Do you know if you have the right to the natural resources that lie beneath your home? Do you know whether or not you are purchasing said rights if you are buying a home? These are questions to which many of us do not know the answers. Given the current scramble for the region’s submerged resources, an uninformed decision by either a seller or a buyer could have serious consequences.
An agreement to sell a piece of property, and then the deed, will transfer all rights in that property. However, if a previous owner severed certain rights and retained them or sold them off separately, those rights are not included in the sale. Likewise, if a seller wishes to retain those rights, they are not included in the sale.
Surface rights include the right to build a structure or to use the land for farming, etc. Subsurface rights, those vested the move, the land, and materials below the ground’s surface, include the right to remove resources and minerals from the earth. Oftentimes transferred together, along with the remaining rights to the land and the structures built thereon, the surface rights and subsurface rights can be divided and transferred separately.
The leasing of subsurface rights provides a third party the ability to enter the property and extract resources in the ground in exchange for royalty payments. These can be very complex and may even restrict the surface owner’s rights. Therefore, knowing if such a lease exists and exactly what it says is an important consideration in Western Pennsylvania today.
You may want to consider purchasing a title search that covers subsurface rights. These title searches are separate from the title search performed for closings which examine surface rights, the cost of which is included in your title insurance charge. Settlements, Ltd. can arrange a subsurface rights title search for you, but be aware these can take several months to complete and cost several thousand dollars.
Our current agreements of sale include an Oil, Gas and Mineral Rights Addendum to Agreement of Sale which you can view here. You should discuss the language and options on this Addendum with your realtor.