Generally speaking, when someone purchases a house, they assume that they have also purchased the rights to the land that sits directly beneath that house. Not so fast, suburbanites! You may have already signed away your right to not have fracking underneath your back yard.
Reuters reports today on a sneaky practice of suburban homebuilders: withholding the mineral rights under the houses they sell. That means that, although you purchased your home on the golf course free and clear, the company that sold it to you can turn around and sell some energy company the right to run a drill sideways underneath your house, for fracking purposes. You get nothing in return! Read those contracts closely, friends. Huge homebuilders like D.R. Horton, the Ryland Group, and Pulte Homes are all doing this, and unless you read the fine print, you may not know about it until a Reuters journalist calls you on the phone, chuckling ominously.
As drilling has moved into more densely populated areas, energy companies have typically sent teams of so-called land men to knock on homeowners' doors to try to persuade them to lease their mineral rights. Each lease can have different terms, depending on the negotiating skill of the homeowner. Now, by dealing with builders and developers, energy companies can lock up entire neighborhoods via a single lease.