property investment

Discussion – what exactly do you own in real estate?

Recently I ran across some interesting matters regarding what do we own in terms of owning the title of a piece of real estate. I think it is useful to note down and share with people.

Tl; dr;

By owning the title of the land, one has the right to the air above and the earth below.

If you find something valuable, e.g. gold nuggets, in your backyard; it belongs to the Crown.

Air rights

dollar signs on the sky

In Australia, if someone owns the title of the land, he or she has the rights to use the air space above the land.

In Latin, this is defined as follows “cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum et ad inferos”Property Rights, 2016. This means “to whom belongs the soil, his is also that which is above it to heaven and below it to hell”.

So we own the airspace, but how far up do we own? Surely it is not as far as the airplane altitude, which is somewhere around 35,000 feet, or about 10.6km. According to the Property Rights, it is as high as to “be necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of his land and the structures upon it”. It highly opens for debate of how high can an airspace be. One can argue that if a helicopter flies too close to the house and that stops him from enjoying the land, then it is an invasive of the air rights.

Subsurface rights

Well it is not called “Subsurface rights” in Australia, nor defined separately from the air rights. However, this is related to the land and the mining rights of the soil below the land.

Similar to Air Rights, there is no hard limit on how far the owner of the land can dig. However, you need to obtain a permit from The Crown to be able to dig down for minerals and natural resources.

Which brings us to the most interesting facts…

Valuable items found in your backyard

gold nuggets
Gold nuggets

So what happens if you found something precious in your backyard? Gold, precious gems, or even a natural oil vein.

According to the mineral rights, The Crown is the first in line to say about all coal, oil, silver, gas and gold found on public or private property. Therefore even if you found something valuable, it will be the Queen’s property, and should be returned to her.

Summary

Those are interesting facts about owning the land in Australia. Now we know better about what we actually own, and realize that we actually own more than we know.

By Tuan Nguyen

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