ALTA Surveys: Easement Statements
With the adoption of the 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys and as discussed in our March 2016 Newsletter topic, surveyors must now provide an organized summary of notes of the easements burdening a property. The summary is based upon documentation provided to the surveyor (i.e. Title Commitments and underlying documents) or otherwise obtained per Section 4 of the standards. This addition was made to provide benefit to the reviewer and is addressed on the NV5/Bock & Clark survey under the heading “ITEMS CORRESPONDING TO SCHEDULE B-II”.
As defined in Section 6.C.ii of the standards, the surveyor’s note shall include the record information for each item, a statement indicating whether or not the item is shown on the plat or map AND a relating note as defined in the seven examples cited below.
- the location cannot be determined from the record document;
- there was no observed evidence at the time of the fieldwork;
- it is a blanket easement;
- it is not on, or does not touch, the surveyed property;
- it limits access to an otherwise abutting right of way;
- the documents are illegible; or
- the surveyor has information indicating that it may have been released or otherwise terminated.
Oftentimes, parties reviewing the survey are unclear as to why a surveyor cannot be more specific regarding matters related to the easement, particularly when the surveyor cannot determine the location of an easement and is unable to show the limits on the plat or map. The reasons are multiple and surveyors do their best to determine locations. Unfortunately, if an easement description is ambiguous, illegible, or not fully recorded there is very little the surveyor can do but to state the reason for lack of specificity.
A description may be ambiguous if the surveyor cannot determine a beginning point or was simply described, for example, as “a 20’ strip crossing the property”. Documents that were recorded in the late 1800s or early 1900s may have been handwritten and impossible to transcribe. Records from the mid-1900s may have been microfilmed and are currently so faded that they cannot be read. It is not that uncommon for an easement to be recorded referring to an “Exhibit” for a drawing or legal description where the exhibit was not attached to the recording.
Another statement that a surveyor may provide is that the easement is a blanket easement. This would indicate that the provided document called for the easement right to be granted over the entire property, not a defined portion. Again, the surveyor cannot do more than to state it as such. The surveyor does have responsibilities in Sections 5.E. of the standards to report evidence of easements or servitudes observed in the process of conducting the survey regardless of whether the surveyor was able to ascertain the limits of an easement that may burden the property.
Lastly, a surveyor may note that an easement item is not on or does not touch the surveyed property. This indicates that the surveyor reviewed the description of the easement and determined that the item is not located on the property surveyed. This may have occurred because at the time the easement was granted, the surveyed property was part of a larger parent tract and the easement is in fact located on another portion of the parent tract and not the surveyed portion that was subdivided. In cases such as this, the title insurer may elect to delete this item from their Schedule B-II listing based upon the surveyor’s statement.
Pending Revisions to the ASTM 1527-13 Phase I ESA Standard
Every 8 years the ASTM standards sunset and need to be revised. That time period is soon to pass as related to the release of the 13 standards, in particular E1527. The ASTM E50 Committee on Environmental Assessments began work in 2018 and has continued to work steadily with the hope of drafting, approving and passing the new standard for ASTM E1527 by the end 2019 that will result in its publication in 2020.
Should all go according to plan, key changes to E1527 would include:
- Clarifications to the HREC and CREC definitions
- Expansion of Historical Research to adjoining properties
- Clarifying the scope of site visits
NV5/Bock & Clark will stay close to any news related to the pending revisions and can assist with interpreting and updating to the new standard once implemented.
NV5/BOCK & CLARK NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS:
- Jim Brown will be a featured speaker at the upcoming NBI Seminar being held on June 3rd at the Embassy Suites Columbus in Columbus OH. The session is titled “Your Title Law Toolkit”. Jim will speak on the topic of ALTA Survey Review and participants will receive 6 CLE credits. To register visit www.nbi.sems.com
- Bock & Clark’s Laura Hengle, current Vice Chair of the national CREW Foundation, will be attending the CREW Leadership Summit being held in Kansas City, MO, June 6-7. CREW Network Foundation is dedicated to transforming the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally. To learn more visit www.crewnetwork.org/foundation
- Richard Hazel will be attending the upcoming CREW NJ Golf Outing on June 10 in Raritan, NJ. Stop by our sponsor table on the course to enter our “guess the tees” contest or grab a snack.