the traveled way. The practical import of this is that it will now be easier to determine if there are conflicting widths of a traveled way based on a recorded document (e.g. recorded plat) versus the actual traveled way because the surveyor now has to show both widths.

Utilities versus Easements

– Section 5.E. of the 2011 Standards required the surveyor to show observable evidence of utility easements. Item 11 of the optional Table A of the 2011 Standards, if checked, required the surveyor to show evidence of utilities on the survey. The fine-line distinction between utility easements and utilities is eliminated in the 2016 Standards. Per Section 5.E. of the 2016 Standards, the surveyor is now required to show all observable evidence of both easements and utilities on the survey.

Water Features

– Section 5.G.i of the 2011 Standards previously required the location of springs, ponds, lakes, streams and rivers bordering or running through the property to be shown. Under the revised section, a surveyor must also show canals, ditches, marshes and swamps if any are “running through, or outside, but within five feet of the perimeter boundary of, the surveyed property”.

New Legal Description

– Under Section 6.B.ii of the new 2016 Standards, if the surveyor prepares a new legal description that is not an original description, the surveyor must include a note stating that the new description describes the same real estate as the record description, or if it does not, then the surveyor must explain how the new description differs from the record description.

Zoning Setback Requirements

– Item 6(b) of the optional Table A of the 2011 Standards, if checked, required the surveyor to show the current zoning building setback requirements. However, Item 6(b) failed to state how the building setback information should be shown, by written statement or graphically on the survey. As a result, many surveyors refused to graphically depict building setbacks. Under the 2016 Standards, if Item 6(b) is checked, the surveyor must “graphically depict the building setback requirements”. However, there is a caveat. The surveyor must do this, only if the setback requirements “do not require an interpretation by the surveyor.” This is important because if the zoning ordinance is unclear (e.g., which side is considered the front setback), the surveyor is not required to graphically depict the ambiguous setback requirements.


– Under revised Item 11 of Table A of the 2016 Standards, surveyors must disclose evidence of utilities on or serving the surveyed property, as disclosed by utility company plans and a utility locating company. This requires the surveyor to actually call the utility locating company. If the locating company ignores the surveyor, or performs an incomplete locating job, the surveyor must indicate on the survey how this inadequate response affected the surveyor’s assessment of the location of the utilities.

Names of Adjoining Owners

– Item 13 of the 2011 Standards required surveyors to show the “names of adjoining owners of platted lands according to current public records.” This required a title search of each of the adjoining platted lands. Item 13 of the 2016 Standards has been revised to “names of adjoining owners according to current tax records”, which is more readily available. However, this would appear to make it less likely that the names of the adjoining owners on the survey are accurate.

Solid Waste Dump

– Observed evidence of the site used as a solid waste dump, sump, or sanitary landfill (formerly Item 18 of the optional Table A of the 2011 Standards) has been removed from the 2016 Standards.


– Item 19 of the optional Table A of the 2011 Standards, if checked, required the surveyor to show the location of wetland areas as delineated by appropriate authorities. The 2016 Standards attempts to more clearly define the role of the surveyor. The text of Item 18 (formerly Item 19) of the 2016 Standards now reads: “If there has been a field delineation of wetlands conducted by a qualified specialist hired by the client, the surveyor shall locate any delineation markers observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork and show them on the face of the plat or map. If no markers were observed, the surveyor shall so state.”

Please note that the changes described above are not an exhaustive list.  To view all changes, a copy of the official 2016 Standards and a redline version of the 2011 Standards showing the strikeouts and additions to the 2016 Standards are available on the NSPS website.