PA Supreme Court Decides “Title Washing” OK in Mineral Rights Case

Gavel-falling.jpgYou’ve heard of “whitewashing” before. How about “title washing?” No, we hadn’t either. But this funny sounding practice has a great deal to do with mineral rights in Pennsylvania, with possible implications for landowners and drillers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a 5-0 ruling last week that upholds the practice of title washing in the Keystone State. What in the world is it, and how does it affect landowners and drillers? In the case of Herder Spring Hunting Club v. Keller there had been a tax sale in 1935 for a property in Centre County, PA where the mineral rights had previously been separated. Prior to 1948 if mineral rights that had been separated were not properly recorded (it was incumbent on the owner of the subsurface rights to ensure the sale was recorded at the assessor’s office), and the surface land was later sold, both the mineral rights (subsurface) and the surface land became part of the sale. That, in essence, was title washing. After 1948 a law prevented this from happening, so such cases only apply to land sold before 1948. The legal beagles at Babst Calland have a good overview of what the practice of title washing is, and how the Court’s decision affects Pennsylvanians. We also have a copy of the decision embedded below…

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