We understand that contacting a law firm can be intimidating. In an effort to alleviate some of the stress and the unknown of contacting our firm, Oil and Gas Coordinator Josh May will discuss some of the types of calls we receive and the approach we take in talking to and representing clients. If you have an oil and gas issue, question, problem, or just want to talk about something that is going on with your property or with the industry, please do not hesitate to contact us at (304) 845-9750 for a free consultation. We are licensed to practice in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Our practice areas include, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Oil & Gas, Medical Malpractice, and Social Security.
One of the most frustrating things as a land or mineral owner is when oil and gas companies tell you they have the rights to come on to your property or perform activities on your land without any new agreement.
How can that be?
Well, usually they are citing agreements that have been signed previously. In a lot of instances I’ve seen, these agreements may have not even been signed by you, but rather have carried over from a previous owner.
Get to Know Your Old Agreements
It’s imperative that you know what agreements exist on your property.
Find out if there is an oil and gas lease associated with your property and make sure you’re aware of any old ROW’s or pipelines that have been previously installed on your land. You can obtain this information at your local county clerk’s office or assessor’s office. If you have signed anything new yourself, make sure you have these agreements on hand. If you signed these agreements without having any legal counsel look them over, go back and read them again very closely. My guess is there is language in some agreements that you may not have completely understood at the time, but you signed it anyway. Or, maybe there was language you didn’t even realize was in the agreement, but you certainly know it now when the gas company hauls in equipment and makes a new mess of your property.
When the gas companies tell you they are coming, they are coming soon. When we receive calls about this very same issue, the first thing I tell my prospective clients is get the gas company to give you a copy of the agreement and show you where they believe they have the rights to do what they say they are going to do without your signature. Get those agreements to me right away so we can find out what rights you have. We must dive into these old agreements to help protect and preserve our property rights.
Sometimes We Learn Lessons The Hard Way
It’s never fun to tell a client that we can’t help them. It makes me sick, really. I want to try and help every single person that calls our firm or walks through our door but, sometimes, the damage has already been done.
I recently met with a client who was being told an oil and gas company was going to come on their property to fix a slip. Immediately, our client confronted the company about how they were going to do that without his approval. What they told our client is something we hear time and time again. “We’ve already acquired these rights, it’s in the agreement you signed (x) number of years ago.”
Unfortunately for our client, our law firm did not negotiate or handle the previous agreement; as he had done so on his own. Most of the issues could have easily been prevented in the prior agreement but, unfortunately, we can’t go back and undo what has already been signed. Nonetheless, we instructed our client to get us the agreement so that we could review it and try to help.
Reading his agreement for the first time was like reading a really bad book. Page after page just keeps getting worse and worse. I felt horrible for him because I knew I was going to have to go back to him with some bad news. Trust me, I HATE agreeing with the gas company, but sometimes the proof is in the pudding. In this case, our client’s previous agreement that he signed on his own a few years prior gave them the ability to use previously acquired workspace areas and roads, not to mention having access to their permanent ROW which they would have had anyway.
Long story short, the ability to use previously acquired work space areas and length of the road should NOT have been in the original agreement this many years later. Our client was not aware of the consequences of this wording and signed the contract. Our client should have entered into a new agreement with the gas company to re-acquire the use of these areas. This poorly written old agreement likely cost our client hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That’s a difficult conversation to have with a new client. I’m thankful he was understanding and, I bet you can guess what he told me. It’s something we hear all the time: “I guess I shouldn’t have done this on my own, I never understood all this was in there.” Like I said, sometimes we learn lessons the hard way. If you have questions about a contract, give our office a call at (304) 845-9750 for a free consultation. We are happy to review your contract for you.
What Did We Learn?
Doom and gloom stories are not my favorite blog posts. I’d much rather be writing about success stories and I’ll be sharing some of those too in the coming weeks, but I think this lesson is important. My client was a really nice man who got taken advantage of. Was it his fault? Maybe. Unfortunately, he learned a difficult lesson that a lot of you reading this may have also learned in your own experiences. Hopefully the takeaway is the same for you as it was for our client. When he left our office, he said he’d never sign another agreement again without having our firm handle it.
Prevention is key.
We’ve harped on this many times over, but it still continues to be true. It’s so much easier to prevent these things from happening on the front end as opposed to trying to fix them on the back end.
At GKT, we know the oil and gas industry and we know how to help land and mineral owners. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators and experienced in all oil and gas related matters, including oil and gas contracts. We can help you maximize your profits while minimizing your risk and protecting your property rights. Don’t feel pressured by the oil and gas company to sign their agreement without talking with us first. Doing so may leave you with the consequences of signing a bad agreement.
Let Us Help You
GKT is your local oil and gas law firm capable of handling every type of oil and gas agreement you may be presented with. We have experience in negotiating pipeline/waterline agreements, rights of way, oil and gas leases, mineral sales contracts, mineral deeds, surface use agreements, facility rentals, and so many more.
These bad agreements can come back and bite you, and I can promise you they will. Whether you have a new agreement that needs negotiated, or a situation like the one that was described above where you need someone to look at an old agreement, give our firm a call at (304) 845-9750. The good news is, not all cases end up this way. Sometimes, language in those older agreements can be interpreted differently and you end up having more property rights than the gas company wants to believe. Don’t let the oil and gas companies dictate what they are going to do on your property without having a proper understanding of these older agreements.
Give us a call today. We can help.