How Much Land do You Really Own Above and Below Your Property?
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How Much Land do You Really Own Above and Below Your Property?

How Much Land do You Really Own Above and
Below Your Property? On paper, the concept of land ownership sounds
very simple- you pay money and in return you’re given unfettered access to a predetermined
amount of land. But how much of that land do you actually
own? Do you own the sky above it? How about the land below it? What about all the animals that may live there;
do you own those too? All of these questions and more define what
exactly it means to “own” a piece of land. Surprisingly, many of the answers aren’t
well defined from a legal standpoint as you’ll soon see. (Note: The laws governing one’s rights as
a landowner vary considerably depending on location, even within a given country or state. With that caveat noted, we’ll endeavor to
answer the above questions and a couple more in the general case for places like the United
States and the UK.) First of all, let’s deal with how much of
the air above your property you own since that particular question has been one of the
more common queries about owning or buying land we’ve received here at Today I Found
Out over the years. Historically speaking, if you owned a piece
of land, you owned everything both above and below the soil from the deepest reaches of
the Earth right up to the heavens themselves, giving you a near infinite amount of property
in the universe with your property ever changing as the Earth rotates and the various celestial
bodies move around. A popular maxim in regards to this concept
is, “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos” which basically translates
to: “whoever owns the soil, holds title all the way up to the heavens and down to
the depths of hell“. Within the legal world, this maxim is described
as “the traditional starting point of property law” and it is considered to have been instrumental
in shaping what we understand as property law today. Curiously, despite its ancient sounding nature,
the specific maxim can only be traced as far back as the 13th century and it is largely
believed to have been the brainchild of Italian scholar, Accursius. It’s commonly assumed that the maxim made
its way into English and subsequently American law thanks to Accurius’ son, who was invited
to England to teach law at the request of the then King, Edward I. Its first use in court is attributed to the
case of Bury V Pope in 1587, during which the maxim was cited as justification for a
large structure being erected that blocked out the natural light to another property
owner’s home. Since back in those days there was no such
thing as the “right to light” (essentially the right to not have the flow of natural
light to your home impeded), it was decided that the building of the structure was entirely
legal, since the owner of the land owned all of the air above his land too. Today, the maxim is still used as a guideline. However, as a property owner you only really
have the right to the airspace above your land located in the lower stratum, the precise
boundaries of which are not explicitly labelled. In the end, you are supposed to be entitled
to enough airspace to reasonably enjoy the land below that air. However, exactly what this means is up for
debate. For example, you can’t ask commercial planes
to stop flying over your house, because the sky is considered to be a public highway. You could potentially, however, prosecute
an overzealous news helicopter for hovering over your house if it was impeding your enjoyment
of the land. Again, this would vary on a case-by-case basis
but there have been instances of people being fined for trespassing for flying over someone’s
land; so it’s not unheard of in US or British law. The most famous case of this kind comes from
1945 when a chicken farmer named Thomas Lee Causby sued the US government for flying approximately
83 feet above his property, the noise of which caused a bunch of Causby’s chicken’s to
accidentally kill themselves by running into walls. Causby won his case and the courts agreed
that although a property owner wasn’t entitled to own all of the air above their land, they
were entitled to enough so that planes flying overhead wouldn’t kill their chickens. Progress! Today in the UK thanks to the Civil Aviation
Act of 1982, the generally accepted amount of air above one’s roof a person is entitled
to is approximately 500-1,000 feet, though again this isn’t a hard definition. Likewise, the United States has a similar
estimation of about 500 feet, though this has never been officially ruled on by the
Supreme Court. In both cases, this may be soon changing with
the widespread introduction of drones, both personal, commercial, and those owned by the
respective governments. As such, the U.S. federal government particularly
has recently been looking into significantly lowering the airspace “public highway”
floor to accommodate this type of aircraft. With that out of the way, what about the earth
below your land? Well, again, this varies because owning land
doesn’t necessarily mean you own the mineral rights to it. In a nutshell, the owner of the respective
mineral rights to a piece of land is entitled to those substances that could potentially
be sitting below a given property and it’s not uncommon for them to be sold separately
to land and property rights. And there have been cases in the past of home-owners
finding out that there is a huge deposit of gas under their home that they don’t have
rights to, and have no right to stop the owner of the mineral rights drilling for. Beyond the loss of money from that gas if
you didn’t own the mineral rights, this can sometimes kill any property value your
land may have previously had. However, if you own both the land and all
the mineral rights to a property and you live in the US, everything below the ground belongs
to you, unless you happen to stumble on an Indian burial ground or something, in which
case you have to report it. Other than that, practically everything is
fair game, you can drill for oil and gas or even mine, assuming you have the relevant
permits, and anything you find is yours to sell or keep. However, if something below the ground of
your property extends to the property of someone else, like a pool of oil or vein of gold,
they have an equal claim to the portion of the material on their side of property line. This can get messy very quickly since determining
exact boundaries underground is difficult and costly, unless you live in the UK, in
which case, the Crown has first dibs on all coal, oil, silver, gas and gold found on public
or private property. It should also be noted that in the United
States, thanks to compulsory integration, gas companies potentially have the right to
drill under your land from an adjacent property if they have leased or been deeded a certain
percentage of land surrounding your land, with this percentage varying from state to
state. As for how much of the land below your property
you own, there’s no real limit enforced by courts and there have been cases of people
being prosecuted for trespassing on other people’s property for digging even in the
thousands of feet below the ground in the search for oil. Of course, in reality there is a practical
limit in that if there is a country on the other side of the world from your land, it’s
probably not one where your country has jurisdiction. Further, there is the matter of the giant
layer of magma inbetween. But beyond that, you can generally dig away
to your heart’s content as long as you’re not breaking any environmental laws and have
the appropriate permits. If you happen to live next to water, your
rights again, vary greatly depending on the exact situation and it’s covered by a totally
different set of laws and rules called, riparian rights. If you have a stream or the like running through
your land, in Britain you’re entitled to fish while they’re in the water on your
land, but you can’t do anything that would impede the flow of water to other people’s
land since all running water eventually flows into the public ocean. Likewise, if navigable water flows across,
through or otherwise near your property, you’re not allowed to do anything that would upset
its natural course since the ground beneath all navigable water is owned by the state,
so the public can use it freely. If your property borders a large body of water,
on the other hand, in general you have the right to access the water and if you so wish,
construct a pier or wharf. However, you have no right to stop people
using the water for navigational purposes and your rights to the land beneath the water,
if any, only extends to a reasonable level of depth which has never been precisely defined. If you happen to own a chunk of non-navigable
water, that’s generally yours to do with as you please (barring breaking any environmental
laws). As for animals, you cannot claim ownership
of any wild animals on your land; you are, however, allowed to hunt them if they’re
not endangered. Trees, plants and fruit, on the other hand,
are yours to do with as you please as long as the plant was originally planted or seeded
on your land. If your neighbour owns any plants or trees
that overhang onto, or the roots spread out under, your property, you’re within your
rights to trim them back (even the roots) as long as doing so wouldn’t kill the plant. However, the original owner still has the
rights to any cuttings and can request that they be returned after you’ve cut them off. The same can be said for any fruit that happens
to grow on the tree. So, technically, taking fruit from such a
branch hanging on your property is theft. However, any leaves that fall off of the tree
are your problem to deal with, unless they cause damage to your property (for example
by blocking up your gutters, or in the case of roots, growing into your septic drainage
field or damaging your house foundation) in which case, you can ask your neighbour to
pay for the damage and if they refuse, you can sue and will likely win.


  • Today I Found Out

    Now that you know the truth about owning land check out this video and find out The Story Behind the Crop Circle Phenomenon:

  • Lee Fall

    If i find oil etc in my back garden the Queen can do one. That women has enough money and doesn't give a sh!t about "her" country anyway.

  • Maria Taylor


  • Montana_Made_It

    You own nothing. You only inhabit the area until the government or powers that be want it, or you die. But you don’t OWN shit.

  • Gary Dodgson

    The crown owns all land ,that’s something estate agents & solicitors dealing with land & property convenient forget to mention when your parting with your hard earned bunce !

  • M James

    The planet is moving at 10,000++miles per hour through the universe so the point is always changing. The point defined is immediately a different place microseconds later. Owning also needs to be "defined" as this is based on some contract between legal entities.

  • Toby Welsh

    The concept of ownership is all to do with legality, when you offer money for an item or property you are deemed to be conducting a commercial activity and therefore are bound by commercial contract law and terms may differ depending which corporation or land you happen to be operating in at the time, so the deal is done and signed you hand over the money and you are now the legal owner of said item, then some items such as vehicles or property must legally be registered to an authority, by registering you are once again conducting a commercial activity and therefore bound by the terms of contract, and you are actually transferring ownership to an authority and in return you become the registered keeper and you gain access to the authorities benefits for example on a car you may use the roads and for a house you may use the water, but you are liable for the upkeep and repairs and fee schedule of usage in order to stay within legal parameters, if you dont you may have your car seized or you may have your house repossessed, this also refers to the child you registered at birth if you don’t look after your child you will have that child removed , I could go on but it’s late…

  • Drunkbikewrenchen

    As far as I’m concerned you can never own land since you have to pay tax on it for as long as you supposedly own it. Therefore by definition you don’t own it. As soon as you stop paying the tax/rental fees people with guns will come to remove you from it. This is in no conceivable way ownership.

  • AViolentCobra

    Error:- or not so much an error but something not quite perfect.

    When it comes to fruit and flowers, anybody can pick fruits and flowers and keep them and it is not theft, PROVIDED they are WILD growing and you are not picking them for the purpose of sale or reward 🙂

  • Andrew Bailey

    No one owns anything we all rent from God. We come with nothing and leave with nothing. God will claim it all back at the end. So all bad tenants respect what's not yours else you will be evicted by flood or drought. Put back what you use someone else may need it in the future. Selfish greedy humans learn from the animals take only what you need and then replace it. Your children and grandchildren will still be here when your not. Plant a tree a plant animals and insects need them as well. Without plants trees insects and animals theres no future for any of us. RESPECT

  • black from the belly button down

    So if your not aloud to stop the flow of water how come corporate companies make dams to restrict water and sell it for profit.

  • jack kelly

    Great to know that not only do I own the 25ft of launch pad protruding 20ft above my house but I'll also own the rocket as it enters orbit. Just need to figure out what I'm going to tell the neighbours to avoid a law suit.

  • Hydraz

    If you own all of the soil beneath your house then what about people on the other side of the earth to you? Is the core the limit as to how much you own?

  • caCTi bOwMEn

    pffffshhh… easy. 256 blocks in each x and z coordinate. the amount of blocks depends on the amount of chunks you own

  • Dark Shadow

    So what if you dig all the way through the core all the way to China and end up in someone else's land, would that mean that he owns your property and you own his is or would it be split down to the core halfway?

  • Trekker

    My dad had a 5 acre property in Arizona stolen from him by the government along with surrounding land owners. We found a well on the land and then the government magically decided they wanted it for government use months later. They decided that everyone would get about 1/4 their land value paid out in court. My dad paid about 10k for it and was paid out 3k although the land value had gone up because the well was found.

  • maximusnchaos

    You don't own any LAND above your house. How the shit does that even work? Floating land above your house? Shit, I thought it was just air above my house now I'm learning I've got more land above it?

  • Phill Pauley

    I once owned a small piece of land in the country. Military planes flew low over often without reason because the nearest airport or military base was several miles away.
    After a couple weeks of cleaning up things that fell off shelves from the noise and vibration I got fed up and I fired a single 30-30 round at a plane and they never came back.

    I don’t know if I hit an important part of the plane or just got my point across but I was not prosecuted or questioned.

    If a plane flies within range of a simple rifle it’s flying way too low!
    Open fire!

  • Szabó Tibor

    In Europe even if you own a land, the house can’t be built too high, there are limitations to keep the town image, so if there are only houses around you with 2 floors but not higher, than you can’t build higher than that, even the land is yours and you could afford it, you won’t get the permission from the city hall.

  • DE Ackern

    8:17 In former Yugoslav countries if an apple tree is planted at your neighbour's yard and there are apples hanging over your yard the apples are yours. Because they are in your property.

  • Lady D

    idk, I bought the land, it's true…but the fact that I can't do what I want with it and still have to pay property taxes makes me think I'm renting the land/got ripped off.

  • Eric Dunn

    It's a trick question, you don't own any of the land on any level. You're just renting the use of it. The owners are those you pay the rent to … err I mean property taxes … err I mean rent … well call it a spade or call it a shovel, its function is the same.

  • TinyNStrong

    Very simple as far as the mineral right you want to get to the minerals under my land. More or less directly around or under my house. I will protect my land and family from you in any means necessary.

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