Top 10 Changes to the minimum requirements for ALTA surveys

#7: Does your site have access?

The 2011 ALTA standards provided fairly rigorous requirements for addressing site access related to a property. The new 2016 ALTA standards demand just as much, and in some cases, more attention.

Suitable site access is most often integral to the use, enjoyment, and even the success, of a particular piece of property. Development property, in particular, can benefit from clearly understood and well-defined site access because it allows the owner or developer the opportunity to realize the property’s full potential. Most lenders and title companies require some sort of confirmation that public access exists or not, which can present a challenge for property owners. Many questions arise, including whether adequate site access is even possible, and in some cases, whether the particular access activities taking place are even allowed (i.e. trespassing).  It is also important to note that access to and from public waters can become an issue should the property be impacted by such things as lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. An ALTA survey helps to minimize the challenges and answer the questions.

Addressing site access, or the lack thereof, during the ALTA survey process is two-fold. By reviewing both the documentation found in the title research and the observed evidence found in the field, the owner or developer can obtain a holistic view of whether or not physical access exists. Monuments, gates, roads, foot paths, and easements – all of these things provide information to the surveyor, attorney, and Title Company as they seek to figure out whether or not their client’s potential purchase is free of access issues. The new 2016 ALTA standards are more specific about recording the types and dimensions of access uncovered during fieldwork observation, also clarifying any evidence of whether or not private access exists.

In the course of performing hundreds of ALTA surveys, I’ve run into all types of scenarios pertaining to how owners, tenants, and users are able to access a particular piece of property. Site access is often obvious, but not always. It is common for parcels to abut public streets, thereby providing access via a driveway or entrance. Less apparent are the parcels within shopping centers that are essentially landlocked, saved for the operating agreement between all of the tenants, and allowing vehicular and pedestrian access to, from, and across the property. When talking about real estate, site access can be one of those things that fly under the radar to avoid issues during the sale or purchase, or rear its ugly head blowing the entire project out of the water. 

Though the updates to the 2016 ALTA standards regarding site access should not add great concern, it is important to know that they haven’t eased up on past requirements.

Coming up next - #6: Aren’t all water features the same?

View #8 - Isn’t it enough to just show the easement lines?

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