When you buy a piece of land, it is of common understanding that you are given unrestricted access to a predetermined amount of land.
But how much of that land do you own? Do you own the sky above it? How about the land below it?
“Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos” A Latin maxim which is considered to be a traditional starting point to the property law states, “whoever owns the soil, holds title all the way up to the heavens and down to the depths of hell“.
So yes, historically, 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.
What is land ownership?
But property laws today have come a long way. Now, they vary from country to country.
As a property owner, one only has a right to the airspace above their land located in lower stratum, the precise boundaries for which is still up for debate.
For example, one can’t ask commercial planes to stop flying over their house, because the sky is considered to be a public highway. At the same time, there have been cases where trespassers have been fined to use the airspace above one’s house.
The most famous case of this kind comes from 1945 when a chicken farmer sued the US government for flying approximately 83 feet above his property. The noise of the airplane caused a bunch of his chickens to accidentally kill themselves by running into walls. The farmer won his case and the court agreed that although a property owner wasn’t entitled to own all the air above their land, they were entitled to own enough so that planes flying overhead wouldn’t kill their chickens.
And what about the earth below our land?
Just like the airspace, this varies. This depends upon, whether one has mineral rights along with ownership of land.
For example, if a home-owner finds out that there is a huge deposit of gas under their home but they don’t have any mineral right under their land then they can stake no claim over the gas deposit.
So, one can say if you own a piece of land, you may own more than you’d expect, but in a lot of cases, perhaps lesser than you might wish.