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Disclosure of Mineral Interests in North Dakota

Posted on: October 2nd, 2014
by David Ganje

Full property disclosure laws are needed in North Dakota.  Current law does not require that the seller disclose information regarding mineral rights ownership at the time of a closing when selling real property.

Mineral rights affect the sale of real estate and affect its value.  These often go unaddressed when selling property.  The consequences of a failure to address these rights are not pretty. Surprises when doing a real estate deal should not occur.  The era of “let the buyer beware” is long gone. I suggest that putting everything material on the table when doing a real estate sale is the best policy.

The need to protect purchasers through honest and full disclosure of mineral rights has also been borne out in the experiences of other states.  Four years ago, Wyoming adopted a statute which requires sellers of property to disclose whether any mineral rights have been severed prior to a sale.  The reason for the new law, according to the President of the Wyoming Realtor’s Association, was to avoid the unpleasant surprise encountered by people who bought property thinking that they owned the rights to minerals only to find that a third party would appear on their land, and start digging on the property.  By making the buyer aware of the severance of mineral rights, Wyoming’s new disclosure law allows a prospective purchaser to make a more informed decision when purchasing. Recently in Florida a large home builder announced that it will stop severing mineral rights when selling property – after a local newspaper wrote a series of articles investigating the practice of selling property to people who learned of the practice only at the closing table where they felt pressured to consent.

Mineral rights can be severed from surface property rights on the same piece of property in North Dakota and do not automatically pass with title to the land in a sale. A third party can own the mineral rights to land. Title insurance is not the answer to this issue. Title insurance does not insure mineral rights on a property, nor does title insurance cover such things as water permit rights. When doing a real estate deal a purchaser should not assume that the title insurance policy will offer coverage.

            “Full disclosure,” makes for a complete sale in a real estate deal.   Full disclosure is the act of a seller of providing all the facts which the other party should know before the other party decides to buy. Full disclosure is not something I would always do on a first date when I was a young man – but that is another matter.  Full disclosure is akin to the term used by contemporary politicians and pundits known as “transparency.” North Dakota’s property disclosure law should require a seller to disclose mineral associated with a piece of property.