South Florida ALTA Surveys

What is an ALTA Survey?


ALTA stands for American Land Title Association.  An ALTA Survey is a Survey performed to the standards established jointly by the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors to provide adequate details of a property or parcel needed to remove the "standard exception" from Title Insurance policies.  Since most lenders require that their investment is protected by title insurance coverage, Land Surveys that can be relied upon to depict issues of title and potential disputes must be obtained by the parties involved.  While all states have their own laws and regulations regarding Land Surveys, the ALTA Survey (and associated requirements) provide a NATIONAL Standard that guarantee that surveys from different states adhere to the same standards.


While often unnecessary for residential properties, most commercial properties and lands intended for future development will require a proper ALTA survey be prepared for a Lender's review.  Because of the extra information required these Surveys are typically more expensive than the standard Survey which only meets state requirements.  There is also a list of "Optional Items" at the end of the ALTA guidelines that can also be selected by the client (although these will usually increase the cost of the survey).  A client may also have additional survey requirements outside of what is part of the ALTA focuse.  These may be included as part of the individual contract between client and surveyor and may be included in the ALTA or sometimes made part of a separate Survey.  Some common examples are when a client needs to determine the trees on a site (ALTAs do not cover vegetation) or needs topographic/elevation information for use in design or for general review.


ALTA History and Standards.


ALTA Survey Standards are revised periodically.  The current standard became effective in 2016.  Older Surveys may have been prepared to the 2011 standards, 2006 standards, etc.  The current Standard can be found on the link below.

2016 NSPS ALTA Survey Standards
The 2016 ALTA Survey requirements and Table A optional items.
2016 ALTA Standards with fillable Table [...]
Adobe Acrobat document [253.5 KB]



Boundary Surveys: Any survey in which the location of the boundary needs to be shown or other items need to be tied/related to the boundary is considered a boundary.  This is the highest level of survey and has the greatest requirements. ALTA Surveys are by definition boundary surveys that have additional requirements beyond that normally required by the State of Florida when preparing a Boundary Survey.


Topographic Surveys: Surveys which include vertical information (elevations) of items within the surveyed area.  Though not really related to property ownership, jurisdictional regulations might require the collection of this information and then showing it on the ALTA Survey for others to review.

Legal Descriptions: The creation/preparation of descriptions of land used to either divide or combine land or to attach restrictions to a portion of land (in the form of an easement or license).  Part of an ALTA Survey requires checking a Property description for errors or ommisions. They might requre the preparation of a new more efficient or more complete Legal Description if requested by the Lender, Title Company or Client's attourneys.


Mean High Water Surveys: This is usually a subset of a boundary survey in instances where a property limits is defined by a body of water (Ocean, River, Lake, etc).  Determining the boundary line would then involve establishing the jurisdictional water line that separates private ownership from public.


Elevation Certificates: A certificate provided and often required by certain jurisditions for permitting and also to determine the cost of Federal Flood Insurance.  Sometimes required when a property is required to have Flood Insurance by the lender.




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