If you buy a home, you probably assume (if you even think about it) that you own the land underneath the house too, but in these days of natural gas fracking, that may not be true.
Let's say you buy a home in a gated community or a condo in a housing development. One day you look outside and see your community being turned into an industrial zone. Drillers are setting up shop to begin fracking.
Thousand of homeowners are experiencing this nightmare, finding out the hard way that the mineral rights underneath their house have been sold to drillers without them knowing about it.
"In golf clubs, gated communities and other housing developments across the United States, tens of thousands of families have moved into new homes where their developers or homebuilders, with little or no prior disclosure, kept all the underlying mineral rights for themselves," says Reuters after reviewing county property records in 25 states. "In dozens of cases, the buyers were in the dark."
Home builders and developers are finding an additional way to make money - they sell a home to a family and separately sell the mineral rights beneath the soil to oil and gas drilling companies. And most states don't require the developer to disclose that to home buyers.
"All the smart developers are doing it," Lance Astrella, a Denver lawyer who represents mineral-rights owners, told Reuters.
The largest US homebuilder, D.R. Horton, has done this on tens of thousands of homes in states where fracking is underway or there's potential for it.
Although no drilling has occurred so far in one Denver community, just the possibility of it "has caused so much anxiety for families living in this radius that people started having health issues, panic attacks, because they're so concerned about their kids and families," resident Janet Damon told Reuters. The developer sold the minerals to Anadarko, who has since sold it to ConocoPhillips.
Others homeowners are angry that they can't make the money.
Property taxes don't take this into account, but insurance companies and banks do. Some insurance companies won't cover properties where fracking occurs and likewise banks won't give mortgages.
Then are people who move to rural areas because they want to live in a "rural" area. But their neighbor decides to lease their land to drillers and this is what happens:
In July, the forest at the property border was so think you couldn't see the sky. Three weeks later the forest had been cleared with earthmovers and much of it burned in massive piles.
By March, this is what they see from their property line:
Read the full AlterNet story: