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New 2016 ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards are coming

What about locating utilities?

The new 2016 ALTA/NSPS standards that are scheduled to become effective February 23, 2016. This 2016 update to the ALTA land title survey standards is a continuation which has evolved since 1962 and this 2016 update reflects the ninth version of the standards. This current update reflects at least eight significant updates to the 2011 standards. Previously, we discussed the new Table A, Item 18 regarding wetlands. The discussion herein will focus on Location of Utilities.

In the 2016 standards, Section 5.E discusses Easements and Servitudes. While this topic takes up several pages of the new standards I find that Section 5.E.iv is highly notable and is as follows:

Section 5.E.iv. – Evidence of use by others

“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 survey property. Examples of such evidence include pipeline markers, manholes, valves, meters, transformers, pedestals, clean-outs, utility poles, overhead lines and guy wires”.

Under the 2011 Standards the utility did not need to be located and shown on the survey unless they were evidence of an easement. With this cloud of uncertainty, it is not surprising that confusion existed and errors were made in not locating that manhole that was prima facie evidence of a long forgotten utility easement!

So, what do the 2016 Standards do to help eliminate the turmoil as to whether or not a utility has to be shown or not? This is especially important since the costs of not showing the utility could be staggering when the planned expansion or new construction gets delayed. Don’t forget the hard costs of a potential relocation as well as the legal implications.

The 2016 Standards removed any doubt of having to locate utility features. During the course of the field survey all utility features must be located per the mandatory Section 5.E.iv. of the Standards.

This became one of the significant changes from the 2011 Standards wherein observed evidence of utilities was only necessary if the client requested Table A, items 11(a) or 11(b).

It is vital that in any transaction all stakeholders understand the relationship of new Table A, item 11 relative to the mandatory requirements as stated in the new 2016 ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards. Not showing utilities can delay and even derail a project in 2016.