Surveyor’s Role in ALTA Survey Boundary Resolution Considerations

History recalls that the 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ATLA/ACSM Surveys clearly stated the surveyor’s responsibility for Boundary Resolution. The inclusion of Section 3.D in the 2011 standards was then carried over to the 2016 ALTA/NSPS standards with no change and states: “The boundary lines and corners of any property being surveyed as a part of an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey shall be established and/or retraced in accordance with appropriate boundary law principles governed by the set of facts and evidence found in the course of performing the research and fieldwork.”

Surveyor Must Resolve Surveyed Property’s Boundary

Although the previous requirements were very specific regarding measurement precision, prior to the inclusion of this verbiage they were silent on the issue of the integrity of boundary resolution leaving it to the professional surveyor’s judgement as to how to address. With the responsibility now clearly defined, the surveyor is required to resolve the surveyed property’s boundary as a part of an ALTA Survey.

Avoid Title Issues

From a title perspective, the revelation of any boundary issue such as closure errors, gaps, gores or overlaps caused by either a deficiency in a record description or a discrepancy uncovered while performing field work are important considerations. If an issue is uncovered with the boundary, it could certainly cause disputes with adjoining properties ultimately resulting in a title issue. When the surveyor reports an issue, all parties should be concerned with rectifying it before the surveyed property is conveyed.

Errors of Closure

Errors of closure within record descriptions are the most common issues that surveyors report. These typically occur as a result of a typographic error in the metes and bounds definition within the property description included on the last vesting deed or misinformation on a recorded plat. This evidence would be uncovered in the course of performing research. The surveyor may uncover that a directional call in the recorded description was cited as “South and West” that should have read “South and East”. Or, perhaps a dimension on the recorded plat reads 112’ and should have read 121’. Similar issues can be uncovered in the course of performing fieldwork.

Closure Precision Requirements

The Minimum Standards along with individual state statutes for the practice of land surveying cite the closure precision requirements to which the surveyor must adhere. Local practices will dictate how a scrivener’s error on a record document can be resolved. A surveyor typically addresses where the error occurs and the title company needs to be involved to resolve any record error. Furthermore, it may present a legacy issue with the property description where legal considerations are necessary. In cases where an error in a property’s boundary causes a potential gap, gore or overlap, it may be necessary to enter into boundary line agreements or other considerations with adjoining owners to clear title for the subject property. These are legal determinations and are a matter of title and not of survey.