Recently, some of my former and current clients have been receiving “FINAL OFFER LETTERS” in the mail for the lease of their property from oil and gas producers. These letters state that if the “final offer” is not accepted within 45 days, the company will avail itself of the West Virginia “Co-Tenancy” statute to force lease their property. The question is: can the company actually do that? From what I can tell, the answer is: maybe?
The West Virginia “Co-Tenancy” statute (W.Va. Code § 37-1-4) permits oil and gas producers to drill on property with unleased mineral owners. However, the law states that it is only available under certain circumstances: (a) the mineral tract in question must have 7 or more individual owners; (b) at least 75% of the mineral interest must be currently leased; and (c) the company must “make reasonable efforts to negotiate with all mineral owners.
So, back to the question at hand: if you receive a similar “FINAL OFFER LETTER” in the mail, how do you know whether the “Co-Tenancy” law even applies? The unfortunate answer is maybe, and you simply have no practical way of making a definitive determination on your own.
That is why I believe that any company that seeks to use the “Co-Tenancy law” should be required to provide information and documentation that supports its right to force lease your property. That way, individual mineral owners can make their own assessment as to whether the “Co-Tenancy” law applies. Otherwise, the law could be used as a weapon to compel mineral owners into leasing their mineral interests under the threat of “co-tenancy” when the law simply does not apply.
The oil and gas companies expect mineral owners to simply take their word for it. Should you?
If you have an oil and gas issue, and you need answers, contact our office at (304) 845-9750 for a free consultation, or fill out our online form and we will contact you within the next business day.