American Land Title Association
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (January 2010)|
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (January 2010)|
The American Land Title Association or ALTA, is a national trade association representing the interests of the abstract of title and title insurance industries. In addition to active members engaged in the title industry, associate members cover a wide range of businesses and occupations relating to real estate law, sales, development, design, construction, and financing.
The American Land Title Association, founded in 1907, is the national trade association and voice of the abstract and title insurance industry. ALTA members search, review and insure land titles to protect home buyers and mortgage lenders who invest in real estate. ALTA is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Members of the association are in business in most counties across the nation. Nearly all title insurance companies hold ALTA membership, in addition to abstractors and title agents. More than 4,000 title agents, abstractors, and title insurance companies are active members, ranging from small, one-county operations, to large national title insurers. Title insurers or underwriters also conduct business internationally in nearly 100 countries worldwide. Associate members of ALTA may include attorneys, builders, developers, lenders, real estate brokers, surveyors, consultants, educational institutions, computer services firms, and related national trade associations.
The eleven-member ALTA Board of Governors is responsible for creating association policy, managing the financial health of the association, overseeing the work of 33 committees, and ensuring the overall welfare of the association.
The organization's best known function is the promulgation of standardized forms for the terms and conditions of title insurance policies: these forms are adopted by all major title insurers except where state law requires the issuance of different terms, although most of the state-regulated forms are similar or identical to the ALTA forms.
ALTA's headquarters are located at 1828 L Street, NW Suite 705, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Title Industry Consumer Initiative
On September 18, 2007, ALTA launched "The Title Industry Consumer Initiative", which details the association's five-point strategy for improving industry oversight and educating and protecting consumers. The initiative was developed in response to the recommendations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report it issued in April 2007. The Title Industry Consumer Initiative includes a consumer education program, the adoption of "Principles of Fair Conduct", plans for member education on regulatory compliance and ethical standards, and a plan for working more closely with state and federal regulators to ensure that the title industry is meeting the needs of consumers.
ALTA Principles of Fair Conduct
The thrust of ALTA's Consumer Initiative is to help consumers make informed choices when it comes to title insurance and title-related services. ALTA has developed a consumer Web site, www.homeclosing101.org, which provides an overview of the closing process and explains the purpose of title insurance including the process of the title search and repairing title defects. The site also describes how consumers can shop and compare prices. Another major component of ALTA's Consumer Initiative is its newly adopted "Principles of Fair Conduct", which state what ALTA expects of its members:
- To engage only in business practices that are lawful and consistent with a high standard of ethical behavior
- To encourage a culture of compliance within their organizations for federal and state laws that govern the title insurance business and for these Principles
- To treat consumers in a fair and ethical manner
- To provide consumers with timely and comprehensive information regarding their policies, services, products, and prices so as to enable consumers to shop effectively among providers of title-related services
- To encourage and assist consumers to be educated purchasers of title insurance and title-related services
HomeClosing101.org is a consumer web site created by ALTA and several leaders in the Title Industry. The purpose of homeClosing101 is to educate prospective homebuyers about title insurance:
- Why you need title insurance
- How to shop for title insurance
- Explaining the closing process
- Giving explanation to the closing costs
- Real estate glossary
Land Title Institute
The Land Title Institute (LTI) is the educational subsidiary of the American Land Title Association. LTI started with one correspondence course more than 30 years ago and has evolved into an organization which offers comprehensive, title industry-specific training through various mediums.
LTI offers several online educational courses and educational videos on the title industry.
An ALTA survey is a boundary survey prepared to a set of minimum standards that have been jointly prepared and adopted by the ALTA/ACSM. Additionally, an ALTA survey shows improvements, easements, rights-of-way, and other elements impacting the ownership of land. An ALTA Survey is often prepared for commercial properties, as it will provide the title company with the information required to insure the title to the land and improvements to the high degree that a commercial development may require. In addition to the minimum standards set forth, a table of optional elements is included in the ALTA/ACSM standards. A careful review of the elements from the optional "Table A" is helpful in delineating a clear scope of the land surveyor's services.
A current title commitment is required before an ALTA Survey can be completed. The surveyor will refer to the title commitment for the legal description of the property and for the legal description of any encumbrances (exceptions). Areas of ownership, improvements, and encumbrances will be shown graphically. If the survey discovers any encroachments, they should be shown graphically, and a note indicating the nature of the encroachment may also be added.
The certification language of the ALTA Survey should include the names of the affected parties, including as appropriate the buyer, seller, title company, and lender. The surveyor must work in close association with the title insurance company, as the surveyor and the title company are relying on each other's work to show the matters affecting the ownership of the land and improvements in a comprehensive manner.
An ALTA land survey has especially stringent requirements as developed by a joint effort of the American Land Title Association and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. The ALTA standards are a nationwide uniform set of standards. Sometimes referred to as the "Cadillac of surveys". The survey is specifically designed to satisfy the needs of lenders, corporations and title companies when dealing with valuable commercial properties.