Landowners in mineral rich states like Texas are often forced to consider the question: “Who owns the mineral rights to my property?” Unfortunately for landowners, the answer to this question is not as straight-forward as one may think. In this article we explore what mineral rights are under Texas law, the ownership of mineral rights and the ability to profit from them. If you have questions about the ownership of mineral rights on your property, consult with an experienced Texas mineral rights lawyer.
Who owns the mineral rights to my property?
- Ownership of mineral rights in Texas is not always the landowners
- As a general matter, mineral rights are conveyed with the sale of the land or property unless they are not included within the property’s Chain of Title
- Texas law draws an important distinction between Surface Rights and Mineral Rights
- Knowing who owns and controls the surface of the land, as well as the minerals underneath it, is essential to understanding a landowner’s mineral rights
- It is often necessary to retain an experienced Texas mineral rights attorney to both examine the chain of tile and to ascertain your rights to the property’s minerals
How do I know if I have mineral rights – Surface Rights vs. Mineral Rights in Texas
When a property is purchased in Texas there are typically two distinct types of rights that are conveyed by the sale: Surface Rights and Mineral Rights.
What are surface rights?
Surface rights refer to those things located on the entire surface of the landowner’s property. Thus, for example, if a landowner has surface rights to the property, he or she owns all physical structures located on the land.
What are mineral rights?
Mineral rights refer to the minerals and resources located beneath the surface of the land. While both surface and mineral rights are generally conveyed when the landowner acquires the land, it is far more common for the seller to retain mineral rights than surface rights (or for prior sellers in the chain of title of the property to have retained the mineral rights).
Surface and mineral rights under Texas law
To a layperson, the distinction between surface and mineral rights may seem at best confusing, and at worst a useless legal exercise. And yet, there have been plenty of cases where a landowner was prepared to sign a lucrative agreement for royalties, only to learn that he or she did not own the rights to minerals located beneath the surface. Even worse, if a third party owns the mineral rights to your property, such rights generally permit the use of the surface to access and extract the minerals located on the property. In other words, a third party may be able to construct roads and other physical structures on your land (as reasonably necessary to for exploration and production of minerals in the subsurface) even though you own the surface rights.
Landowners are not without recourse in such cases. Both the legislature and the courts have sought to limit the mineral owner’s ability to extract the minerals to the detriment of the landowner. The mineral owner may, for example, be subject to the Judicial Accommodation Doctrine. This doctrine requires that a mineral owner respect existing structures (or uses) located on the land, particularly those for agricultural use.
While these conflicts can and do arise, it is advisable to be proactive and determine the mineral rights to your property. Not only will you know your rights where a third party seeks to assert its mineral rights, but you will establish your ability to sell or lease mineral rights in exchange for royalties.
Who Owns the Mineral Rights on Your Property?
It is not enough for a landowner to assume that he or she owns both the surface and mineral rights to the property. The only way to determine your rights is to conduct a search of the public land records in the county where the property is located. All the deeds conveying the property must be reviewed. This is known as reviewing the property’s Chain of Title.
Unfortunately, the chain of title in mineral rich states like Texas can be difficult to determine. The reason for this is that mineral rights were likely conveyed several times. Such conveyances do not necessarily coincide with the conveyance of surface rights. Further complicating matters is the fact that deeds often contain errors and omissions. For instance, a deed could state that mineral rights are being conveyed to the new owner, but the party conveying the rights may not even own the rights due to a defect in a prior deed. Or a deed could be silent on the issue altogether, requiring the new owner to determine what rights he or she acquired.
Searching through the county records can be a difficult process for those lacking a legal education or experience in these matters. Unfortunately, land records in Texas are not as user-friendly as some other states, especially in some rural and remote counties. In Texas, it may be necessary to review “grantor/grantee” indexes in order to locate the correct deed. Once that deed is found, it is necessary to return to the index to locate the next deed (as well as all prior deeds). Further complicating the process is the need to review each deed in detail to determine what rights were conveyed. For these reasons, many people seek the assistance of an experienced Texas real estate lawyer to do the research for them.
How to Make Money From Mineral Rights
Once you have determined that you own the rights to the minerals located on your property, you can seek to sell or lease the rights to a third party. Prior to doing so, it is important to spend some time researching what the minerals are worth, as well as the extraction process and reputable companies. It is advisable to consult with a Texas mineral rights attoreny prior to entering into any agreement with a third party. Not only can a lawyer protect you from being taken advantage of but can also add important restrictions to the contract limiting the third party’s actions on the surface of the land.
Contact an experienced mineral rights lawyer
If you need assistance determining whether you own the mineral rights to your property or have any other questions regarding mineral rights in Texas, consult an experienced Texas mineral rights attorney today.