Surveyor Boundary Resolution and Research Responsibilities

Posted by Evolve November 16, 2021

Surveyor noting boundaries for an ALTA Survey

When a surveyor presents any type of land survey, whether it be a boundary, subdivision, ALTA, or topographic, they are providing their best professional opinion. That opinion is formulated to comply with the corresponding state statutes for engineering and surveying where the surveyor holds their licensure. The surveyor employs all resources necessary to provide the most accurate boundary determination possible within the normal standards of care and the appropriate survey laws. These include but are not limited to:

  • record research
  • field observations
  • evidence found
  • calculations based on both record data and field observation

This allows them to formulate their best professional opinion and present that opinion on a plat and/or descriptions of the surveyed property.

Boundary Resolution for the ALTA Survey

In Sections 3:B (Other Requirements and Standards of Practice), 3:C (The Normal Standards of Care), 3:D (Boundary), and 3:E (Measurement Standards) of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys, specific responsibilities are addressed to ensure that a provided ALTA survey not only meets the Minimum Standards, but also is prepared in accordance with the appropriate boundary law principles.

The subsections of Section 3 were re-written with the 2011 Minimum Standards to clarify that as a part of an ALTA Survey, boundary lines and corners of the surveyed property must be established and/or retraced in accordance with the appropriate laws. This makes clear that boundary resolution is part of the opinion presented on an ALTA survey.

The Importance of Research to Confidently Prepare an ALTA Survey

The performance of a survey is often associated with fieldwork, field equipment, measurements, and observations. These are only a few of the many components necessary to prepare a survey. As a survey is a professional opinion, the surveyor needs to be confident that they have considered all information necessary to formulate that opinion. Part of that information certainly comes from fieldwork, but another important consideration is research.

In formulating an opinion, a surveyor may need to review opinions of previous surveyors that may have surveyed the property, adjoining properties, roadways, utility installations, etc. These opinions can be recognized from recorded property descriptions on deeds, recorded survey plats, road right-of-way plans of record or within municipal offices, and available utility plans. These resources will include survey data from the surveyor who provided the descriptions and/or plats or plans.

Previous opinions are often vital to the surveyor when formulating their new opinion. In some instances, a surveyor may be confident in their conclusions with minimal research and at other times it may be necessary to do extensive research when conflicts arise. Whatever the scenario, the surveyor must be certain that the presented opinion or conclusion was made in accordance with state statutes.

Documents Necessary for Performing an ALTA Survey

As an ALTA survey is performed to correspond with a title commitment or report, within Section 4 (Records Research) of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements, the surveyor must be provided with the following:

  • The current record description
  • Complete copies of a recent title commitment or other title evidence
  • Current record descriptions of any adjoining unplatted property
  • Recorded easements benefitting the property
  • Recorded easements burdening the property

The above information, specifically the record descriptions of the subject property and adjoining properties, assists the surveyor in forming their conclusions. As per Section 4 of the Minimum Standards, if the documents outlined in this section are not provided to the surveyor, the surveyor must conduct the required research pursuant to the statutory or administrative requirements. Even when this information, which is typically prepared by the title company, is provided to the surveyor, it usually does not include the descriptions of the adjoining, unplatted lands and additional research of adjoining descriptions may be necessary. This does not, however, require the surveyor to perform a title search.

Research is Critical for ALTA Surveys

Research is a vital component in the performance of a survey and the conclusions presented. The surveyor’s responsibilities for research are defined in both Sections 3 and 4 of the Minimum Standards and provide an understanding to anyone relying on the survey of its importance in producing an accurate document.