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2021 Minimum Standard Detail

                                  Requirements for ALTA/NSPS

                                  Land Title Surveys Adopted

                                  By: Gary kent, plS

                                  NOTE: A big thank you to Gary Kent and Marc Cheves, American Surveyor for permission to reprint this
                                  article for the benefit of our members. Visit

            fter two years of concentrated effort and the input of many  and that “must” is the word that imposes an obligation or com-
        Ainterested persons including several hundred surveyors, the  mand that something is mandatory.
        American Land Title Association and the national Society of Pro-
        fessional Surveyors adopted the new 2021 version of the ALTA/  The use of “shall” in earlier versions of the standards was con-
        nSPS Land Title Survey Minimum Standards in October 2020 ef-  sistent with its common usage at the time; various authoritative
        fective February 23, 2021.                             references agreed that “must” and “shall” were basically syn-
                                                               onyms – both were imperatives. Since “shall” has been ruled to
                                                               essentially be a false imperative, each such use in the ALTA/nSPS
                                                               Standards was reviewed and if it was intended as a command, it
                                                               was replaced with “must.”
                                                               Section 2 – The Request for Survey

                                                                 A number of suggestions were received expressing an interest
                                                               in the 2021 Standards addressing mineral rights. After consid-
                                                               erable discussion, and definitive input from the ALTA members
                                                               of the committee, it was decided that mineral rights can be so
                                                               problematic the best way to deal with them was to simply add
                                                               them to the list of atypical and non-fee interests that a Land Title
          The most significant changes will be explained in this column,   Survey may involve.
        although those who perform Land Title Surveys should care-
        fully review the red-lined version, the final “clean” version, and   Section 2 gives a number of examples of such properties and
        the Frequently-Asked Questions all of which are available on   directs the surveyor to consult with the interested parties to de-
        the nSPS website by going to, selecting the “Re-  termine the scope of the related Land Title Survey.
        sources” tab across the top, then picking “Standards” followed by
        “ALTA/nSPS” from the pull-downs.                       Section 3.D. – The Boundary

          Initially, the red-lined version may be most helpful since it   There was some concern expressed that the title of this subsec-
        shows the 2016 Standards with red-lined strikeouts and under-  tion (“Boundary Resolution”) might lead the uninitiated to con-
        lined additions indicating the deletions and additions that re-  clude that the professional surveyor is the final authority as to the
        sulted in the 2021 version.                            location of boundary lines and corners. Of course, surveyors and
                                                               title professionals know that a boundary survey is merely a sur-
        False Imperatives                                      veyor’s professional opinion, and given that, the decision was to
                                                               drop the word “Resolution” from the title of this subsection.
          One of the first changes the reviewer may come across is a
        number of occurrences of the word  “shall” that have been   In addition, previous versions  of the  Standards  had used  a
        changed to “must” in the 2021 Standards. This does not indicate   number of different terms to describe the property that was the
        some fundamental change in the thinking of the joint ALTA/  subject of the Land Title Survey. With the 2021 Standards, that
        nSPS Committee, but rather simply reflects the united States Su-  property is now referred to as either ”the surveyed property” or
        preme Court’s decision in Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno 515   “the property to be surveyed.” This change is reflected in several
        u.S. 417 (1995) in which it ruled that “shall” really means “may,”   places throughout the 2021 Standards.

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