When the 2021 ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Minimum Standard Detail Requirements went into effect on February 23, 2021, the definition of Optional Table A Item 11 was once again revised and simplified to manage client expectations.
Definition of Optional Table A Item 11 Revised for 2021 ALTA Land Title Survey
It is important to note that Item 11 addresses the following land surveyor responsibilities as defined by Section 5.E.iv of the Minimum Standards:
- UNDERGROUND (non-visible) utility installations
- OBSERVED (visible) above-ground evidence of utilities
Item 11 should only be negotiated in situations where IN ADDITION TO OBSERVED (or visible) utilities, there is also a need to gain perspective about the UNDERGROUND features.
Concerns Regarding Utilities
In cases where an ALTA survey is provided for a transaction where the property is being sold to a new entity or being refinanced, there are typically just two concerns regarding utilities:
- That the property has sufficient utility service for its operation.
- That all required utility services are either entering the property through an adjoining public roadway or the property enjoys a beneficial easement that brings the utility service to the property.
These determinations can be easily made as defined by the surveyor’s responsibilities in the Minimum Standards to locate and report the OBSERVED evidence.
When to Include Item 11 in Your ALTA Survey
On occasion, there may be cause to include Item 11. For example, when a vacant property is slated for improvement or when an existing property need requires a reconfiguration of UNDERGROUND features prior to any construction. When included, there will likely be additional fees and timing extensions for the survey delivery. It is important to note that if underground utility information is needed for the purpose of engineering or design it is usually quite extensive and would not be included within the scope of the Item 11 definition and therefore should be discussed, defined, and negotiated under blank Table A Item 20.
The revised (or simplified) 2021 Item 11 definition now contains two options to consider.
The land surveyor will review plans and/or reports provided by the client indicating evidence of any underground utility feature. These may include plans or reports the client sources from utility companies, as-built surveys, prior surveys, or site plans used for any construction or development of the surveyed property. The surveyor must include a reference to the sources of information as these plans may reveal evidence of underground service.
The land surveyor will coordinate a request independently or with the client for a private utility locate marking on the surveyed property. A utility locate company will then use equipment to determine underground features and provide ground markings (either by spray paint or utility locate flagging). The surveyor will then report the observed evidence of these markings along with their source on the survey. In some jurisdictions, 811 or other similar locate requests by the surveyor might be ignored or result in an incomplete response. For liability reasons, the request for such markings may need to be made by the owner of the property. Some locator companies only provide ground markings if there is pending excavation. The client and the surveyor need to discuss any such potential issue. If this option is included and there is no response to these requests, the surveyor shall note on the plat or map how it affected any determinations of underground evidence.
Revised Definition for Underground Features
In the 2021 definition, “evidence of” these underground features replaced “location of” the underground features. It is important for the client, insurer, or lender to understand source information from plans and/or markings will be combined with observed evidence of utilities pursuant to Section 5.E.iv. to develop a view of the underground utilities. However, lacking excavation, the exact location of underground features cannot be accurately, completely, and reliably depicted.
The new simplified definition in 2021 was revised so it is clearly understood that when the surveyor is reporting information either from provided site plans or utility locate ground markings, it still does not indicate the exacting location of an underground service. The only way a surveyor can report an actual location is to excavate the property to observe the feature.
For more information, please refer to our “User Guide to Optional Table A Items” on page 17 of our NV5/Bock & Clark Handbook for Commercial Real Estate Due Diligence.