What Is the American Land Title Association (ALTA)?

The American Land Title Association (ALTA) is a trade association representing the title insurance industry. Founded in 1907, the ALTA also focuses on a property's abstract of title, which ties the history of the title to a particular piece of real estate. The organization seeks to improve industry oversight and protect consumers.

Key Takeaways

  • The American Land Title Association (ALTA) helps manage the title insurance industry. A property title traces the history of ownership of the property.
  • ALTA members agree to abide by an outlined ethical code of conduct business practices. 
  • The ALTA provides continuing education and on-going training opportunities for members. 

How the American Land Title Association (ALTA) Works

ALTA members include title agents, abstracters, and title insurance companies as active members. Nearly all title insurance companies, as well as abstracters, who prepare a summary of public records relating to the title to a specific parcel of land, and title agents, hold ALTA membership. There are two types of title insurance policies, owner’s and lender’s policies, where an owner’s policy protects the buyer and the lender’s title insurance policy protects the lender.  

Before the conclusion of a real estate transaction, a title search is completed. A new title search and title policy are needed each time a property is sold or the loan is refinanced. The new title searches and title policy are to determine if there are any liens or other encumbrances on the property. 

ALTA members include attorneys, builders, developers, lenders, real estate brokers, and surveyors. There is an 11-member ALTA Board of Governors that is responsible for creating ALTA policy, managing the financial health of the association, overseeing the work of committees, and ensuring the overall welfare of the association.

The ALTA develops rules and guidelines to embrace and manage the rapid expansion of financial technology (fintech) to ensure safe, accurate, and quick closings. 

Requirements for the ALTA 

ALTA's activities include regular contact with members of Congress, the Federal National Mortgage Association, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and other agencies regarding legislative and regulatory issues. The association may also join with affiliated state title associations regarding a position on pending state legislation. ALTA is in regular contact with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Other primary functions of ALTA include title industry-specific education and working to improve land title records.

The ALTA develops the title insurance forms used voluntarily by insurers across the nation and works to develop a better understanding of its industry among those who use and otherwise interface with land title services. Members search, review and insure land titles to protect home buyers and mortgage lenders who invest in real estate. The Land Title Institute (LTI), a subsidiary of ALTA, offers educational training in the industry. Educational opportunities focus on developing best practices.