In the late 1970's to early 1980's representatives from various gas and oil companies contacted Western North Carolina residents about signing leases to their land to explore for gas, oil and/or minerals.
An owner of real estate may also own the minerals, oil, and gas underneath the surface unless these are severed under a previous deed or agreement. Many landowners do not have the information they needed to make informed decisions on leasing their mineral rights, so this effort was not that successful. Few landowners got legal advice before signing these contracts.
(from the website of the NY Attorney General's Office, present day)
What is an Oil and Gas Lease?
In very general terms and in the context of mineral rights and exploration, a lease is a written instrument where the landowner (the “lessor”) grants to a business (the “lessee”) the right to extract oil and natural gas from beneath a landowner’s property. Like many other types of leases, the rights and obligations of the lessor and the lessee are detailed in the lease and, in most cases, landowners will be bound for the duration of the lease to those terms and conditions. In addition, the lessee will record either the lease or a memorandum of lease at the local county clerk’s office. Thereafter, if you want to sell your property, the buyer will have to accept that lease along with it. In other words, the rights and obligations set forth in the lease are connected to your land. For this reason, and because of the complexity of oil and gas leases, the Attorney General strongly recommends that before signing a lease you contact an attorney to secure professional, personalized advice in this important transaction.