Are mineral rights for real estate attached to a property deed? Well, it depends. Some properties own their own mineral rights and some have them split off and owned by somebody else. You might own a home and own the property, but find out that the rights to any minerals, gas, or oil that’s underneath the surface might already be sold to somebody else long before you bought the property. They might even have the right to access the property and the right to be able to bring equipment out to your property to mine that mineral or to extract that oil and gas. How would you know if someone else owns the mineral rights to your property?
Well, in order to do that you need to run a title search. There are three or four different types of a title search, but the most common is what’s called a current owner search which searches who’s the current owner and all records from that current owner forward. This is normally what’s done when a piece of real estate is transferred, they run a current owner search. It’s the cheapest and fastest way to do a title search. However, if mineral rights have been split off from that property, it may not show up on a current owner search. For example, say a farmer that owned a hundred acres sold the mineral rights to some mining company and then subdivided the property later. Each deed after that would not show that transfer of mineral rights to the mining company because it happened before the deed was split. So how do you determine that? You have to run what’s called a chain of title search going back 50-60 years to see if mineral rights were split off because even if that mineral right chain transfers from one mining company to another, those do not run with the surface land and you may find that the records have been long since split off and they’re in different deed books. So if you’re interested in making sure that the property you’re considering purchasing has mineral rights, you want to run a chain of title back to where mineral rights would have been split. You may find they run with the property and if they do, there will be no record of them being split.
This also holds true for other types of non-standard vesting. For example, your property may have timber rights for extracting trees and making lumber. You may have riparian or water rights that give somebody downstream or even somebody next door the privilege of extracting water from your property, whether it’s through surface streams or underground aquifers. So those are rights that sometimes only sometimes run with the land. A property deed is simply a record of a transfer of one type of right from one person to another. If some of the bundle of rights were previously split off, a current owner search may not show those records. So if having knowledge of those mineral rights on real estate, as part of a title search is important, make sure you’re getting the correct type of title search to determine if those rights still run with the land, or if the subsurface rights have been separated and somebody else owns them even without your knowledge. The other type of right to keep in mind, which happens more frequently in modern times, is air rights. So you may have a company that places cell towers and it has the right to put a cell tower on your property. They have the ability to access it through an easement. That wasn’t a type of property right that existed even 20 years ago, but cell towers and other air rights are a new type of split-off property bundle that may affect the ownership and use of a piece of real estate.
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