Are You Covered For The New 2021 Changes To The ALTA Survey Standards?

The new 2021 revision of the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Standards is now in effect, marking the first update in five years. This new set of standards took effect in early February 2021, replacing the requirements set in their last 2016 update.

While there are a few updates to the standards, there is one major change to your requirements that affects all your jobs moving forward. The responsibility for public underground utility location has shifted to help bridge the gap to private utility markings, ensuring greater safety to construction personnel.

What Exactly Has Changed In The New ALTA 2021 Standards?

The major change in 2021 ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Standards takes place in Table A item 11.

Under previous 2016 standards, this item required a surveyor to locate underground utilities. They could do so based on an 811 utility locate, plans obtained from utility companies, and observed evidence. Basically, the responsibility was on the surveyor.

Under the new item 11(a) standards, the surveyor is required to “show evidence of underground utilities,” based on plans and/or reports provided by the client, with proof and references for the sources of the information.

In addition, under the new Item 11(b) requirements, surveyors should use a private utility locate to have all utilities on private property marked.

In simple English, this means two things:

• First, the responsibility for providing utility information has shifted. The surveyor is now no longer responsible for locating utilities – the client is. The surveyor simply works with the provided information.
• Second, item 11(b) means that a private utility locate is not optional. If a job is taking place on private property, a private scanning company like GPRS must scan the private land to locate all utilities, not just what’s marked by 811. The responsibility falls to the public utility surveyor to either provide contact information for the client to have their private property scanned, or the surveyor can have it scanned and provide the results to the client.

In addition, ALTA survey requirements no longer accept 811 utility locate options alone, as they are not a comprehensive locate for public and private property. Clients must also provide as-builts or other design plans to the surveyor, or ask the surveyor to hire someone to get the original plans that show utility connections and locations on the property. This helps ensure precision and accuracy during the completion of the ALTA survey.

Why Can’t I Just Call 811 To Have Utility Lines Marked On My Job Site?

This may sound a little confusing. After all, if you call 811, they will mark all of the utility lines on your job site right? Well, not quite. 811 is required to identify all utilities – both private and public – on public property.

So, for example, 811 will mark gas and utility lines running below a sidewalk outside a church parking lot. But they will not mark all of the utilities that are in the parking lot. That’s outside of their scope of work, because the parking lot is private property.

Under the changes to ALTA/NSPS standards that have taken place, you must now call a private company like GPRS to get a full ALTA survey, including all utilities on private property.

A Private Property Utility Locate Is Absolutely Essential Before A Job Starts

Even if you have up-to-date plans and think you know where every utility line is on a piece of property, you need to get a locate from GPRS or a similar locating company.


Hitting a utility line causes unnecessary damage, delays projects, and requires you to repair the damage on your own dime – which can incur serious budget overages.

According to Common Ground Alliance’s annual DIRT (Damage Information Reporting Tool), about $30 billion in damages occurred due to damaging underground utility lines and underground structures in 2019 alone.

Not only that, but utility line strikes are dangerous. About 400 workers have died due to utility strikes in the last 20 years, with thousands more unnecessary, preventable injuries caused by utility line strikes.

GPRS Is Your Go-To ATLA/NSPS-Compliant Subsurface Analysis Resource

At GPRS, we are in pursuit of 100% Subsurface Damage Prevention. To that end, we have a 99.8% strike-free record – last year, completing over 70,000 projects. We use the latest technology to locate property thoroughly and comprehensively, consult utility plans, and use our decades of expertise to accurately locate each and every utility line and subsurface structure on your job site.

If you need help with an ALTA survey and private utility locate, we’re always here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at 866-914-4718 to discuss your needs and your job in more detail, and get started with GPRS right away.

How You Can Be Ready:

ALTA Survey Standards

Click here to get quote from GPRS to fulfill the new standard requirements.

Curious to learn more about how we achieve a 99.8% accuracy rating?

We standardized our team’s approach to Subsurface Investigation Methodology. Known as the GPRS SIM program, we combined the greatest technology with the best practices in analysis to train all of our personnel to become SIM Certified.