If You Strike Oil, Is It Yours? Mineral Rights Explained
How to find out who owns the mineral rights on land that you own, or land you’re looking to buy.
You may have struck oil, but do you have the rights to it? In most countries, mineral resources belong to the government; however, in the United States, ownership of underground minerals was originally granted to land owners.
When you’re looking at the land you own or the land you want to buy, mineral rights may not be the first things to come to mind. However, you need to know if you have the mineral rights to your property.
In most countries, mineral resource belong to the government; in America, on the other hand, mineral resources ownership was originally granted to land owners. This means that surface rights (the rights to farm or build on the property) and mineral rights (rights to use a property for the minerals it harbors, including oil, gas, gold, silver, and any other underground deposits) can be sold separately. When surface rights and mineral rights are sold together, it’s known as “fee simple”; when they’ve been sold separately at any point in the property’s history, you say the rights have been “severed.”
In six states (Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin), sellers are required to disclose any mineral rights separation. Florida and Colorado are also currently considering this legislation. In other states, however, you might have to do a little digging in order to know if you’re purchasing both the surface and mineral rights to your property.
The first place you should look is the deed to the property, which you can find at the local deed registry. If the deed shows that the rights have not been severed, then they’re “fee simple”- owned in conjunction with the surface rights. But if the deed doesn’t show that the mineral rights are owned, you’ll have to search the county records and create a chain of title. The first deed after the separation of the land and mineral rights will clearly show that mineral rights aren’t included, and you can then follow the mineral rights chain of title to its current owner (this will likely require the enlistment of a mineral rights attorney).
You may think you know your property well, but in the event that you find something under the surface, it’s in your best interests to know your mineral rights. Being aware of your mineral and surface rights could end up helping you “strike gold” in the future.
Do you have any questions or comments? Please let me know!