Subdivision in Anywhere, Anystate

ShutterstockWhat lies beneath? Whatever it is, it ain’t yours.

Some American developers have begun quietly holding on to the rights to frack and mine beneath the cookie-cutter houses they sell — and many homebuyers don’t realize it.

From a big investigative report by Reuters:

[T]ens of thousands of families … have in recent years moved into new homes where their developers or homebuilders, with little or no prior disclosure, kept all the underlying mineral rights for themselves, a Reuters review of county property records in 25 states shows. …

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This is happening in regions far beyond the traditional American oil patch, which has a long history of selling subsurface rights.

“All the smart developers are doing it,” says Lance Astrella, a Denver lawyer who represents mineral-rights owners, including homebuilders, in deals with energy companies.

Among the smart ones are private firms like Oakwood Homes in Colorado, the Groce Companies in North Carolina, Wynne/Jackson in Texas, and Shea Homes, which builds coast to coast. Publicly traded companies that engage in the practice include the Ryland Group, Pulte Homes and Beazer Homes, according to oil and gas attorneys and public land records.

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The practice doesn’t just deny mineral rights to homeowners — it can strip away any power they might otherwise have to prevent fracking beneath their feet.

And if fracking does start, homeowners could have problems refinancing or selling their homes. As Grist recently reported, banks are becoming increasingly wary about offering mortgages for properties if there’s fracking happening beneath or even near them.