What are Surface Rights?

Real Estate Dictionary

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Rights to enter upon and use the surface of a parcel of land, usually in connection with an oil and gas lease or other mineral lease. They may be "implied" by the language of the lease (no explicit reservation or exception of the surface rights) or "explicitly" set forth.

Surface rights refer to the legal rights and privileges associated with the use, control, and ownership of the surface of a piece of land or property. These rights typically include the ability to occupy, build, develop, and make use of the land's surface for various purposes.

Surface rights can encompass a range of activities and interests, such as:

  1. Ownership: The right to own and possess the surface of the land, including any improvements or structures on it.
  2. Access: The right to enter and exit the property through established access points or easements.
  3. Use and Enjoyment: The right to use the land for various purposes, such as residential, commercial, agricultural, or recreational activities, within the boundaries defined by applicable laws and regulations.
  4. Development: The right to develop or alter the land's surface, including constructing buildings, roads, utilities, or other infrastructure, subject to zoning and land-use regulations.
  5. Natural Resources: The right to extract or utilize natural resources found on or beneath the surface of the land, such as minerals, oil, gas, timber, or water, subject to relevant legal permissions and environmental regulations.
  6. Easements: The right to grant or receive easements, which are limited rights of use over someone else's property, such as granting a utility company the right to run power lines or pipelines across the land.

It's important to note that surface rights may be distinct from subsurface rights, which involve ownership and control of resources found beneath the surface, such as mineral rights or groundwater rights. In some cases, the surface rights and subsurface rights may be owned separately, allowing different individuals or entities to have distinct rights and interests in the same property.