Asking for “Underground Utilities Locations” for your property is something that need some discussion. This item was completely changed in the new 2021 ALTA Land Title Survey standards. In many cases you DON’T need Item 11. Let’s discuss this in some detail.
FIRST THING: “The ALTA Table A Item 11(b) can add significant costs to the ALTA survey. Discuss this with your surveyor in detail as you place an ALTA land title survey order.”
What are the Changes for ALTA Table A, Item 11?
So, the changes are the following:
- Included in the Standards: “Observed Utilities,” such as utility poles, service lines, line locate markings, fiber optic lines, electric lines, water lines, sewer lines, oil pipelines, and gas pipelines. The key here is OBSERVED. If the surveyor can see evidence of these utilities, they must locate them as a part of the Standard ALTA survey. (Ref: Standards Section 5.E.)
- Item 11(a): Utilities shown on “plans and/or reports provided by client (with reference as to the sources of information.)” The key here is PROVIDED BY CLIENT. The surveyor should be provided with these plans. OR, if it is arranged and agreed by the Client and Surveyor, the Surveyor may contract to obtain these plans and/or reports.
- Item 11(b): Utilies shown by “markings coordinated by the surveyor pursuant to a private utility locate request.” This item involves the contracting of a Private Underground Utility Location (PUUL) service. The PUUL locates and marks the underground utilities within the boundaries of the property for the surveyor. The surveyor then locates these markings for inclusion on the survey map.
Obtaining Utility Plans or Reports for the Surveyor
As we said, obtaining these utility plans or reports is the responsibility of the CLIENT. If that responsibility is taken on by the surveyor, this should be part of the contract and agreed by both parties. There will likely be additional fees in order for the Surveyor to do this.
Seeking out plans typically begins with the City, County, or Township where the property is located. You should think about all of the service lines that may be on or adjacent to a property, such as fiber optic lines, electric lines, water lines, sewer lines, telecommunication lines, oil pipelines, and gas pipelines. Some of these services may be provided by the local municipality but others will have their own separate organization.
One way to begin this process would be to call in a FREE line locate request through whatever entity does that work in the area. These are sometimes called 811, Utility Location services, One Call services, etc. This work will ONLY be on that property that is publicly owned or controlled. Very rarely will a utility company locate utilities on private property. The exception might be if they have a recorded easement.over the property.
Once the 811 service locates utilities within the right-of-way, this would give you a hint as to which companies might have utilities within the property boundaries. The 811 service will normally report this information to you.
Hiring a Private Underground Utility Location Company
As we’ve mentioned, this is usually a separate contracted item for an ALTA survey. While some surveyors will provide this service, it will still be an added cost item. And, again, please discuss this in detail with your surveyor before the project begins.
I have seen these costs range from $1,000 extra to $25,000 extra. Obviously, the larger the project, the more time this step will take.
Getting the 811 service to locate those utilities on the right of way, is a way to possibly eliminate the need for a PUUL contract. If there are no utilities coming from the right-of-way onto the property, then there are probably not utilities on the property. Normally, all utilities are connected to outside lines.
So, now that you understand Item 11, you have the information needed to discuss this intelligently with your surveyor. (By the way, I’d recommend that you don’t deal with a surveyor who is unwilling to discuss items like this before contracting the work)
When Do You Need Utilities Located on an ALTA Survey?
Now, maybe we should have discussed this first, but do you really NEED the utility lines to be located? The answer is, it depends.
If you are purchasing an existing building, like an apartment, restaurant, hotel, or other, you may not need the additional Item 11 services. If you don’t plan on doing any new construction or making any changes on the outside of the buildings, then I’d say put off any expense of hiring a PUUL company. You can always have that done later IF you need it then.
If on the other hand you’re contemplating some new construction, this may be needed. The Engineer who is doing the design work for a new project will need to know where all of the utility lines are located in order to complete the design documents. But, again, this could be done after the ALTA survey is done if the design work isn’t starting immediately.
Identifying the Types of Utility Marking
See the below image for the American Public Works Association Uniform Color Code. This is a handy reference for surveyors and clients if you’re trying to decide which company you need to contact for that particular line.
A word of caution – some utilities don’t mark their lines IF it is for a land survey. You may have to tell them that you’re about to dig, though that is a little dishonest. You can ask if they will mark for surveyors. If not, get them to send you a copy of their plans. Of course, as a last ditch effort, you may need to hire a PUUL and pay for the location services.