Do you own the mineral rights below the surface of your property? Like millions of other Americans, your property may hold more value than you thought. With breakthroughs in the technology of horizontal drilling, fracking and other mineral extraction methods, land owners must understand their property rights, responsibilities and the legal relationship of what’s in the ground beneath them.

Mineral rights grant the holder of the parcel the right to explore, develop, extract and market resources under the earth surface. Like surface rights, mineral rights can be bought, sold and transferred in accordance with state and federal laws. Fee simple deeds are made up of mineral rights and surface rights.

Property owners with surface rights have the legal right to improve, sell, transfer, or manipulate the surface of a particular parcel of land. The surface can be used for agricultural tasks, structures, and even underground tanks. If the land owner does not own the mineral rights, he cannot exploit the resources found below the surface in any way. However, for those property owners who own the mineral rights, it is legal to transfer or sell the mineral rights to whomever they want. Companies in gas and oil seek out fee simple landowners in hopes to transfer or lease their mineral rights. As payment, corporations make generous offers with ongoing royalties to entice land owners to sign over their rights.

It’s important to note, mineral parcels don’t necessarily correspond with surface rights parcels. Corporations and investors may own the mineral rights to a large number of surface parcels that belong to a variety of property owners. If you are not sure if you own the mineral rights below your property, start with the county clerks office. From the land records you can construct a “chain of title” to see how the property has changed hands over time and who has current possession of the mineral rights. If you want to take a faster approach, hire a real estate attorney to perform a title search to undercover the mineral rights status of your property.

In more recent years, transferring mineral rights to mining and extraction companies have upset property owners who are forced to give up a portion of the land for to the drilling company. In some cases, drilling can take place via a horizontal rig and there is minimal disruption on the surface. Wherever the extraction zone is located, there is typically a drill rig, storage containers, containment ponds, water treatment facilities along with temporary roads and fences. With all this activity there is noise, added light, and other potential environmental hazards that don’t set well with neighbors. As a responsible homeowner, be aware of the impact your decision will make on adjacent neighborhoods and schools, as well as future health and safety of residents.

If your fee simple deed includes mineral rights, it may add extra value to your property and add a layer of protection to the resources beneath your land.  If you want to continue the discussion about the market value of your property, contact George today!

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