TX NATURAL RESOURCES CODE

SUBTITLE B. SURVEYS AND SURVEYORS

CHAPTER 51. LAND, TIMBER, AND SURFACE RESOURCES

SUBCHAPTER E. SALE AND LEASE OF VACANCIES



§ 51.171. PURPOSE;
     APPLICATION OF OTHER LAW.
     (a) This subchapter controls the purchase and lease of vacant land and the authority of the commissioner and the board to:
          (1) determine whether a vacancy exists; and
          (2) sell and lease vacant land.
     (b) To the extent a provision of this subchapter conflicts with another law relating to vacant land or Chapter 2001, Government Code, this subchapter controls. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.172. DEFINITIONS.
     In this subchapter:
          (1) "Administratively complete" means a vacancy application that complies with Section 51.176 and any rule adopted by the commissioner regarding the filing of a vacancy application.
          (1-a) "Applicant" means any person, including a good-faith claimant, who files a vacancy application.
          (1-b) "Application commencement date" means:
               (A) the date, as designated in the commissioner's notice to the applicant required by Section 51.177(b); or
               (B) the date, as designated in the commissioner's notice to the applicant required by Section 51.177(d), indicating that any deficiency in the vacancy application has been resolved.
          (2) "Good-faith claimant" means a person who, on the application commencement date:
               (A) occupies or uses or has previously occupied or used, or whose predecessors in interest in the land claimed to be vacant have occupied or used, the land or any interest in the land for any purposes, including occupying or using:
                    (i) the surface or mineral estate for any purposes, including exploring for or removing oil, gas, sulphur, or other minerals and geothermal resources from the land;
                    (ii) an easement or right-of-way; or
                    (iii) a mineral royalty or leasehold interest;
               (B) has had, or whose predecessors in interest have had, the land claimed to be vacant enclosed or within definite boundaries recognized in the community and in possession under a chain of title for a period of at least 10 years with a good-faith belief that the land was included within the boundaries of a survey or surveys that were previously titled, awarded, or sold under circumstances that would have vested title in the land if the land were actually located within the boundaries of the survey or surveys;
               (C) is the owner of land:
                    (i) that adjoins the land claimed to be vacant; and
                    (ii) for which no vacancy application has been previously filed; or
               (D) holds title under a person described by Paragraph (A), (B), or (C) or is entitled to a distributive share of a title acquired under an application filed by a person described by Paragraph (A), (B), or (C).
          (3) "Interest" means any right or title in or to real property, including a surface, subsurface, or mineral estate. "Interest" includes a right or title described as follows:
               (A) a fee simple title;
               (B) a determinable fee or other leasehold or mineral interest created under a conveyance instrument, including a mineral lease;
               (C) a mineral royalty, nonparticipating royalty, or overriding royalty interest described by Section 51.194(c);
               (D) a life estate;
               (E) a remainder or reversionary interest; or
               (F) a secured interest under a lien.
          (4) "Necessary party" means:
               (A) an applicant or good-faith claimant whose present legal interest in the surface or mineral estate of the land claimed to be vacant may be adversely affected by a vacancy determination;
               (B) a person who asserts a right to or who claims an interest in land claimed to be vacant;
               (C) a person who asserts a right to or who claims an interest in land claimed to be vacant or in land adjoining land claimed to be vacant as shown in the records of the land office or the county records, including tax records, of any county in which all or part of the land claimed to be vacant is located;
               (D) a person whose name appears in the records described by Paragraph (C); or
               (E) an attorney ad litem appointed under Section 51.180.
          (5) "Survey report" means a written report of a survey conducted by a licensed state land surveyor or a county surveyor of the county in which a majority of the land claimed to be vacant is located.
          (6) "Vacancy" means an area of unsurveyed public school land that:
               (A) is not in conflict on the ground with land previously titled, awarded, or sold;
               (B) has not been listed on the records of the land office as public school land; and
               (C) was not, on the application commencement date:
                    (i) subject to an earlier subsisting application;
                    (ii) subject to a vacancy application denied with prejudice;
                    (iii) the subject of pending litigation relating to state ownership or possession of the land; or
                    (iv) subject to a previous vacancy application that has been finally adjudicated by the commissioner or a court of this state or the United States.
          (7) "Vacancy application" means a form submitted to the commissioner by an applicant to:
               (A) initiate a determination by the commissioner whether land claimed to be vacant is vacant;
               (B) purchase vacant land; or
               (C) lease vacant land. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.173. DISPOSITION OF VACANT LAND.
     (a) Vacant and unsurveyed public school land shall be located, sold, and leased under this subchapter, except:
          (1) submerged lands within tidewater limits;
          (2) all islands, flats, and emergent lands within tidewater limits;
          (3) natural lakes; and
          (4) riverbeds, including channels and islands in riverbeds, above tidewater limits.
     (b) This subchapter does not alter or diminish the public domain status of the surface estate of riverbeds and channels and islands in riverbeds that are located above tidewater limits. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.174. GENERAL POWERS AND DUTIES OF COMMISSIONER.
     (a) The commissioner may:
          (1) delegate responsibility for implementing this subchapter;
          (2) perform any other act necessary to administer and implement the purposes of this subchapter, including entering into a contract with a private party to provide the notices required under this subchapter; and
          (3) terminate without prejudice a vacancy application if an applicant fails to comply with this subchapter or a rule adopted under this subchapter.
     (b) The commissioner may grant an extension of time to comply with a requirement under this subchapter. For each application, the commissioner may grant not more than a total of 30 days in extensions of time to comply with one or more requirements of this subchapter, excluding any extensions of time related to the survey report under this subchapter. The commissioner may grant not more than 90 days in extensions of time to comply with a requirement related to the survey report under this subchapter.
     (c) The commissioner shall adopt rules necessary and convenient to administer this subchapter.
     (d) The commissioner shall advise the board relating to the market value of the surface, mineral, and leasehold estates of vacant land. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 280, § 24, eff. June 18, 2003;

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.175. GENERAL POWERS AND DUTIES OF BOARD.
     (a) The board shall set the terms and conditions for each sale and lease of a vacancy.
     (b) The board shall adopt rules governing the terms and conditions for the sale and lease of a vacancy. The rules shall be adopted and amended as necessary to be consistent with real property law of this state and other applicable law.
     (c) The board may adopt rules governing mineral classification, royalty reservations, and awards of royalty reservations and preferential rights to an applicant or to a good-faith claimant in addition to the provisions prescribed by this subchapter. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 280, § 25, eff. June 18, 2003;

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.176. VACANCY APPLICATION;
     FILING.
     (a) To purchase or lease land claimed to be vacant, a person must file a vacancy application on a form prescribed by the commissioner. A completed application must include:
          (1) a description of the land claimed to be vacant that is sufficient to locate the land on the ground;
          (2) a written statement indicating whether the applicant seeks to purchase the land claimed to be vacant or obtain a mineral lease on the land or both purchase the land and obtain a mineral lease on the land;
          (3) a list, in a format prescribed by the commissioner, containing the name and last known mailing address of each necessary party whose name appears in the records described by Section 51.172(4)(C);
          (4) an affidavit executed by the applicant affirming that the applicant conducted a diligent search of all the records described by Section 51.172(4)(C) in preparing the list required by Subdivision (3);
          (5) if applicable, a statement of the basis for and documentary proof for an assertion of good-faith-claimant status;
          (6) at the applicant's discretion:
               (A) a survey report; or
               (B) an abstract of title to any land that adjoins the land claimed to be vacant; and
          (7) any other information required by the commissioner.
     (b) The applicant must file the original and a duplicate copy of the vacancy application with the county clerk of each county in which all or part of the land claimed to be vacant is located.
     (c) The county clerk shall mark the exact date and hour of filing on the original and a duplicate copy of the vacancy application and shall return a marked copy to the person filing the application. The original shall be recorded in a book kept for that purpose separate from the deed or real property records. The failure to record a vacancy application as provided by this subsection does not affect the validity of the application filing.
     (d) Not later than the fifth day after the date an applicant files the vacancy application with the county clerk, the applicant shall file a duplicate copy of the marked copy received from the county clerk with the county surveyor of each county in which all or part of the land claimed to be vacant is located if that county has a county surveyor.
     (e) Priority among vacancy applications covering the same land claimed to be vacant is determined by the earliest time of filing indicated by the date and hour marked on the application by the county clerk.
     (f) The applicant shall submit to the commissioner two duplicate copies of the marked copy that has been file-stamped by the county clerk not later than the 30th day after the date the vacancy application is filed with the county clerk. The commissioner shall mark the date the two duplicate copies are received on each copy, assign a file number to the vacancy application, and return a marked duplicate copy containing the file number to the applicant.
     (g) The applicant shall include a filing fee set by the commissioner in an amount of not less than $100. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.177. PROCESSING VACANCY APPLICATION.
     (a) Not later than the 45th day after the date the applicant files the duplicate copies with the commissioner as provided by Section 51.176(f), the commissioner shall:
          (1) determine whether the vacancy application is administratively complete; and
          (2) provide to the applicant the notice required by this section.
     (b) If the commissioner determines that the vacancy application is administratively complete, the commissioner shall provide written notice to the applicant that:
          (1) informs the applicant that the application is administratively complete;
          (2) states the application commencement date; and
          (3) states the amount of any deposit required under Section 51.178 and the date by which the applicant must pay the deposit.
     (c) If the commissioner determines that the vacancy application is not administratively complete, the commissioner shall provide written notice to the applicant that:
          (1) informs the applicant that the application is not administratively complete;
          (2) provides a list of any deficiencies the applicant must resolve; and
          (3) states a reasonable period of not more than 30 days from the date of the notice to resolve any listed deficiencies.
     (d) Not later than the 30th day after the date provided under Subsection (c)(3) to resolve any deficiencies, the commissioner shall determine whether the vacancy application is administratively complete. If the commissioner determines that the vacancy application is administratively complete, the commissioner shall provide the notice required by Subsection (b). If the commissioner determines that the vacancy application is not administratively complete, the commissioner shall:
          (1) dismiss the application without prejudice; and
          (2) provide written notice to the applicant informing the applicant that the application is not administratively complete and is dismissed without prejudice. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.178. DEPOSIT.
     (a) The commissioner may recover from the applicant state funds expended in evaluating and investigating the application, providing notice, preparing a survey, appointing an attorney ad litem, and conducting hearings under this subchapter.
     (b) The commissioner shall require the applicant to submit a deposit in an amount sufficient to pay the reasonable costs under Subsection (a) not later than the 30th day after the application commencement date.
     (c) If the amount deposited is insufficient, the commissioner shall require a reasonably necessary supplemental deposit. If a supplemental deposit is required, the applicant must make the deposit not later than the 30th day after the date the commissioner requests the supplemental deposit.
     (d) An applicant may not challenge or appeal the amount of the required deposits, and the applicant's refusal or failure to make the required deposits in the period prescribed by this section terminates the application without prejudice. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.180 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.179. DISPOSITION OF DEPOSITS.
     (a) The commissioner shall deposit all initial and supplemental deposits received under this subchapter to the credit of a separate trust account in the state treasury. The comptroller, on the commissioner's order, shall make disbursements from that account for purposes authorized by this subchapter.
     (b) After proceedings on a vacancy application are concluded and all expenditures authorized under this subchapter are paid, the commissioner shall provide to the applicant a complete statement of all deposits and expenditures and shall remit to the applicant any balance remaining from the deposit or supplemental deposits made by the applicant. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.181 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.180. ATTORNEY AD LITEM.
     (a) The applicant must provide evidence to the commissioner to establish the applicant's ownership of all interests in the land surrounding the land claimed to be vacant.
     (b) If the applicant fails to provide sufficient evidence, as determined by the commissioner, the commissioner shall, not later than the 30th day after the application commencement date, appoint an attorney ad litem to:
          (1) identify all necessary parties; and
          (2) represent the interests of any necessary party identified under Section 51.176(a)(3) that has not been located. Amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.181. NOTICE TO NECESSARY PARTIES.
     (a) Not later than the 30th day after the application commencement date, the commissioner shall provide to each necessary party a written notice that:
          (1) informs the necessary party that a vacancy application has been filed;
          (2) states the application commencement date; and
          (3) includes:
               (A) a copy of the vacancy application and any attachments; and
               (B) a form for requesting subsequent notices regarding the application.
     (b) If the attorney ad litem is unable to identify each necessary party, the applicant shall provide notice required under this section by publication in the same manner prescribed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
     (c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), a necessary party is not entitled to notices subsequent to the notice provided under Subsection (a) unless the party requests subsequent notices.
     (d) The commissioner shall notify each necessary party of a final order issued under Section 51.188. Amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.182. FILING OF EXCEPTIONS TO APPLICATION.
     (a) Not later than the 60th day after the date of the commissioner's notice under Section 51.181(a), a necessary party may file an exception to the vacancy application, any documentation attached to the application, or any other documents or public records that may be used by the commissioner to make a determination.
     (b) A necessary party must:
          (1) file an exception with the land office; and
          (2) provide a copy of the filing to each necessary party that requested subsequent notice as provided by Section 51.181. Amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.183. INVESTIGATION.
     (a) The commissioner shall conduct an investigation of the vacancy application.
     (b) The investigation shall include:
          (1) an evaluation of the vacancy application;
          (2) a determination that the vacancy application was filed as provided by Section 51.176; and
          (3) a review of public records at the land office relating to the land claimed to be vacant.
     (c) The investigation may include a review of:
          (1) any survey conducted by a licensed state land surveyor or by the county surveyor of a county in which all or part of the land claimed to be vacant is located; or
          (2) any documents or public records necessary to determine whether a vacancy exists, including a review of public records relating to the land claimed to be vacant at:
               (A) the state archives; or
               (B) any county in which all or part of the land claimed to be vacant is located.
     (d) An investigation may include a survey requested by the commissioner under Section 51.184 or a surveyor's report as provided by Section 51.185.
     (e) The commissioner shall record the names of the persons consulted, the documents and surveys reviewed, and the relevant law and other materials used in the investigation. Amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.184. COMMISSIONER'S SURVEY.
     (a) To investigate a vacancy application under Section 51.183, the commissioner may require a survey. If the commissioner requires a survey, the commissioner shall appoint a licensed state land surveyor who is not associated with the vacancy application to prepare a report as provided by Section 51.185. The commissioner may limit the scope of the work performed by the surveyor.
     (b) A necessary party may observe a survey conducted under this section. A survey will not be delayed to accommodate a necessary party who provides notice to the commissioner that the party intends to observe the surveyor conducting the survey.
     (c) The commissioner shall mail a notice of intention to survey to each necessary party not later than the 30th day before the date the surveyor begins work. The notice must contain:
          (1) the proposed starting date of the survey;
          (2) the name, address, and telephone number of the surveyor; and
          (3) a statement informing the necessary party that any necessary party may observe the field work of the surveyor conducting the survey.
     (d) The fees and expenses paid for the survey are the same as those provided by law. If the fees and expenses are not provided by law, the commissioner shall contract for fees and expenses reasonably necessary for the scope of the required work. Contracts under this subsection:
          (1) must include hourly rates, categories of reimbursable expenses, and an estimated completion date; and
          (2) may include other expenses the commissioner considers reasonable.
     (e) The commissioner shall adopt rules regarding the removal of an appointed surveyor on the grounds of bias, prejudice, or conflict. The rules must permit the commissioner to remove an appointed surveyor on the commissioner's own motion or on the motion of a necessary party. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.182 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.185. SURVEYOR'S REPORT.
     (a) Not later than the 120th day after the date a surveyor is appointed under Section 51.184, the surveyor shall file a written report of the survey, the field notes describing the land and the lines and corners surveyed, a plat depicting the results of the survey, and any other information required by the commissioner. The commissioner may extend the time for filing the report as reasonably necessary.
     (b) The survey report must also contain:
          (1) the name and last known mailing address of:
               (A) each person who has possession of the land described in the vacancy application; and
               (B) each person determined by the surveyor to have an interest in the land; and
          (2) all abstract numbers associated with surveys of land adjoining the land claimed to be vacant. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.183 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.186. COMPLETION OF SURVEY.
     (a) The commissioner shall serve a true copy of the survey report filed by the surveyor on each necessary party, including those named in the survey report, by certified mail, return receipt requested, not later than the 30th business day after the date the survey report is filed with the land office.
     (b) Any necessary party may file exceptions to the surveyor's report not later than the 30th day after the date the survey report is mailed to the necessary party by the commissioner. Any exceptions must be filed with the land office and a copy must be sent by the party filing the exception to each necessary party who has requested subsequent notice under Section 51.181. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.184 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.187. HEARING.
     (a) If the commissioner has not issued a final order with a finding of "Not Vacant Land" on or before the first anniversary of the application commencement date, the commissioner shall order a hearing to determine if a vacancy exists. A hearing under this subchapter:
          (1) shall be held not later than the 60th day after the date the hearing is ordered;
          (2) shall be conducted as a contested case hearing subject to Chapter 2001, Government Code; and
          (3) may be waived by written agreement of all necessary parties and the commissioner.
     (b) Not later than the 30th day after the date a hearing is ordered under Subsection (a), the commissioner shall provide notice of the hearing date to each necessary party.
     (c) Not later than the 60th day after the date of the hearing, the commissioner shall enter a final order as provided by Section 51.188. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.185 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.188. COMMISSIONER'S FINAL ORDER.
     (a) At any time during or after an investigation of or hearing regarding a vacancy application, the commissioner may determine that land claimed to be vacant is not vacant and issue a final order with a finding of "Not Vacant Land."
     (b) After a hearing conducted under Section 51.187, the commissioner shall issue a final order with a finding of "Not Vacant Land" or issue an order finding a vacancy exists. Not later than the 15th day after the date the final order is issued, the commissioner shall notify each necessary party of the final order by providing each party a copy of the final order.
     (c) A final order finding a vacancy exists must contain:
          (1) a finding by the commissioner that the land claimed to be vacant is unsurveyed public school land that is not in conflict with land previously titled, awarded, or sold by the state as established by:
               (A) clear and convincing proof for an application to which an exception has been filed as provided by Section 51.182; or
               (B) a preponderance of the evidence for an application to which no exceptions have been filed as provided by Section 51.182;
          (2) the field note description used to determine the vacancy, which must be sufficient to locate the land on the ground;
          (3) an accurate plat of the land that is:
               (A) consistent with the field notes; and
               (B) prepared by a licensed state land surveyor or a county surveyor of the county in which a majority of vacant land is located; and
          (4) any other matters required by law or as the commissioner considers appropriate.
     (d) In determining the boundaries and size of a vacancy, the commissioner is not restricted to a description of the land claimed to be vacant that is provided by the applicant, the surveyor, or any other person. The commissioner shall adopt the description of a vacancy that best describes the land found to be vacant and that is consistent with the investigation under this subchapter.
     (e) The commissioner shall attach to the commissioner's final order a document entitled "Notice of Claim of Vacancy." The commissioner shall prescribe the contents of the notice. The commissioner shall file the notice with the county clerk and any county surveyor of each county in which all or part of the vacancy is located. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.186 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.189. APPEAL.
     (a) A final order with a finding of "Not Vacant Land" under Section 51.188 may not be appealed. The final order is conclusive regarding the land described in the vacancy application or the land investigated by the commissioner as a result of the vacancy application.
     (b) A final order finding a vacancy exists is subject to appeal by a necessary party that has standing to appeal under Section 51.192. The district court in the county in which a majority of the vacant land is located has jurisdiction of an appeal under this subchapter. A necessary party must file an appeal not later than the 30th day after the date the commissioner's final order is issued. All necessary parties must be provided notice of an appeal under this section by the party filing the appeal.
     (c) A person whose predecessor in title was bound by the outcome of an appeal is bound to the same extent the predecessor in title would be bound if the predecessor in title continued to hold title. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.187 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.190. SCOPE OF REVIEW.
     In an appeal of the commissioner's final order determining that a vacancy exists, the district court shall conduct a trial de novo. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.188 and amended by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.191. ISSUES REVIEWABLE.
     The court may review the commissioner's declaration of good-faith-claimant status only in conjunction with a review of a final order determining that a vacancy exists. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.189 by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.192. STANDING TO APPEAL.
     A person may appeal the commissioner's final order determining that a vacancy exists if the person:
          (1) is a necessary party;
          (2) has a present legal interest in the surface or mineral estate at the time a vacancy application is filed; or
          (3) acquires a legal interest before the date of the commissioner's final order. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.190 by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.193. APPLICATION FOR AND DETERMINATION OF GOOD-FAITH-CLAIMANT STATUS.
     (a) A necessary party may apply for
      good-faith-claimant status not later than the 90th day after the date the commissioner issues a final order finding that a vacancy exists.
     (b) The application must include certified copies of the applicable county records supporting the good-faith claimant's status.
     (c) Not later than the 120th day after the date the commissioner issues a final order finding that a vacancy exists, the commissioner shall declare whether a necessary party is a good-faith claimant.
     (d) A person who is denied good-faith-claimant status may:
          (1) request a hearing by the commissioner; or
          (2) appeal the denial as part of any appeal of a final order finding that a vacancy exists.
     (e) If the commissioner grants a hearing, the commissioner shall:
          (1) determine the scope of the hearing;
          (2) provide timely notice of the time and place of the hearing to each necessary party; and
          (3) provide each necessary party an opportunity to be heard.
     (f) A declaration of good-faith-claimant status grants a preferential right to the claimant to purchase or lease the land or an interest in the land as provided by Section 51.194. The declaration does not confer any other rights.

Added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.194. PREFERENTIAL RIGHT OF GOOD-FAITH CLAIMANT.
     (a) A good-faith claimant who has been notified by the commissioner that a vacancy exists under this subchapter has a preferential right to purchase or lease the interest claimed in the land before the land was declared vacant. The preferential right may be exercised after a final judicial determination or after the commissioner's final order and the period for filing an appeal has expired. If a good-faith claimant does not apply to purchase or lease the interest before the later of the 121st day after the date the commissioner's order becomes final or the 60th day after the date of the final judicial determination of an appeal under this subchapter, then the good-faith claimant's preferential right expires.
     (b) A good-faith claimant may purchase or lease the vacancy by submitting a written application to the board.
     (c) A good-faith claimant that owns a separate surface interest, a contractual right to a mineral or leasehold interest, a leasehold interest, or a royalty interest in the land occupied or used that is found to be part of or to include a vacancy is entitled to purchase or lease that same interest in the portion of the land determined to be vacant at the price and under the conditions set by the board and in accordance with the law in effect on the date the application is filed.
     (d) If the interest purchased under Subsection (c) is less than a permanent interest, then:
          (1) the interest purchased is limited to the duration of a deed, contract, instrument, or lease in existence before the filing of the vacancy application and subject to a division of the amount of the royalty between the state and the existing royalty owners, provided that the state retains at least one-half of the amount of the royalty interest; and
          (2) the interest and any remaining mineral interest, including all executory rights, vest with the state at the expiration of the deed, contract, instrument, or lease. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.191 by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.

§ 51.195. PURCHASE OR LEASE BY APPLICANT.
     (a) If no good-faith claimant exists or if no good-faith claimant exercises a preferential right within the applicable period, the applicant has a preferential right to purchase or lease the land determined to be vacant on or before the 60th day after the date:
          (1) the commissioner determines that no good-faith claimant exists; or
          (2) the period for a good-faith claimant to exercise a preferential right to purchase or lease the land determined to be vacant expires.
     (b) If a good-faith claimant exercises the claimant's preferential right in the land determined to be vacant, the applicant has a preferential right to either:
          (1) an award by the board of a perpetual 1/32 nonparticipating royalty of the full mineral interest of the vacancy; or
          (2) a preferential right to purchase or lease any remaining interest in the land determined to be vacant.
     (c) If a lease described by Section 51.194(d)(1) exists on the land determined to be vacant, the applicant's 1/32 nonparticipating royalty interest, as described by Subsection (b)(1), shall be taken from the state's royalty interest as reserved under Section 51.194(d)(1) for the duration of the lease, provided that the applicant's share for the duration of the lease may never equal more than the interest retained by the state.
     (d) An applicant who exercises a preferential right under Subsection (a) or (b)(2) may purchase or lease the land or an interest in the land:
          (1) at the price set by the board;
          (2) subject to the royalty reservations provided by the board; and
          (3) in accordance with the law in effect on the date the application is filed. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1418, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Natural Resources Code § 51.192 by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., ch. 874, § 1, eff. June 17, 2005.