Titles to new homes in America don't routinely include any mention of any rights to mine or drill for valuable minerals that may lie under the building lot. But often, buying a house and lot doesn't give the homeowner any right to exploit those potentially valuable resources — or to prevent somebody else from owning, and using, those mineral rights.
In a special report published this week, Reuters says that in fact, production builders in the U.S. are routinely retaining the right to drill or mine resources that may exist under the homes they build and sell ("Special Report: U.S. builders hoard mineral rights under new homes," by Michelle Conlin and Brian Grow).
"The phenomenon is rooted in recent advances in extracting oil and gas from shale formations deep in the earth, fueling the biggest energy boom in modern U.S. history," Reuters reports. "Horizontal drilling and the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' have opened vast swaths of the continental United States to exploration. As a result, homebuilders and developers have been increasingly - and quietly - hanging on to the mineral rights underneath their projects, pushing aside homeowners' interests to set themselves up for financial gain when energy companies come calling. This is happening in regions far beyond the traditional American oil patch, which has a long history of selling subsurface rights."
"This is a huge case of buyer beware," Professor Lloyd Burton, professor of law and public policy at the University of Colorado Denver, told Reuters. "People who move into suburban areas are really clueless about this, and the states don't exactly go out of their way to let people know."