PA Superior Court Upholds Challenge to “Title Washing”

Ever hear of “title washing?” MDN alerted readers about this funny sounding practice that has to do with mineral rights in Pennsylvania, with possible implications for landowners and drillers, back in 2016 (see PA Supreme Court Decides “Title Washing” OK in Mineral Rights Case). In 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a 5-0 ruling that upholds the practice of title washing in the Keystone State. What 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. If the rights owner didn’t record the sale, they lost their ownership rights. That, in essence, is title washing. After 1948 a law prevented this from happening, so such cases only apply to land sold before 1948. The PA Supremes upheld title washing in the 2016 case. Another case, Woodhouse Hunting Club, Inc. v. Hoyt, made a run at challenging title washing–this time in Pennsylvania Superior Court. However, the Superiors have sided with the Supremes in shooting down the challenge…

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